Modernist and Medievalist art historian at Harvard. Deknatel attended the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N. J., before graduating from Princeton in History in 1928 where the lectures of Charles Rufus Morey greatly impressed him. He entered Harvard Law School but changed his mind, switching to the Graduate school of Arts and Sciences. At Harvard, Deknatel studied under both A. Kingsley Porter and Chandler R. Post who suggested his dissertation topic on Spanish art to him. He married Virginia Herrick in 1931 and the following year began teaching as an instructor and tutor at Harvard. His dissertation on thirteenth-century sculpture was accepted in 1935. As a tutor for the museum classes of Paul J. Sachs, Deknatel became increasingly interested in the art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Though he supervised some students in medieval art, particularly after the retirement of Wilhelm Reinhold Walter Koehler in 1953, Deknatel focused his teaching on modern art. In 1940 he was appointed associate professor. He served as Associate Dean of Harvard College during World War II (1942-1945). In 1944 he was named chair of the Department of Fine Arts. He was appointed full professor in 1946. He served on the Board of the College Art Associate and was president 1947-1948. Deknatel published one of the early accounts in English of the painter Edvard Munch. He was succeeded as chair of the department in 1949 by Leonard E. Opdycke, Jr. In 1953 he was made William Dorr Boardman professor. His students included Kermit S. Champa, Theodore Reff and Linda Seidel. Deknatel published comparatively little as a scholar. He influence derives as an educator in modern art areas at Harvard. His scholarship, outside the modern, was in studying the influence of French Romanesque style in Spain.
Deknatel, Frederick B.
[disssertation] The Thirteenth Century Gothic Sculpture of the Cathedral of Burgos and Leon. Harvard University, 1935; "The Thirteenth Century Gothic Sculpture of the Cathedral of Burgos and Leon" Art Bulletin. September 1935. 243-389; Edvard Munch. Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1950.
Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l'histoire de l'art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986 p. 276-277; Coolidge, John, et al. "Frederick Brockway Deknatel." Fogg Art Museum Annual Report, 1972-74: 33-36; Freedberg, Sydney. [same text:] "Tribute to Frederick Deknatel." Art Journal 33 no, 3 (Spring 1974): 238.