Full Name: Wethey, Harold E.
- Harold Edwin Wethey
Date Born: 1902
Date Died: 1984
Place Born: Port Byron, Cayuga, NY, USA
Place Died: Ann Arbor, Washtenaw, MI, USA
Home Country/ies: United States
Subject Area(s): Baroque, Italian (culture or style), Spanish (culture or style), and Spanish Renaissance-Baroque styles
Scholar of Spanish Baroque and Italian art; professor of art history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1940-1972. Wethey’s parents were Charles Edwin Wethey and Flora Keck (Wethey). His undergraduate degree, in Romance Languages from Cornell University, was granted in 1923. After a brief time in business, Wethey continued graduate study at Harvard University receiving his M.A. in 1931 and his Ph.D. in art history in 1935. His dissertation, written under Chandler R. Post, was on Gil de Siloe and his school. A revised version of his thesis appeared as his first book in 1936. He joined Bryn Mawr College, PA, as an instructor in 1934, becoming a lecturer the following year, and then assistant professor in 1936. In 1938 he moved to Washington University, St. Louis, MO, appointed assistant professor of history of art. Wethey joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1940. Under the U.S. Department of State, he was a visiting professor at National University of Tucuman, Tucuman, Argentina, in 1943. Wethey was awarded a Rockefeller fellowship for the 1944-1945 year. He rose from associate professor to professor of art in 1946, marrying Alice Luella Sunderland in 1948. He gained art-historical prominence 1949 with his book Colonial Architecture and Sculpture of Peru. He was given the Sculpture Medal of Hispanic Society of America in 1952 for distinguished research in Spanish sculpture. A second book, Alonso Cano: Painter, Sculptor, Architect, 1955, set him as one of the pre-eminent Iberianists working in the English language. Wethey included a catalogue raisonné in this work which he consider core to scholarship on an individual artist’s work. He was given a Fulbright research grant in Rome for the 1958-1959 year. When his mentor, Post, died, Wethey assumed publication of the final two volumes of Post’s The History of Spanish Painting in 1959. While working on this project, he issued a second catalogue raisonné, this one on El Greco, a work of considerable risk since Wethey was obliged to separate the vast follower-work from that of the master. His judgments were necessarily controversial, but, through a second edition published in 1968 (only in Spanish), his attributions remained overall are accepted as the canon of El Greco’s production. He was the Russel lecturer at Michigan, 1964-1965. Wethey modified his interests in his final years to Titian, publishing in yet another catalogue raisonné on an artist’s work, beginning in 1969. His work replaced the work of Joseph Archer Crowe of 1877. He retired emeritus from Michigan in 1972. His students included R. Ward Bissell, Marilyn Stokstad, Robert Enggass, Victor H. Miesel, and Michael Stoughton. Wethey was one of the first to encourage his graduate students to write theses on Italian Baroque art (Waterhouse). An exponent of the catalogue raisonné as a genre of scholarly effort, his work employed both a high level of connoisseurship and documentary research. As such, he found completing Post’s History rather excruciating since the final volumes left him with comparatively minor artists. His death in 1985 coincided the same year with that of two other emenent Spanish-subject art historians, Enrique Lafuente Ferrari and José Gudiol.
[dissertation:] Gil de Siloe and Sculpture in Burgos Under the Catholic Kings. Harvard University, 1934, published as Gil de Siloe and his School; a Study of Late Gothic Sculpture in Burgos. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936; [bibliography:] “Harold E. Wethey – ” in Enggass, Robert, and Stokstad, Marilyn, eds. Hortus Imaginum: Essays in Western Art. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1974, p. 200-211; Colonial Architecture and Sculpture in el Peru. Cambridge, MA:1949; Alonso Cano: Painter, Sculptor, Architect. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955; El Greco and His School. 2 vols. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1962; [edited final volumes] Post, Chandler R. A History of Spanish Painting. Volumes 13 abd 14. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966; The Paintings of Titian. 3 vols. London: Phaidon 1969-1975.
Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 48 mentioned; “A Note on the Career of Harold E. Wethey, with a List of his Publications:” in Enggass, Robert, and Stokstad, Marilyn, eds. Hortus Imaginum: Essays in Western Art. Lawrence: University of Kansas, 1974, p. 199-211; Bazin, Germain. Histoire de l’histoire de l’art: de Vasari à nos jours. Paris: Albin Michel, 1986, pp. 435, 445; [obituary:] Waterhouse, Ellis. “Harold E. Wethy.” Burlington Magazine 9 (March 1985): 163.