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Search For Art Professor Narrows

By Ben A. Black, Crimson Staff Writer

After a fruitless search for a senior faculty member, the Department of History of Art and Architecture is moving closer to appointing an assistant professor of Renaissance art.

Last week, the department narrowed a list of about 30 applicants to six, according to Alina A. Payne, a professor of history of art and architecture and the chair of the search committee for the professorship.

The department has been without a professor of Italian Renaissance painting since the 2002 retirement of Adams University Professor John Shearman, who passed away last September. Payne said she hoped to bring in a new appointment by September 2004 to fill the gap left by Shearman.

“The department looked first for a senior person last year, and unfortunately that search did not reach a successful conclusion,” said Payne, a specialist in Southern Renaissance and Baroque architecture. “Now we have picked up the search again and we are looking more broadly from junior to senior.”

Chair of the Department of History of Art and Architecture Yve-Alain H. Bois said that while the senior search—which began in the 2001-2002 academic year—is still not officially closed, the decision to focus on the search for a junior colleague is appropriate.

“[This] is what we should have done in the first place,” he wrote in an e-mail. “One does not easily replace a scholar like John Shearman by someone of equal status.”

Christine Smith, the Weinberg professor of architectural history at the Graduate School of Design, said that the department, once a stronghold in the study of Italian Renaissance art, is now unable to offer as many courses on the subject as in the past.

“They have a very, very distinguished history of offering Italian Renaissance art and architecture that goes back decades,” Smith said. “It’s historically been among the strongest in the world in that area.”

In the meantime, several professors, including Payne, study fields that intersect with the Italian Renaissance.

Professor of History of Art and Architecture Hugo Van der Velden, who currently teaches about the Northern Renaissance, said while there are no courses in Southern Renaissance painting, students can take related classes.

“They are well provided for,” he said.

Smith is also offering a Design School course on Renaissance art and architecture in Italy next year. The course is joint-listed with the Medieval Studies Committee, an arrangement which allows undergraduates to enroll without cross-registering.

But history of art and architecture concentrator Christopher W. Platts ’06 said he has had a hard time finding classes on the Italian Renaissance.

“Italian Renaissance painting is a field I’m very interested in, but since I haven’t found the chance to take a course in it, I can’t really say that it’s my specific background in art history,” said Platts, who plans to take Smith’s joint-listed course. “I try to find ways to immerse myself in the field because no formal courses are offered at Harvard, or none that I know of.”

Platts, also a Crimson editor, is looking into taking courses at the Extension School as well.

—Staff writer Ben A. Black can be reached at

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