Chu, Petra ten–Doesschate 1942- (Petra Chu)

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Chu, Petra ten–Doesschate 1942- (Petra Chu)


Born October 15, 1942, in Zeist, Netherlands; daughter of Jurriaan (an ophthalmologist) and Lidy (a pediatrician) ten-Doesschate; married Fen-Dow Chu (a naval architect), 1971; children: May-Ying, Lidy, Hsiao-Yun, Wei. Education: Sorbonne, University of Paris, Diplome Superieur Cours de Civilization Francaise, 1961; University of Utrecht, Doctoraal, 1967; Columbia University, Ph.D., 1972.


Home—South Orange, NJ. Office—Department of Art and Music, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ 07079. E-mail—[email protected]


Educator, writer, and editor. Institut Neerlandais, Paris, France, researcher, 1965-72; Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, assistant professor, 1972-77, associate professor, 1977-80, chairperson of department of art and music, 1977-98; professor of art, 1980—. Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, visiting professor, 1990-92.


College Art Association of America, Society for French Nineteenth-Century Studies, Historians of Netherlandish Art, Dutch Society of Art History, Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art (president, 1999—).


Columbia University Noble Fellowship for graduate study, 1967-71; Guggenheim fellow, 1986-87, 1991; grant from National Endowment for the Humanities, 1986-88, 1994; Wheatland Foundation, research grant, 1990; Jane and Morgan Whitney Art History fellow, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994-95; Humanities Research Centre award, Australian National University, 2003; Netherlands Institute of Advanced Research grant, 2004.


French Realism and the Dutch Masters, Haentjens Dekker & Gumbert (Utrecht, Netherlands), 1974.

Courbet in Perspective, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1977.

Dominique Vivant Denon (Volume 121 of "The Illustrated Bartsch"), Abaris (New York, NY), part one, 1985, part two, 1988.

Frank Buchser 1828-1890, Kunstmuseum Solothurn (Solothurn, Switzerland), 1990.

(Editor and translator) The Letters of Gustave Courbet, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1992.

(Contributor and coeditor, with Gabriel Weisberg) The Popularization of Images: Visual Culture under the July Monarchy, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1994.

Correspondance de Courbet, Flammarion (Paris, France), 1996.

(With Joerg Zutter) Courbet: Artiste et promoteur de son oeuvre (exhibition catalogue), Flammarion (Paris, France), 1998.

Gustave Courbet: En Revoltör Lanserar Sitt Verk, National Museum (Stockholm, Sweden), 1999.

Nineteenth-Century European Art, H. Abrams (New York, NY), 2002, 2nd edition, 2006.

Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited: The Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr., Bulfinch Press (Boston, MA), 2003.

The Most Arrogant Man in France: Gustave Courbet and the Nineteenth-Century Media Culture, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2007.

Twenty-first-Century Perspectives on Nineteenth-century Art: Essays in Honor of Gabriel P. Weisberg, University of Delaware Press (Newark, NJ), 2008.

Contributor to books, including The European Realist Tradition in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Gabriel Weisberg, Indiana University Press, 1982; The Documented Image: Festschrift for Elizabeth Holt, Syracuse University Press, 1987; The Macmillan Dictionary of Art; Redefining Genre: French and American Painting, 1850-1900, Trust for Museum Exhibitions (Washington, DC), 1995; The Object as Subject: Studies in the Interpretation of Still Life Painting, edited by Anne Lowenthal, Princeton University Press, 1997; Horizons: Essays on Art and Art Research, Swiss Institute for Art Research, 2001; The Cambridge Companion to Delacroix, edited by Beth S. Wright, Cambridge University Press, 2001; and Picturing Children: Constructions of Childhood between Rousseau and Freud, edited by Marilyn Brown, Ashgate, 2002; Contributor of essays to art exhibition catalogues, including Francisco Oller: A Realist-Impressionist, Im Lichte Hollands: Hollaendische Malerie des 17. Jahrhunderts aus dem Sammlungen des Fuersten von Liechtenstein und aus Schweizer Besitz, Kunstmuseum (Basel, Switzerland), 1987, Art of the July Monarchy; On Country Roads and Fields: The Depiction of the 18th- and 19th-Century Landscape, Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1997-98; and La Collection Bianca, Kunstmuseum (Bern, Switzerland), 2002. Contributor to art journals, including Arts Magazine, Asian Culture Quarterly, Art Journal, Master Drawings, and Apollo. Series editor, with Jacques de Caso, of "Princeton Series in Nineteenth-Century Art, Culture, and Society," 1991-97; managing editor of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, 1999—.


Petra ten-Doesschate Chu is a professor of art and author and editor of numerous articles and several books on nineteenth-century art, focusing largely on the French and European tradition. Working as both translator and editor, Chu collected more than 600 of the letters of the French impressionist painter Gustave Courbet in The Letters of Gustave Courbet. This correspondence chronicles Courbet's life from the time of his spoiled teenage years through his entry into the art world, his growing disgust with imperialism, his part in the Paris Commune, and finally his exile in Switzerland, where he died. In correspondence with writers and artists such as Charles Baudelaire, Claude Monet, and Victor Hugo, his letters confirm, according to Journal of European Studies contributor Robert Lethbridge, "that behind the peasant buffoon there lay a deeply serious artist." Lethbridge further noted that "this volume will become the standard work of reference," and that it is "the measure of Professor Chu's achievement" that she was able to impose chronology on the correspondence despite the fact that Courbet famously neglected to date his letters. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Jack Flam commented that the "chronicle of Courbet's embattled career is vividly evoked" in Chu's work. Flam added that Chu did an "exemplary job of editing, annotating and translating."

