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Shapiro, Theda

    Full Name: Shapiro, Theda

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 04 August 1943

    Date Died: 10 March 2015

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)

    Institution(s): University of California Riverside


    Professor of French and Comparative Literature in University of California Riverside; author of the important Painters and Politics: the European Avant-Garde and Society. Shapiro was born in Gloversville, New York. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia University. She demonstrated an early interest in art history by writing her M.A. thesis on French painters and politics. She continued the topic in her dissertation. While working on her Ph.D. she lectured in the departments of History, Comparative Literature and Foreign Languages and French at the University of California Riverside in 1969. In 1974, she received her Ph.D in European Social, Intellectual, and Cultural History from Columbia University. Her dissertation was supervised by, among others, George Collins, and the cultural historian Fritz Stern (1926-2016). She published a revised version of her dissertation in 1976 under a similar title. Though a book of political science, it was an early example of social art history in the United States. She was appointed professor at Riverside, serving as the chair of the Comparative Literature department as the director of the French and Italian programs. She also took part in the university’s Liberal Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs in 2000 through 2003 in which she served as president. Moreover, at the university, she created the “History of World Literature by Women” class which has become part of the Women’s study major classes. Shapiro received the first UCR Senate Distinguished Service Award in 2005-06 because of her contributions.

    Though not an art historian per se,Painters and Politics: the European Avant-Garde and Society, 1900-1925 was one of the early forays into examining art works as political documents. It illustrates the social attitudes and politics of the Avant-Garde period in Western Europe. In addition to Collins and Stern, her supervisors included the historians István Deák (b. 1926) and the art historian Joseph Burke. Her colleagues at the university, the cultural historian Nathan G. Hale Jr. (1922-2013) and professor of French Henry W. Decker (1923-2015) also assisted in her research. Her work examines artists of the time ranging from the Italian futurists, French Fauves, Cubists and German Expressionists. She included unpublished and published letters, manifestos, journals, catalogs, periodicals and interviews from family and friends from artists of the period.

    Selected Bibliography

    • [Master’s thesis:] French painters and politics: 1900-1920.  Columbia University, 1965;
    • [Ph.D. thesis:] European Avant-Garde Painters and Politics, 1900-1925, Columbia University, 1974.]
    • Painters and Politics: the European Avant-Garde and Society, 1900-1925. New York: Elsevier, 1976;


    • Painters and Politics: the European Avant-Garde and Society, 1900-1925. New York : Elsevier, 1976, p.xv;
    • Bowler, Shaun. “Passing of Professor Emerita Theda Shapiro.” March 17, 2015.;
    • ”UCR Faculty Names Its Distinguished Faculty.” UCR Newsroom: UCR Announces Distinguished Faculty Awards, June 1, 2006.;
    • “Back Matter.” Theory and Society 4, no. 2 (1977): 299.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen and Sofia Silvosa


    Lee Sorensen and Sofia Silvosa. "Shapiro, Theda." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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