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Sommer, Clemens

    Full Name: Sommer, Clemens

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1891

    Date Died: 1962

    Place Born: Cottbus, Brandenburg, Germany

    Place Died: Chapel Hill, Orange, NC, USA

    Home Country/ies: Germany


    Professor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 1940-62. Sommer’s father was a general in the German army during World War I to which the younger Sommer also served. Sommer received his doctorate at the University in Freiburg in 1919. In 1937 Sommer was summoned to Nazi Party headquarters and told to divorce his wife who, while religiously Lutheran, was suspected of having “Jewish blood.” Sommer understood the threat and accepted a visiting lectureship in Sweden in order to surreptitiously leave Germany altogether. In 1938 Sommer immigrated to the United States where he accepted a position to teach art history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill by then department director Russell Smith. He rose quickly to associate professor in 1940 and full professor in 1947. He was known for lecturing with his cocker spaniel at his side. In 1951, Sommer was one of a five-member committee to establish the first state-funded art museum in the nation, which later became the North Carolina Museum of Art. He was killed in an auto accident at 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. 649-651; Sloane, Joseph C. ” “Carolina” Vignettes: Dr. Clemens Sommer, art historian.” They Fled Hitler’s Germany and Found Refuge in North Carolina. Southern Research Report 8. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, Center for the Study of the American South, 1996. pp. 83-90.


    "Sommer, Clemens." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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