“The real meat of his scholarship really took the object as his point of departure,” Robinson said. “He was the most engaging writer amongst living art historians.”
Edelstein added, “His critical eye made an indelible impression on me, pointing out changes in condition and obvious interventions by restorers…. I learned more about connoisseurship during the two courses that I took with Prof. Slive than in any others that I took as a graduate student.”
Aside from teaching and his research, Slive also spent many years as director of Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, serving in that role from 1975 to 1982.
According to colleague James S. Ackerman, a former fine arts professor, Slive played an important role in bridging the gap between the museum and faculty.
Perhaps Slive’s biggest accomplishment in the museum world, Ackerman said, was his “more or less one-man campaign” in the early 1980s to build the Sackler Museum at Harvard.
The renovations underway at the Fogg Museum currently also include many features that Slive supported, including in-house conservation labs and study rooms, according to Robinson. The revamped Fogg, now in a complex that will house collections from Harvard’s three art museums, is slated to open this coming November.
Throughout Slive’s prolific professional career, those who knew him said that he remained an energetic and generous person.
“He was a very jovial person, he always greeted everyone with a smile and enthusiasm,” Ackerman said. “He had great respect for his colleagues.”
Edelstein recalled Slive as an attentive mentor with extraordinary humanity.
“He was warm and approachable, concerned about his students but also deeply interested in the world at large,” Edelstein said.
Katya Slive said that as a young girl, she thought that everyone loved their job, but when she grew older she realized her dad was unique, particularly in his love for his work.
“He wasn’t a snob—he had very rigorous standards but he was also accepting of all sorts of people,” Katya said. “Our household was always known for being warm.”
“He leaves a big deep hole,” she said.
—Staff writer Ivan B. K. Levingston can be reached at Ivan.Levingston@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @IvanLevingston.
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