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Post, Chandler R.

    Full Name: Post, Chandler R.

    Other Names:

    • Chandler Rathfon Post

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1881

    Date Died: 1959

    Place Born: Detroit, Wayne, MI, USA

    Place Died: Foxboro, Norfolk, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

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


    Historian of Spanish and Italian renaissance art; early art history professor at Harvard. Post was born to William R. Post and Anne M. Rathfon (Post). He graduated from the University [grammar] School in Detroit and then attended Harvard University, graduating with a B.A. in Spanish literature in 1904. His classmates included Franklin Roosevelt and Hispanic scholar Hayward Keniston (1883-1970). He spent the academic year 1904-5 at the American School in Athens working on his master’s thesis on Greek literature. His Harvard master’s thesis was granted in 1906. Post then began teaching as an instructor of English, French, Italian and Greek and fine arts at his alma mater, and working on his doctorate. His dissertation in Romance literature, written under Jeremiah D. M. Ford (1873-1958), was completed in 1909 on the topic of Dante’s influence on Castilian allegory. That same year, Post suggested Harvard’s first specialized course on Italian art to Department Head, Arthur Upham Pope. During those years, Post made the friendship of Boston collector Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924). Though his first published article (1909) was in art history, his article publications of these years focused on literature, the most notable of which, “The Dramatic Art of Sophocles” appeared in 1912. The same year he was named professor of Greek and Fine Arts. In World War I, Post served as assistant to the military attaché at the United States Embassy in Rome 1917-1919. The Italian government made him Chevalier of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus in 1918. Returning to academic life after the war, Post continued to alternate his Harvard courses between the Departments of Classics and Fine Arts. His Fine Arts course 9A “Art and Culture of Italy in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance” was a pioneering synthesis of art, religion and history. He was appointed associate professor in 1920. In 1921, Post published his History of European and American Sculpture, one of the early surveys of the medium in America. In 1923 he was promoted to full professor. Post co-wrote with George Henry Chase A History of Sculpture in 1924, but was already at that time working on his magnum opus, The History of Spanish Painting (12 vols.), which appeared beginning in 1930. Post spent much of the 1930’s hunting for obscure paintings in Spain to complete his corpus. He was made William Dorr Boardman professor of Fine Arts in 1934, holding the position as emeritus after 1950 when he retired. In 1953 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Michigan. He was at work on the final volumes of his History of Spanish Painting at the time of his death. The History was completed by a former student Harold E. Wethey. His students, in addition to Wethey, included Benjamin Rowland, Jr., Martin S. Soria, and Walter W. S. Cook. Together with A. Kingsley Porter, Walter Muir Whitehill and Georgiana Goddard King, Cook, Post constituted an early “New England School” of American interest in Spanish Romaneque studies. The Romanesque scholar Walter B. Cahn termed Post’s History of Spanish Painting “now scarcely readable.” As a lecturer, one student, Otto Wittmann, Jr., recalled him lecturing completely from memory, seldom writing information down. “His tests were all factual tests…that’s all he cared about.”

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Castillian Allegory of the Fifteenth Century, with Especial Reference to the Influence of Dante. Harvard University, 1909, published as Mediaeval Spanish Allegory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1915; and Wethey, Harold E. A History of Spanish Painting. 14 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930-66; A History of European and American Sculpture from the Early Christian Period to the Present Day. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,1921; and Chase, George Henry, 1874-1952. A History of Sculpture. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1925.


    Panofsky, Erwin. “The History of Art.” In The Cultural Migration: The European Scholar in America. Introduction by W. Rex Crawford, 82-111. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1953, p. 88, mentioned; 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. 47 mentioned; The Dictionary of Art; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art; de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, p. 444; Wethey, Harold E. “Chandler Rathfon Post.” A History of Spanish Painting volume 14. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966, pp. xi-xiii; [transcript] Smith, Richard Cándida, interviewer. Otto Wittmann: The Museum in the Creation of Community. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust, 1995, p. 22-23; Cahn, Walter. “Romanesque Art, Then and Now: A Personal Reminiscence.” in Hourihane, Colum, ed. Romanesque Art and Thought in the Twelfth Century: Essays in Honor of Walter Cahn. University Park, PA: Penn State Press, 2008, p. 33; [obituaries:] New York Times. November 4, 1959, p. 35; Rowland, Benjamin, Hurley, John H., and Freedberg, Sydney J. “Chandler R. Post.” Art Journal 20 no. 1 (Fall 1960): 26.


    "Post, Chandler R.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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