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Reff, Theodore

    Full Name: Reff, Theodore

    Other Names:

    • Theodore Franklin Reff

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1930

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style), nineteenth century (dates CE), and painting (visual works)


    Degas and late-19th century French painting scholar; professor of art history at Columbia University, 1964-. Reff’s father was Irving Reff and his mother Alice Pinkowitz (Reff). Reff attended Columbia University receiving his B.A. in 1952. He moved to Harvard University where his M.A. was awarded in 1953. Using Harvard’s Edward Bacon fellowship, he traveled to Europe between 1955 and 1956. In 1957 he began at Columbia as an instructor in art history. His Ph.D. was granted in 1958 with a dissertation topic on the drawings of Cézanne under Frederick B. Deknatel. He married Arlene Gottesman in 1961, advancing to assistant professor the same year. Reff was a member of Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N. J., in 1963, organizing a show on Cézanne’s watercolors jointly with Columbia’s Department of Art History and Archaeology and the Knoedler Gallery in New York. In 1964 he was appointed associate professor and professor of art history in 1967. Reff received a Guggenheim fellowship for the 1967-1968 year. He was visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University in 1970, heading the A. Kingsley Porter Prize committee between 1970 and 1972 for the College Art Association. A second Guggenheim was awarded him for 1974-1975. In 1976 he organized a major Degas exhibition for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, “Degas: the Artist’s Mind.” The same year he authored the volume on Manet’s “Olympia” for the Art in Context series commissioned by Penguin. He joined the board of directors of College Art Association in 1977. The same year he contributed essays for the “Cézanne: Late Work” exhibition organized by William S. Rubin at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was appointed director of College Art’s board beginning 1978 (though 1980). In 1982, Reff launched the exhibition, “Manet and Modern Paris” at the National Gallery of Art in Washgington, D. C. He and Philippe Brame wrote the supplement to the catalogue raisonné of Degas originally written by Paul-André Lemoisne shortly after World War II. His studented included Norma Broude, Judy Sund and Alessandra Comini. Methodologically, Reff studied the interactions of art and literature, frequently applying psychoanalytical models. His studies of Degas employed archival materials weaving it with circumstances of the painter’s social circle.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Studies in the Drawings of Cézanne. Harvard, 1958; “Cézanne’s Bather with Outstretched Arms.” Gazette des Beaux Arts 59, 6th series (1963): 173-79; and Rubin, William. Cézanne: the Late Work : Essays. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977; Cézanne Watercolors. M. Knoedler and Company/Wittenborn, 1963; Degas: the Artist’s Mind. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976; Manet and Modern Paris: One Hundred Paintings, Drawings, Prints, and Photographs by Manet and his Contemporaries. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1982; Manet, Olympia. New York: Viking Press, 1977, (copyrighted 1976); edited, The Notebooks of Edgar Degas: a Catalogue of the Thirty-eight Notebooks in the Bibliothéque Nationale and Other Collections. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.P.A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, 4 vol. (1947-48, reprinted 1984); and in Philippe Brame and Theodore Reff (compilers), Degas et son oeuvre: A Supplement (1984).


    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. 105 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. 76 cited;


    "Reff, Theodore." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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