Historian of the Italian Renaissance; writer on art theory and art historiographer. Podro was the son of the German Jewish author and journalist Joshua Podro and Fanny Podro. Podro received his M.A. in English Literature from Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1954. His Ph.D. was granted from the University College, London in 1961, under E. H. Gombrich, and the philosophers A. J. Ayer (1910-1989) and Richard Wollheim (1923-2003), writing a dissertation on the topic of art theory of Konrad Fiedler (1841-1895). He married the museum conservator and Egyptologist Charlotte Booth the same year. Podro began as a lecturer in art history at Camberwell School of Art, where he was department head, 1961 to 1967. In 1967 he joined the Warburg Institute of the University of London as a lecturer in philosophy of art. He became a Reader at the University of Essex in the Department of Art History and Theory in 1969, advancing to professor of art history and theory in 1973. He spent the 1974 year as Charlton Lecturer at University of Newcastle upon Tyne, publishing his lecture, "Piero della Francesca's Legend of the True Cross," the same year. During these years Podro began focusing his research on the historiography of art, lecturing on various aspects and personalities of the discipline. After a year as a visiting professor at the University of Tel Aviv in 1981, he issued a book-length study on German historiography and its theorists, Critical Historians of Art in 1982. The book was the first full-length treatment of the history of art history in English. His friend, the painter R. B. Kitaj painted Podro's portrait, "The Jewish Rider," in 1985-1986. Podro was named a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum beginning in 1987, weathering, among other issues, the controversial hiring of the director, Elizabeth Esteve-Coll. He retired from Essex in 1996. His research migrated toward contemporary visual theory with his 1998 book Depiction. He wrote an insightful article on his mentor, Wollheim, in 2004, whom he linked with Walter Pater. Podro published comparatively little given his academic position. His historical subject area was the Florentine Quattrocento Renaissance. He is most widely known as an historian of art theory and historiography. His book Critical Historians of Art organized major German art historians and the philosophers who affected their thinking, into intellectual rather than strict chronological groupings.
Michael Isaac Podro
[dissertation:] Konrad Fiedler's Theory of the Visual Arts. University College, London, 1961, published, The Parallel of Linguistic and Visual Formulation in the Writing of Konrad Fiedler. Turin: Edizioni di "Filosofia," 1961; The Manifold in Perception: Theories of Art from Kant to Hildebrand. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1972; Piero della Francesca's Legend of the True Cross. Newcastle upon Tyne: University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1974; The Critical Historians of Art. New Haven, CT : Yale University Press, 1982; Depiction. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998; "On Richard Wollheim." British Journal of Aesthetics 2004 44 no. 3: 213-225.
Chancellor's address, University of Essex, http://www.essex.ac.uk/vc/orate2000/Podro%20Oration.rtf; Solheim, Randi. "Michael Podro." in, Konsten-en Trävetenskaplig Horizont/Subjectivity and Art historical Methodology. Eidos 23 http://www.arthistory.su.se/eidos23.htm.