Aaron M. Hyman is a historian of northern European art and the art of the Spanish Empire, with a focus on the long seventeenth century. His interests include paradigms of artistic authorship and collaboration, the transmission and circulation of objects, and early modern print culture. Though his primary aim is to situate works of art within the conditions of their making and viewing, he is equally interested in the historiographic conditions that have either limited art historical understanding or excluded objects from the historical record.
Much of Hyman’s scholarship participates in art history’s recent global reorientation. His first book, Rubens in Repeat: The Logic of the Copy in Colonial Latin America (Getty Research Institute, 2021), focuses on the transmission of northern European prints to the Spanish Americas and the varying ways colonial artists engaged these materials. Despite the acknowledged importance of this phenomenon, the use of prints as sources for artistic production in the Spanish Empire has never received sustained, let alone monographic, attention. This book focuses on works of art in Spain’s American viceroyalties that were “copied” from prints by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens. As Rubens’s career has come to define art historical evaluations of early modern authorship, he serves as a lens through which to understand a range of artists who reconstituted his compositions in paint and stone. Yet these artists and their works also enable a look back across the Atlantic to rethink Rubens himself. The book’s transatlantic frame stages a reassessment of how works of art exist in relationship across geographic distances and cultural divides, and a reconceptualization of key terms of early modern authorship. The Latin American Studies Association named Rubens in Repeat the best book published in Colonial Latin American Studies from 2019–22, and the book received Honorable Mention for the Association of Latin American Art-Arvey Foundation 2023 Book Award and Honorable Mention for the Renaissance Society of America’s Phyllis Goodhart Gordon Book Prize, Best Book in Renaissance Studies.
Hyman is currently at work on Formalities: The Visual Potential of Script in Art of the Early Modern Spanish World. This book examines the unusual quantity of written words on works of art created from c. 1540–1700 across the transatlantic Spanish Empire. Though the sheer scale of this phenomenon of writing on/in works of art is one of the most distinctive features of production in the early modern Spanish World, it has received scant scholarly treatment. This oversight owes to disciplinary biases that have kept “script” outside of an art historical purview, while leaving its interrogation to fields such as literary studies and history, which have traditionally prized the content of writing over its visual form. Focusing instead on the visual and material dimensions of letterforms and their mobilization in art of the Spanish world of the long seventeenth century reveals artists drawing upon scripts to craft carefully coded pictorial performances of the written word that capitalized on imperial subjects’ acute awareness of the visual signification of writing and the resonance of scripts with specific types of documents, objects, and social registers. It looks at letters, archival documents, handwriting manuals, printed books, etc. as objects whose visual forms were fundamental to everyday life in the Spanish Empire and were routinely taken up by artists. The project seeks to explain overlooked visual features of written communication in the early modern world, while also reframing art history’s relationship to “the archive”—here conceived as a place equally important for seeing as for reading. Research and writing for this project have been supported by grants from the ACLS, the Thoma Foundation, and the Newberry Library.
Hyman received his PhD in art history from the University of California, Berkeley and his MA from Yale University. He has held fellowships from the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, the Tinker Foundation, the UC-MEXUS Institute, the Belgian American Educational Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was also a Mellon Fellow in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School (University of Virginia) and a founding member of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. More recent awards include a Wyeth Foundation for American Art, a publication fellowship from the Historians of Netherlandish Art, an Association of Print Scholars Publication Grant, the Association for Latin American Art Best Article Prize, and the College Art Association’s Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize.
Hyman welcomes applications from potential graduate students working on any aspect of early modern art and material culture in northern Europe, Latin America, or the Spanish Empire (broadly conceived).