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Arnason, H. H.

    Full Name: Arnason, H. H.

    Other Names:

    • Hjorvardur Harvard Arnason

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1909

    Date Died: 1986

    Place Born: Winnipeg, Province of Manitoba, Canada

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Canada

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)


    Director of the Walker Art Center 1951-1961; wrote a popular survey of modern art. Arnason was born to Sveinbjorn and Maria Bjarnadottir (Arnason), Icelandic immigrants to Canada. He attended the University of Manitoba for two years (1925-1927) before immigrating to the United States. There he attended Northwestern University, achieving his B.S. in 1931. In 1936 he married Elizabeth Hickox Yard and taught as an instructor. After gaining his A.M. in 1937, Arnason continued to study art at Princeton University where he was awarded an M.F.A. in 1939. He was made a naturalized citizen in 1940. Arnason worked at the Frick Collection in New York as research assistant and lecturer between 1938-1942, also lecturing at Hunter College (now part of the City University of New York) between 1939-1942. During World War II, he was field representative in Iceland for the Office of War Information,1942-1944, rising to assistant deputy director for Europe, 1944-1945. In 1947 he was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, and then professor and chair of the art department at the University of Minnesota, where he remained until 1961. Arnason became Director of Walker Art Center in 1951, holding that position for ten years. He was a Carnegie Visiting Professor at University of Hawaii in 1959. In 1961 left Minneapolis for New York again to become vice-president for art administration at the Guggenheim Foundation, serving with Guggenheim director Thomas M. Messer. He married a second time to Elinor Lane Franklin in 1966. Arnason published a famous survey of modern art, drawn from his contacts and experiences with the Walker Museum, A History of Modern Art, in 1968. It remained a staple survey of the modern period for twenty years. He left the Guggenheim in 1969.

    Selected Bibliography

    Directions in Modern Painting [G. David Thompson Collection at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.]. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, l961; Philip Guston. New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1962; Marca-Relli. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1963; History of Modern Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1968; and Lipchitz, Jacques. My Life in Sculpture [Jacques Lipchitz]. New York: Viking Press, 1972; The Sculptures of Houdon. London: Phaidon, 1975; Robert Motherwell. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1977;


    [obituary] “H. Harvard Arnason, Art Historian, Is Dead.” The New York Times May 29, 1986, p. B8.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Arnason, H. H.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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