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Davis, Howard McP.

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Davis, Howard McParlin

    Other Names:

    • Howard McParlin Davis

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1914

    Date Died: 1994

    Place Born: Baltimore, Baltimore Independent City, MD, USA

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Career(s): educators


    Influential undergraduate professor of art history at Columbia University. Davis graduated from Princeton University in 1936 with a degree in French languages and literatures. He received a Carnegie Fellowship in 1937, studying summers at the Institut d’Art et d’Arch’ologie in Paris and in Brussels on a Belgian-American Educational Foundation Fellowship, 1938. His master’s degree in fine arts was granted in 1939. He joined the Metropolitan Museum of Art the same year as a curator in first the medieval art department (through 1942) and then prints and drawings (through 1944). He lectured in art history at Hunter college for two years before joining Columbia University in 1944. He became an assistant professor in 1947.

    Davis was hired to teach Columbia’s “Art Humanities” course, an interdisciplinary offering, but when the Italian Renaissance course suddenly needed to be filled the same year, Davis obliged. He taught a northern Renaissance continually thereafter as well as the Art Humanities course, which also spanned forty years. He received a Fulbright Senior Research Grant to Italy in 1950-51, where he focused on Bernini. In 1954 he advanced to associate professor. He served the board of directors of the College Art Association as secretary between 1957 and 1960 and as vice-president for 1959-1960. He was named full professor in 1962. In 1968 he received the Mark van Doren Award at Columbia College for teaching. He served as chair of the Department of Art and Archaeology from 1969 to 1972. He was named Moore Collegiate Professor of Art History in 1980. In 1984 he was awarded a distinguished teaching award by the College Art Association and retired in 1985. He continued to teach the Art Humanities course until 1991. He died of heart failure at age 79. His daughter, Alison McParlin Davis-Murphy, is a photographer. Davis published almost nothing during his career; his reputation was as a teacher. His classes in Italian Renaissance painting and on Northern European painting were among the most popular undergraduate courses at Columbia. Although his lack of a Ph.D. prevented him from advising graduate students, many eminent art historians, however, first learned of the topic through Davis, among them David Rosand, now professor at Columbia.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Florine Stettheimer: an Exhibition of Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings. New York: Columbia University, 1973;
    • “Fantasy and Irony in Peter Bruegel’s Prints.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (June 1943): 291-5.


    • Rosand, David. “Introductory Note.” Source: Notes in the History of Art 5 no. 1 (Fall 1985): 1;
    • Rothstein, Mervyn. “A Classic Teacher Nears Career’s End at Columbia” The New York Times October 15, 1984, p. B3;
    • [obituaries:] Grimes, William. “Howard McParlin Davis, 79, Taught Art History at Columbia.” New York Times September 17, 1994, p. 12;
    • Art News 93 (November 1994): 48; “Howard Davis, Art Historian, Dies at 79.” Columbia University Record 20 no. 3 (September 23, 1994).


    "Davis, Howard McP.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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