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Stoddard, Whitney

    Full Name: Stoddard, Whitney

    Other Names:

    • Whitney Stoddard

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 25 March 1913

    Date Died: 02 April 2003

    Place Born: Greenfield, Franklin, MA, USA

    Place Died: Williamstown, Berkshire, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)


    Medievalist and professor at Williams College. Stoddard was the son of lawyer Charles Nowell Stoddard and Elizabeth Snow (Stoddard). He attended Eaglebrook School and Deerfield Academy before entering Williams College. At Williams he attended courses in art history by Karl E. Weston, graduating in 1935. He married Jean Wilson Read in 1936 (d. 1988) and entered Harvard University to pursue his doctorate in art history, returning to teach at Williams in 1938. At Harvard Stoddard studied under Chandler R. Post and Wilhelm Reinhold Walter Koehler. His dissertation, on the sculpture of Chartres cathedral, was completed in 1941 under Koehler. Stoddard entered the Navy during World War II serving between 1942 and 1945 as a radar controller for night fighter planes. He returned to Williams where he taught for the rest of his life, as Assistant Professor to 1948, Associate Professor 1948-1954 and Professor 1954-1976. In 1952 he revised his dissertation, publishing it as The West Portals of St.-Denis and Chartres. In 1966, Stoddard wrote a survey of medieval art, Monastery and Cathedral in France, which became one of the standard handbooks for the introduction to medieval art. Stoddard, however, focused his energies on teaching as opposed to research. His few publications were offset by the immense impact he had on his students. He played the part of “college professor” according to his many students, skiing to class during the Massachusetts winters, attending college athletic events. Stoddard led many students excavating the medieval monastery of Psalmodi in southern France, which he did for decades. He retired in 1982. In 1989 he received a distinguished teaching award from the College Art Association. After the death of his first wife, he married Elizabeth Jensvold (d. 2002) in 1991. Together with professors S. Lane Faison, Jr., and William H. Pierson, Jr., Stoddard is credited with developing the small department of art at Williams College Department into one of the major inspirations for a subsequent generation of art leaders. These included Alexander Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art; Thomas Krens, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; James N. Wood, director of the Art Institute of Chicago; Michael Govan, director of the Dia Center for the Arts; Roger Mandle, president of the Rhode Island School of Design; and Kirk Varnedoe, director of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. His son, Brooks W. Stoddard, also professor of art, teaches at the University of Maine. Stoddard was among the earliest art historians to study the Romanesque facades and cloister sculptures at the churches of St. Gilles and St. Trophime in Arles. He was given a key to the city and made an honorary citizen of Arles. Conservators researching these sites in the 1990s made extensive use of Stoddard’s photographs taken in the 1950s and 60s.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Chartres: The Making of a Cathedral Portal. Harvard University, 1941; [revised dissertation] The West Portals of Saint-Denis and Chartres: Sculpture in the île de France from 1140 to 1190, Theory of Origins. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952; Monastery and Cathedral in France: Medieval Architecture, Sculpture, Stained Glass, Manuscripts, the Art of the Church Treasuries. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press,1966, [subsequently retitled as] Art and Architecture in Medieval France; Medieval Architecture, Sculpture, Stained Glass, Manuscripts, the Art of the Church Treasuries. New York: Harper & Row, 1972; The Façade of Saint-Gilles-du-Gard: its Influence on French Sculpture. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973; Adventure in Architecture: Building the New Saint John’s. New York: Longmans, Green, 1958; “Selection of Sculpture from Psalmodi.” Gesta 15 no. 1-2 (1976): 121-26.


    [obituary:] Johnson, Ken. “Whitney Stoddard, 90, Art Historian and Teacher.” New York Times April 14, 2003, section F, p. 8; William College, Office of Public Affiars. “Noted Art Historian Whitney S. Stoddard Dies.”; “Whitney S. Stoddard, noted Art Historian.” The Greenfield [Mass.] Recorder.; Armi, C. Edson, et al. “Whitney Snow Stoddard.” Gesta 25 no. 1 (1986) pp. 5-8.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Stoddard, Whitney." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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