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A Master Collection: Noted scholar's gift of 3,200 prints enriches the Blanton Museum

Biographical Sketch of Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg
Portrait of Leo Steinberg

Leo Steinberg is a groundbreaking critic of art of the 1960s, a gifted Renaissance scholar and one of the 20th century’s most articulate and original voices in the humanities. Born in Russia in 1920, Steinberg lived in Berlin and London before emigrating to the United States in 1945. He studied at the University of London's Slade School and then entered the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in the mid-1950s. There he worked under Harry Bober, father of the Blanton curator, and under noted historian Richard Krautheimer. He wrote his dissertation on the Roman Baroque architect Francesco Borromini.

After receiving his Ph.D. in 1960, Steinberg taught art history and life drawing at Hunter College and co-founded the Art History Department of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he taught from 1972 to 1975. He finished his teaching career as Benjamin Franklin Professor of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania (1975-1991), where, among other things, he taught the history of prints. For more than four decades, Steinberg has been lecturing at museums and universities across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, the New York Studio School, Yale University Art Gallery, Stanford, Berkeley and Columbia University. In addition, he delivered the Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art, the Gauss Lectures at Princeton, and the Norton Lectures at Harvard.

Steinberg has published an eclectic range of short reviews, essays and scholarly studies that reflect his keen awareness of art historical issues from the Renaissance to the contemporary period, his analytical skill, and his sensitivity to nuance. Among his published works are: San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane: A Study in Multiple Form and Architectural Symbolism (1960), 1977; Jasper Johns, 1963; Other Criteria, 1972; Michelangelo’s Last Paintings: The Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter in the Cappella Paolina, Vatican Palace, 1975; The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, 1983, revised and expanded, 1996; Encounters with Rauschenberg, 2000; and Leonardo's Incessant Last Supper, 2001.

In 1983, he became the first art historian to receive the Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute for Arts and Letters. He has received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism from the College Art Association (1956 and 1984) and the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (1986).

Nicole Chism Griffin

Portrait of Leo Steinberg: Pamela Blackwell

Images courtesy Blanton Museum of Art

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  Updated 2014 October 13
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