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Sypher, Wylie

    Full Name: Sypher, Wylie

    Other Names:

    • Feltus Wylie Sypher

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1905

    Date Died: 1987

    Place Born: Mt. Kisco, NY, USA

    Place Died: Hackettstown, Warren, NJ, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): art history and literary studies

    Career(s): art historians, educators, and historiographers


    Professor of English and writer on art history. Sypher was born to Harry Wylie Sypher and Martha Berry (Sypher). He graduated from Amherst College in 1927, continuing for two master’s degrees, the first from Tufts University, in 1929 and, after marrying Lucy Johnston the same year, pursued a second from Harvard University in 1932. He joined Simmons College, Boston, as an instructor beginning in 1929. Sypher was awarded his Ph.D., from Harvard in 1937. At Simmons, Sypher advanced through the ranks, being promoted to assistant professor in 1936, and associate professor, 1941 and professor of English in 1945. He was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1949-50, and again in 1958-59. In 1963 Sypher wrote his groundbreaking anthology of art history, Art History: An Anthology of Modern Criticism. Together with that of German Readings in the History and Theory of Fine Arts by Margarete Bieber in 1946, it was one of the first anthologies of art-historical literature published in the United States and the first with full English translations. In 1966 he was named alumnae professor of English. He received a Litt.D., from Middlebury College, 1969, retiring from Simmons professor emeritus in 1973. After retirement he was awarded L.H.D.’s from Simmons College, 1973, and Amherst College, 1977. Throughout his life, Sypher wrote on the history of art in addition to literature, often combining both. Sypher viewed art history and criticism as essentially the same thing. Defining style as the essence of an art form, Sypher’s works trace art as it modulates formally without perceptible effect from social forces.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Antislavery Movement to 1800 in English Literature, Exclusive of the Periodical. Harvard, 1937; edited, Art History: an Anthology of Modern Criticism. New York: Vintage Books, 1963; Four Stages of Renaissance Style: Transformations in Art and Literature, 1400-1700. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955; Loss of Self in Modern Literature and Art. New York: Random House 1962.


    [obituary:] “Wylie Sypher, 81, Taught English at Simmons College for 50 Years.” Boston Globe August 18, 1987, p. 13.


    "Sypher, Wylie." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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