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Watkins, Law B.

    Full Name: Watkins, Law B.

    Other Names:

    • Law Bradley Watkins

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1944

    Place Born: Washington, DC, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Baroque, Italian (culture or style), Italian Renaissance-Baroque styles, and Renaissance


    Historian of the Italian Renaissance art. Watkins’ parents were C. Law Watkins (1886-1945), a coal company owner, and later artist and later art school director, and Mary Bradley Watkins (1911-1993), an artist. Watkins’ father was the college roommate of the Washgington, D. C., art collector Duncan Phillips (1886-1966). After selling his interests in a Pennsylvania coal company, his father accepted a position with Phillips as Director of the Phillips Gallery Art School in 1931. Law Bradley Watkins was born a year before his father’s death. Watkins received a master’s degree in painting from the American University in Washgington, D. C. in 1967. He took a second M.A. at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, writing a thesis on pictorial space in Renaissance and Baroque art. Watkins continued for his Ph. D. at the University of Michigan, writing his 1976 dissertation under R. Ward Bissell on the topic of the Brancacci Chapel Frescoes. He had been teaching art history previously at American University, 1971-1977, then part time until 1981. He then pursued a career working for an educational foundation. He settled on a Maryland farm where he continued to advise scholars on aspects of Quattrocento painting. In later years he became blind. Watkins 1976 dissertation countered the political interpretations to the Brancacci’s patronage of Masaccio and their fresco commissions. Watkins asserted that the famous scene “Tribute Money” represents a transition in the representation of St. Peter, from being a disciple to being the post-resurrection master. This primacy of Peter allied the Brancacci closer to the Pope.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Brancacci Chapel Frescoes: Meaning and Use. University of Michigan, 1976; [second masters thesis:] The Transformation of Pictorial Space from the Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Century. University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1970; “Technical Observations on the Frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel.” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes Florenz 17 (1973) no. 1: 65-74; “Duncan Phillips and Color.” in, Duncan Phillips Centennial Exhibition: June 14 to August 31, 1986. Washington, DC: Phillips Collection, 1986, pp. 19-25.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 117 mentioned; Watkins, Law B. “Duncan Phillips and Color.” in, Duncan Phillips Centennial Exhibition: June 14 to August 31, 1986. Washington, DC: Phillips Collection, 1986, p. 19; “Mary Bradley Watkins, Artist and Writer.” [obituary] Washington Post April 12, 1993, p. D6; personal information with subject, July 2008.


    "Watkins, Law B.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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