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Rewald, John

    Full Name: Rewald, John

    Other Names:

    • John Rewald

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1912

    Date Died: 1994

    Place Born: Berlin, Germany

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style), Impressionist (style), and painting (visual works)


    Scholar of Impressionism and Cézanne; wrote first scholarly synthesis of Impressionism in the English language. Rewald’s father was Bruno Albert Rewald (b. 1885), a chemist, and mother Paula Feinstein (Rewald) (1880-1964) a dentist. He was educated at the Lichtwark School in Hamburg, receiving his Abitur in 1931. He spent the years 1931-1936 studying art history at various universities, including Hamburg under Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl, and Frankfurt. Rewald entered the Sorbonne in 1932 ostensibly for a year’s study, but after Hitler’s rise the following year in Germany, he was compelled to remain in France as an exile. While rambling through France visiting the rural cathedrals, Rewald met fellow German Leo Marchutz, a painter who was searching out the landscapes of Paul Cézanne’s work. Rewald and Marchutz joined forces, Rewald photographing the landscapes used in Cézanne’s pictures. (These photographs later became the shots for Rewald’s book on Post Impressionism). At the Sorbonne, he convinced Henri Focillon to allow him to write his dissertation on Cézanne, an artist considered too recent to be a subject of study. Rewald’s dissertation, Cézanne et Zola, addressed the friendship between the two creative personalities. Between 1936-1941 he worked as a journalist for various newspapers writing art criticism. He married Estelle Haimovici in 1939. When France declared war on Germany, he was interned in 1939 as an enemy alien–despite being Jewish. He emigrated to the United States in 1941. Rewald was awarded the Prix Charles Blanc in 1940 in France for his dissertation, in absentia. In New York, where Museum of Modern Art Director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., had sponsored Rewald’s immigration, Rewald initially found work at Weyhe’s Book Shop and in 1942 for the War Department as a French interpreter. Beginning in 1943, he consulted for the Museum of Modern Art, New York, organizing exhibitions for it and other museums and researching his magnum opus, a history of Impressionism. Rewald had shown Barr a mass of unpublished Cézanne correspondence that Rewald had collected for his dissertation in France. Barr asked his former professor Paul J. Sachs at Harvard to convince their press to published them. But Harvard University Press turned him down. Rewald, again at Barr’s insistence, tried and failed to obtain a Guggenheim fellowship. Ultimately, Barr persuaded the New York branch of the Durand-Ruel Gallery to make a tax-free contribution to the Museum, which Barr gave to Rewald to complete the History of Impressionism. The History of Impressionism was published to universal acclaim in 1946. Rewald spent the rest of his life in part revising and republishing it in five editions. After a divorce from his first wife, he married Alice Bellony [formerly Alice Leglise] in 1956. Rewald was a visiting professor at Princeton University between 1961 and 1964. He joined the art faculty of the University of Chicago in 1964, remaining until 1971. During that time he wrote the Abrams (publisher) volume on Paul Gauguin for their Library of Great Painters series. In 1971 he became part of the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York as distinguished professor of art history. In 1977 he organized the highly important Cézanne: The Late Work exhibition at MoMA with William S. Rubin. He spent the year 1979 as the A. W. Mellon Lecturer, National Gallery of Art. Rewald retired from CUNY in 1984. In 1986 he was awarded the Mitchell Prize for his dissertation on Cézanne and Zola, which appeared in English as Cezanne: A Biography. Rewald was instrumental in creating a foundation to buy Cézanne’s studio and turn it into a museum. He died of congrestive heart failure at age 81. His catalogue raisonné of Cézanne was completed and appeared after his death in 1996. A street in Aix-en-Provence, where Cézanne lived and worked, is named after him. His son, Paul Rewald, who was a vice president of Sotheby Parke Bernet, died of cancer at age 32 in 1976. His daughter-in-law, Sabine Rewald, is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Rewald’s scholarship, most exemplified in his histories of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, is the highly documentary, nearly day-by-day account of the movement. The thick text provides wonderful documentation of the movement but, compared to other treatments of the subjects, are shorter on analysis. They remain the authority for dates and chronology of late-nineteenth century French art. A connoisseur historian at odds with heavy psychological interpretations, he was a vocal critic, along with the critic John Canaday of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s selling of some of its important paintings in the early 1970s under Director Thomas Hoving. Throughout his career, he advised the wealthy art collectors John Hay Whitney and Paul Mellon on purchases both to their private collections and donations to art galleries.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [dissertation] Cézanne et Zola. Paris: Sorbonne, 1936, and Paris: A. Sedrowskik, 1936, a re-edited version appeared as Cézanne: Sa vie, son oeuvre, son amitie pour Zola. Paris: A. Michel, 1939;
    • Paul Cézanne: correspondance, recueillie, annotée et péfacée. Paris: B. Grasset, 1937;
    • Gauguin. New York: French and European Publications, Paris, Hyperion, 1938;
    • and Gloeckner, Andé. Maillol. London: The Hyperion Press, 1939;
    • Paul Gauguin: Letters to Ambroise Vollard & Andé Fontainas. San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1943;
    • Georges Seurat. New York: Wittenborn and Company, 1943;
    • Modern Drawings. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1945;
    • and Richie, Andrew C. Aristide Maillol. Buffalo, NY: Albright Art Gallery, 1945;
    • Renoir Drawings. New York: H. Bittner, 1946;
    • The History of Impressionism. 1st ed. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1946;
    • Paul Cézanne: a Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1948; Pierre Bonnard. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1948;
    • Post-Impressionism from Van Gogh to Gauguin. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1956; Paul Gauguin. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1969;
    • [letter to the editor decrying sale of paintings:] “. . . And, From the Mail, Two Other Notable Views.” New York Times March 12, 1972 p. D23;
    • Paul Cézanne, the Watercolors: a Catalogue Raisonné. Boston: Little, Brown, 1983;
    • Studies in Post-impressionism. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1986;
    • Studies in Impressionism. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1986;
    • Cézanne and America: Dealers, Collectors, Artists and Critics: 1891-1921. National Gallery of Art lecture series. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989;
    • Degas’s Complete Sculpture: catalogue raisonné. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1990; and Feilchenfeldt, Walter, and Warman, Jayne. The Paintings of Paul Cézanne: a Catalogue Raisonné. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1996.


    • 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. 89 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. 69;
    • Wendland, Ulrike. Biographisches Handbuch deutschsprachiger Kunsthistoriker im Exil: Leben und Werk der unter dem Nationalsozialismus verfolgten und vertriebenen Wissenschaftler. Munich: Saur, 1999, vol. 2, pp. 544-49;
    • [personal early educational reminiscences] Rewald, John. “The William C. Seitz Collection.” Art Journal 37, no. 1 (Autumn, 1977): 49-50;
    • Bellony-Rewald, Alice. John Rewald: histoire de l’art et photographie. Paris: L’Échoppe, 2005;
    • [obituaries] Kimmelman, Michael. “John Rewald, 81, Expert on Art of Post-Impressionist Period, Dies.” New York Times February 3, 1994, p. B7;
    • Rishel, Joseph J. The Burlington Magazine 136 (May 1994): 317-8;
    • Wildenstein, Daniel. Gazette des Beaux-Arts 123 (March 1994) [Chronique des arts]: 99-100; Robinson, W. Art in America 82 (March 1994): 126.


    John Rewald papers, National Gallery of Art.


    "Rewald, John." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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