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Wixom, William D

    Full Name: Wixom, William D

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 17 July 1929

    Date Died: 26 November 2020

    Place Born: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Place Died: Pawling, Dutchess, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Medieval (European)

    Career(s): curators

    Institution(s): Cleveland Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art


    Michel David-Weill Chairman of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979-1998.  Wixom was the son of Clinton Wixom and Beatrice Wixom.  After attending the Germantown Friends School, 1943-1947, he studied at Haverford College and supplementing courses at the Barnes Foundation’s experimental art education Center in Merion, PA under the direction of Violette de Mazia (1896-1988).  He graduated from Haverford in 1951. He worked as a Student Fellow in the Department of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1957. The following year he accepted a job as Assistant Curator, Decorative Arts at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  While in Cleveland, he met Nancy Coe (1927-2018) whom he married.  Wixom earned an M.A. at the New York University, Institute of Fine Arts in 1963.

    He was named curator of Medieval and Renaissance Decorative Arts at the Cleveland Museum in 1967 and thus began in earnest his interest in medieval art.  Wixom added notable pieces to the Cleveland Museum collection and mounted exhibits.

    He rejoined the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979 as the Michel David-Weill Chairman of the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. While at the Metropolitan Museum the Medieval collection at The Met grew at a pace not seen since the opening of The Cloisters in 1938 (NYT).  His well-received exhibitions include the “Glory of Byzantium” (1997) and “Mirror of the Medieval World” (1999) the latter shortly after his retirement from the Met. Wixon and his wife were also art collectors and gave their collections (in many areas) to the Museum. After retirement he continued to author articles. He died at home, age 91.

    Wixom was a scholar whose critical opinions and were were both accepted and controversial.  His 1975 Renaissance Bronzes catalog has been singled out for daring (and likely correct) opinions on the source and subject matter of these complicated works (Lewis and Eden).  His research topics were broad, for example, the often-cited article on medieval fountains.


    Selected Bibliography

    • Treasures from Medieval France. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art,1967;
    • and Evans, Helen C., eds. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/ H. N. Abrams, 1997;
    • edited, Mirror of the Medieval World. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art/H. N. Abrams, 1999.
    • “A Glimpse at the Fountains of the Middle Ages” Cleveland Studies in the History of Art 8 (2003):  6-23;
    • “Late Medieval Sculpture in the Metropolitan: 1400 to 1530.”. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 64 no. 4 (Spring 2007): p1-48;
    • “Medieval Sculpture at the Metropolitan: 800 to 1400.”  Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, 62 Issue 4 (Spring 2005): 2-48;


    • [obituary] New York Times  Dec. 9, 2020.
    • Forsyth, Ilene. “Historian of Art (1928- ).” in, Chance, Jane, ed. Women Medievalists in the Academy. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005, pp. 848, mentioned;
    • Lewis, Douglas and Eden, Tom. “A ‘Renaissance’ plaquette design from nineteenth-century Vienna.”  Medal 60 (Spring 2012): 4-15;


    “Wixom, William D. file [including M.A. thesis].” Ingalls Library, Cleveland Museum of Art.


    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Wixom, William D." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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