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Spencer, Harold

    Full Name: Spencer, Harold Edward

    Other Names:

    • Spence

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1920

    Date Died: 2016

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): American (North American)

    Institution(s): University of Connecticut


    Americanist professor of art history at the University of Connecticut. Spencer was born in Corning, NY, and initially educated in a one-room schoolhouse. After high school, he studied (studio) art at the Art Student’s League in New York City. He joined the merchant marine at the onset of World War II serving as a navigation officer stationed in California. There he met the art editor of The Oak Leaf, a publication of the U.S. Naval Supply Center in Oakland, Editha Mary Hayes (1921-2010). He married her in 1947. After the War, Spencer attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his B.A. and M. A. in art history. His Ph.D. in art history was granted from Harvard Univeristy in 1968. Initially he taught art and art history initially at Blackburn College (Carlinville, IL). There he edited a survey (reader) of significant art-history articles, Readings in Art History, 1969. He moved to teach at Occidental College, Los Angeles. He joined the University of Connecticut where he remained the rest of his career. He participated in the founding of Weir Farm Trust and National Historic Site dedicated to American painting serving as a director on its board. Spencer was also a painter exhibiting works in galleries and museums. After retirement in 2001, he moved to Paso Robles, California, where he practiced art full time as part of the Studios on the Park, an arts cooperative. 

    Spencer’s reader in art history was among the first to frame the discipline around methodological lines in an English text-book. His work was followed in 1971 but the somewhat fuller Modern Perspectives in Western Art History by W. Eugene Kleinbauer, Jr.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Augustus Earle:  A Study of Early Nineteenth Century Travel-art and its Place in English Landscape and Genre Traditions. Harvard University, 1968;


    “Harold E. Spencer.” Hartford (CT) Courant March 13, 2016,; Laddon, Anne.  “Harold Spencer Obituary” Studio on the Park Artist’s Blog

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Spencer, Harold." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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