Working with Gabriel Weisberg, Chu also edited the 1994 study The Popularization of Images: Visual Culture under the July Monarchy. A collection of nine essays, including one from Chu, this collection provides a "new and noteworthy attempt to sidestep the shoals of both modernism and revisionism by looking at the art of the period from the point of view of popular culture," according to Patricia Mainardi, writing in the Journal of Modern History. The July Monarchy in France lasted from 1831 to 1848 and is one of the least studied periods of French art, usually regarded, as Mainardi further explained, as "a kind of art historical stepchild." Coming at the end of Classicism and Romanticism, and before the advent of Realism, the period is marked by the increase in landscape art and by the utilization of new techniques of visual representation, such as the lithograph; it thus helped to break down the strict bounds between high and low art. Chu's contribution to the collection, "Pop Culture in the Making: The Romantic Craze for History," articulates, according to Mainardi, "some of the most salient aspects" of the book's argument for a revised view of that epoch and its art. Similarly, Lethbridge, writing in the Journal of European Studies, noted that the "most far-reaching" essay in the volume is Chu's, "which is a supplementary overview beyond the editorial formalities of her Introduction." In a review for History, Pamela Pilbeam called Chu's contribution a "wide-ranging chapter on the ‘pop’ craze for history." Lethbridge wrote: "This collection offers specialists of the July Monarchy intersecting scholarship at its best." Mainardi went on to note in her review that the book "will provide enough fertile material for future investigations" and will also supply "valuable reading for a wide audience." Pilbeam also had praise for the volume as a whole, noting that it was "handsomely produced" and that it "merits, and should attract, a wide readership."

Chu's overview of European art, Nineteenth-Century European Art, was published in 2002 and "superbly conveys the interconnectedness of art, history, culture, society, and politics," according to Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, writing in Library Journal. Chu approaches her subject chronologically, in a series of twenty chapters with more than 500 illustrations, documenting the work of painters from Francisco Goya to John Ruskin. Owusu-Ansah further praised the book as both "eloquently written" and "deeply engaging," additionally calling it the "best single-volume" approach to the subject.

In her 2007 book, The Most Arrogant Man in France: Gustave Courbet and the Nineteenth-Century Media Culture, Chu examines how Courbet was a sophisticated artist and entrepreneur who was far ahead of his time in his use of the press and various forms of notoriety to help popularize and market his work. "In Chu's telling, Courbet seems to have done nothing without an eye to the main chance," wrote Peter Schjeldahl in the New Yorker. "He took pains to advertise his prominence in republican literary and artistic circles—the distinguished as well as the delectably louche." In the process of describing Courbet's flare for self-promotion, which included cultivating friendships with art critics, Chu also examines many of Courbet's works and how they were subversive in nature, especially in their attacks on established institutions such as the Church, the state, the military, and educational institutions focusing on the arts. For example, among his works was a painting of drunken clerics titled "The Return from the Conference." The artist also produced paintings designed to titillate and outrage, such as his paintings that insinuated lesbianism. Courbet's anti-establishment fervor even led him to reject the Legion of Honor in 1870. "Chu ably reviews the ways that Courbet's major works were received and have been interpreted," noted Schjeldahl. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that the author's "brilliant study of Courbet's paintings and marketing strategies sheds much light on his work and the artistic milieu of" his times. The Most Arrogant Man in France includes both black-and-white and color illustrations.



English Historical Review, February, 1997, Linda Whiteley, review of The Popularization of Images: Visual Culture under the July Monarchy, pp. 229-230.

History, July, 1996, Pamela Pilbeam, review of The Popularization of Images, pp. 480-481.

Journal of European Studies, March, 1994, Robert Lethbridge, review of The Letters of Gustave Courbet, pp. 65-66; September, 1997, Robert Lethbridge, review of The Popularization of Images, pp. 378-379.

Journal of Modern History, September, 1997, Patricia Mainardi, review of The Popularization of Images, pp. 605-608.

Library Journal, February 15, 2003, Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, review of Nineteenth-Century European Art, pp. 131-132.

New Yorker, July 30, 2007, Peter Schjeldahl, "Painting by Numbers," review of The Most Arrogant Man in France: Gustave Courbet and the Nineteenth-Century Media Culture, p. 80.

Publishers Weekly, January 27, 1992, review of The Letters of Gustave Courbet, p. 82; April 9, 2007, review of The Most Arrogant Man in France, p. 47.

Times Literary Supplement, August 10, 2007, Graham Robb, "Cruellest Truths," review of The Most Arrogant Man in France, p. 9.

Wall Street Journal, May 29, 1992, Jack Flam, review of The Letters of Gustave Courbet, p. A9.


Seton Hall University Web site, (October 27, 2003), faculty profile of author.