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Hartt, Frederick

    Image Credit: Monuments Men and Women

    Full Name: Hartt, Frederick

    Other Names:

    • Frederick Hartt

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1914

    Date Died: 31 October 1991

    Place Born: Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA

    Place Died: Washington, DC, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, and Renaissance

    Career(s): educators


    University of Virginia professor and Michelangelo and Italian Renaissance scholar. Hart was raised in Boston, the son of Rollin Lynde Hartt and Jessie Clark Knight (Hartt). He received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1935. After spending a year at the Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton, under Erwin Panofsky, 1935-1936, he took his M.A. from New York University in 1937. Between 1939 to 1941 Hartt was an instructor in the history of art at Bennett Junior College in Millbrook, New York and then an assistant and cataloger at the Yale Art Gallery (1941-1942). He married Margaret DeWitt Veeder in 1943. During World War II, he employed his knowledge of the Mediterranean as a photo interpreter, rank of first lieutenant, in the US Army Air Force, 1942-1946. As the war concluded, he helped repatriate art stored for safekeeping in villas in Italy as part of the so-called “Monuments Men” division. He later helped identify work looted by the Germans in Austrian monasteries and libraries. For this he won the Bronze Star, subsequently serving on the Board of directors of the American Committee for the Restoration Italian Monuments, 1946-1949. His war experiences later became his 1949 book, Florentine Art Under Fire. In 1946 Hartt returned to academics as a lecturer and acting director of the Art Museum at Smith College. Between 1948-1949 he was a lecturer on Fine Arts at New York University’s Washington Square College. He joined the art history faculty of Washington University in St. Louis in 1949 (to 1960). In 1950 he completed his dissertation, also from NYU, on Giulio Roman and the Palazzo del Te, written under Walter F. Friedländer and Richard Offner. He divorced in 1960, moving to The University of Pennsylvania the same year. He chaired the department there for the next five years, remaining there until 1967. When the Arno River flooded in Florence in 1966, damaging many works of art, Hartt was again summoned to evaluate and prioritize restoration efforts. He served for the rest of his life on the Committee to Rescue Italian Art. In 1967, he accepted the Paul Goodloe McIntire Professorship of the History of Art at the University of Virginia, remaining there for the remainder of his career. He was Chair of the UVA Department of Art, 1967-1976 and became emeritus faculty in 1984. Hartt also held visiting professorships at Harvard, Franklin and Marshall College and Baylor University, as well as being a consultant at the J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Art and Culture. He served on the boards of directors of the College Art Association of America and the American Committee for the Restoration of Italian Art. He died in a Washgington, D. C. hospital of a heart ailment. Hartt is perhaps best known among non-art scholars for his textbook survey of Renaissance art. He first published The History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture in 1969. Like the History of Art textbook by Horst Woldemar Janson after which it was modeled, it presented major renaissance monuments and movements in a fashion compatible for classroom teaching. Revised numerous times, it has remained a staple of the introduction-to-renaissance-art class. Hartt also authored a general text on art history. His reputation as an art expert put him at the fore of a number of art controversies. He weighed in on the side of those approving of the Sistine ceiling cleaning in the 1980s (putting him at odds with James Beck and Alessandro Conti). In 1987, Hartt authenticated a plaster statue discovered by a Parisian dealer as that of Michelangelo’s, presenting his findings to the New York Academy of Sciences. When a London newspaper characterized his judgment as reckless and dishonest, Hartt sued. Although he won, the presiding judge agreed that Hartt had acted dishonorably in accepting a commission on the sale of the statue after his writings about it were published.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Giulio Romano and the Palazzo del Te. New York University, 1950; Florentine Art Under Fire. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1949; “Lignum Vitae in Medio Paradisi: The Stanza d’Eliodoro and the Sistine Ceiling.” Art Bulletin 32 (1950): 115-45; Sandro Botticelli. New York: Abrams, 1953; Giulio Romano. 2 vols. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1958; “Power and the Individual in Mannerist Art.” In Millard Meiss et al, editors, Studies in Western Art. 4 vols., Acts of the Twentieth International Congress of the History of Art, 1961. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963. vol. II: Renaissance and Mannerism: 222-38; “Art and Freedom in Quattrocento Florence.” in Essays in Memory of Karl Lehmann: 114-31. Edited by Lucy F. Sandler. Locust Valley, NY: New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, 1964; History of Italian Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969; and Corti, Gino and Kennedy, Clarence. The Chapel of the Cardinal of Portugal, 1434-1459, at San Miniato in Florence Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964; Love in Baroque Art. New York: Published for the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University by J. J. Augustin, Locust Valley, NY, 1964; Michelangelo: the Complete Sculpture. New York, H.N. Abrams, 1968.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 83 cited; Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 67 mentioned; “Professor awarded 7,500 Pounds in Libel Action, but is Criticised by Judge.” The Independent (London), December 7 1989, p. 3; [for Hartt’s contribution to the Sistine ceiling controversy, see] Petrie, Lee Kathryn. The Controversy Surrounding the Cleaning and Conservation of Michelangelo’s Frescoes on the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Master’s Thesis, Queen’s University at Kingston, Ontario, 1995; Wallace, William. “Frederick Hartt: A Tribute.” in, Butler, Karen K. Frederick Hartt and American Abstraction in the 1950s: Building the Collection at Washington University in St. Louis. St. Louis: Mildred Lane Kempr Art Museum, 2012; [obituaries:] The Washington Post. November 1, 1991, p. D4; The New York Times. November 1, 1991, p. D18; Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1991, Part B; p. 6; “U.VA. Art Department Former Chairman Dies.” Richmond Times-Dispatch November 1, 1991.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Hartt, Frederick." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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