Spotlight on Seniors: Hannah Lebow ’23 Brings an International Perspective to Art History

By Katie Hanson ’25

Portrait of Scripps College student Hannah Lebow '23 in a French museum

Francophone studies have always been a part of Hannah Lebow ’23’s life. Long before studying art history in Paris, where she spent her junior year living with a homestay family, Lebow and her mother learned French together, starting with Mommy and Me French classes when Lebow was a toddler. Now, in her final year at Scripps, she is penning her senior thesis entirely in French.

“I just couldn’t imagine not studying French,” Lebow says. “One of the reasons why I came to Scripps was because of the French and Francophone studies department. We have a lot of great professors.”

While she ultimately chose Scripps for its strong French academics, she chose to pursue an art history minor while in Paris. There, she enrolled in a course focused on modern French paintings on a whim; Lebow’s advisor signed her up for the course just hours before the class’s first meeting. She says that although she felt challenged by the class, it quickly shaped her passion for art history as a discipline.

“I used to think art history would be really boring,” Lebow says. “But I signed up for this class and it became one of my favorites. It was definitely a happy surprise.”

As part of her study abroad curricula, Lebow’s art history classes took her to world-renowned museums around the city. After discussing and analyzing paintings in the classroom, students viewed those same paintings during walking tours.

Lebow credits much of her enthusiasm for the study abroad program, Hamilton in France, to its year-long duration. “It was an incredible experience,” she says. “I’m so glad that I went for the year as opposed to one semester. I was able to solidify relationships with my professors, who I’m still in touch with, and to adjust and experience living in Paris like a local.”

Since returning from Paris, Lebow has been acclimating to being back on campus for the first time since early 2020. She has eagerly engaged with the College’s Study Abroad and Global Education (SAGE) office, which facilitated her study abroad program, by sharing her experience and connecting with other students who are considering off-campus study.

Lebow says the most empowering aspect of returning to campus has been fully diving into her thesis and academic experience. Her thesis focuses on French Impressionist Berthe Morisot, a 19th-century artist who was overshadowed by her male counterparts. Lebow hopes to unearth Morisot’s legacy while examining her artistic portrayals of domesticity and family dynamics. She has been collaborating closely with Visiting Assistant Professor in French Studies Chloé Vettier, her thesis advisor.

Beyond the written component of her thesis, Lebow has expanded on her research by curating a bilingual exhibition centered on Morisot at the Clark Humanities Museum. Working with Associate Professor of French Julin Everett, Lebow will showcase pieces from Pomona College’s Benton Museum of Art and Scripps’ Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, including etchings and reproductions of paintings. The exhibition opened on April 17, and the opening reception will be held in the gallery space on April 25 from 4-6 p.m. All are invited to attend.

After graduating this spring, Lebow plans to pursue a master’s degree in art history at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London. There, her coursework will focus on collecting and curating European art from 1863 to 1930. Lebow is eager to draw on her French studies background to analyze primary sources from Paris, what she calls the “cultural capital” of that era.

Lebow ultimately plans to work in a museum and pass on her love of art to the public.

“I think art should be available to the public,” she says. “Museums shape the way that we look at art because they are a pedagogical tool. I want to make sure that art is accessible to the public and presented in an ethical way.”