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Department of the History of Art records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-04-220

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of the Department of the History of Art begin with the department's founding in 1947 and end in 1984. Among the primary correspondents in this record group are Adolf Katzenellenbogen, John White, and Egon Verheyen, all of whom were chairmen of the department. Most of the correspondence concerns applying to various foundations for funding and soliciting private donors. Following the correspondence, there are documents pertaining to departmental committees, scholarship funds, symposia and former faculty members. There is also a confidential folder of student files and two newsletters issued by the Department of Art and Archaeology in 1941 and 1942. While the records depict in some detail the activities of the various departmental chairmen, they reveal relatively little about the internal administration of the department. Records are very scarce for the period between 1947 and the mid-1950s; there exists almost no correspondence (even of department chairmen) before 1953. The record group is divided into the following seven series: (1) General corres- pondence, 1947-1980; (2) Correspondence with foundations, 1953-1981; (3) Departmental committees, 1947-1980; (4) Departmental symposia, 1964-1984; (5) Horizon Fellowship Fund, 1968-1974; (6) General departmental records, 1941-1982; (7) Former Faculty, 1958-1984; and (8) Websites, 2015-Ongoing.


  • Creation: 1947-1984
  • Creation: 2015 - Ongoing


Use Restrictions

Administrative records in series 6 are restricted for twenty-five years from their date of creation. Education records in series 5 and 6, as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, as well as employment records in series 7, are restricted. For details, see Regulations Governing Access to Restricted Records, at the front of each binder.


At the time of its founding in 1947, the Department of Art was primarily an outgrowth of the Classics Department. The fields of study with which the department was originally concerned were classical archaeology and medieval and renaissance art. Indeed, the importance which the department placed on archaeological studies was emphasized by the background of the man first chosen as Chairman. Richard Howland was a graduate of Hopkins with a Ph.D. in Greek archaeology. He had been a member of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens before the Second World War, and during the war he had worked for the Office of Strategic Services, forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. Howland was assisted in his teaching duties by Christopher Gray, holder of a Ph.D. from Harvard who specialized in Renaissance sculpture. In addition to the two teaching faculty members, Sarah Elizabeth Freeman, a Ph.D. alumna of Hopkins and former faculty member in the Archaeology Department, was appointed to the position of Curator of Fine Arts. Her responsibilities included custodianship of the University's considerable collection of ancient coins. There were also two guest lecturers from local art galleries: Dorothy Miner of the Walters Art Gallery and Charles Seymour of the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The first course offered by the department was on sculpture of the Renaissance and had an enrollment of two students, and the guest lecturers gave a series of talks as well, with Miner speaking on medieval manuscripts and Seymour on Greek numismatics.

Throughout the 1950s, the department continued to expand in terms of contacts outside the University. Joint programs in museum training were begun, in which graduate students prepared for careers as museum curators by working with the staffs of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the National Gallery. The department also initiated a program which allowed students from Goucher College to take art history courses at Hopkins. In 1956, a photographic laboratory was installed in Gilman Hall to facilitate the production of slides for use in lectures. Since that time, the department's slide collection has grown to the point where it is used not only by other departments at Hopkins but also by other institutions. With regard to curriculum, the department offered basic art history courses, more specialized courses which focused on the art of a particular period or region, and a series of "art laboratories" (studio courses) held at Goucher.

When Howland resigned in 1957 to become president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Gray was made Acting Chairman. He held this position for only one year, when the department was given a new name, the Department of Fine Arts, and a new Chairman, Adolf Katzenellenbogen. A graduate of the University of Hamburg, Katzenellenbogen had fled Germany in 1939. During the war he had taught at Vassar and had written a text on the architecture of Chartres Cathedral which was regarded as the authoritative text on medieval architecture. Because of his own interest in medieval and renaissance studies, Katzenellenbogen steered the department in a direction which emphasized the art of these periods. As a part of his strengthening of medieval studies in the department, "Dr. K." (as he was known locally) increased joint programs with the Walters Art Gallery and began a series of annual exhibitions at Evergreen House.

When Katzenellenbogen died in 1964, Gray was reappointed Chairman. This time he held the post for two years, until a search committee appointed John E.C.T. White, a graduate of the University of London who specialized in the study of perspective in Renaissance drawings. The Department of Fine Arts became the Department of History of Art, in 1967, during White's tenure. Under his leadership the department saw a huge growth in fellowships to attract graduate students. Of particular interest was the Horizon Fellowship Fund, established in 1969 and designed specifically to recruit black students. The Fund was sustained by donations from local citizens and was run by a board of directors consisting of Hopkins faculty members, staff members of the Walters and National Galleries, and Baltimore business and religious leaders. By 1974, however, the Fund was forced to cease operation due to a number of factors, such as the small number of black students with an interest in art history and external situations which prevented the students from pursuing their studies. The Fund began to experience serious problems in 1972 when first the State of Maryland and then the Internal Revenue Service revoked its tax-exempt status. Two years later, the burdens of taxes and the difficulty in recruiting students forced the Fund to go out of business. In addition to his interest in scholarship funds, White broadened the scope of the department by creating more courses in the art of specific geographical areas as opposed to general survey courses of a particular period in history; he also encouraged the teaching of more courses in American and modern art.

In 1971, White left the University to assume a professorship at the Courtauld Institute of Art in Britain. His replacement was Egon Verheyen, a native of Germany and renaissance specialist. Verheyen began an ambitious program of guest lectures and symposia in which speakers came to the department almost weekly. In 1973, the first Adolf Katzenellenbogen Memorial Lecture was held. It featured Dr. Wolfgang Stechow of Oberlin College, who spoke on "Rembrandt and the Old Testament." Verheyen also encouraged participation in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conferences on the History of Art which were held every year by a consortium of institutions which included Hopkins, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Dumbarton Oaks, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina. The Mid-Atlantic Conferences featured readings of papers by the top graduate students at each of these institutions, usually on subjects chosen by a board of faculty members. Yearly symposia were also held in conjunction with the Frick Institute of Art of New York University, a tradition which had been begun by White in 1967. Under Verheyen, the department also sponsored a number of symposia which were held at Hopkins. In 1974, a symposium on Venetian art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was held, with Professor Christiane Joost-Gaugier of Tufts University presiding. A second symposium was held in 1976 in honor of the four hundredth anniversary of the death of Titian. It featured fourteen professors from universities in England, Germany, and America as well as representatives from the Walters and the National Gallery. On a smaller scale, Verheyen began the tradition of inviting single speakers to give lectures at various times throughout the academic year. The speakers were chosen by a panel of faculty members from the Departments of History and History of Art and the Humanities Center.

The present Chairman, Herbert Kessler, was appointed in 1976. Under his guidance, the department began to offer more courses on art in the context of national or ethnic culture, and more attention was focused on theories and criticism of art. He continued to host symposia as well: in 1977 he organized a joint symposium with the University of Maryland entitled "Pen to Press" which dealt with early printing and its relationship to the to the art of late Renaissance manuscripts. This was the first symposium ever organized on this topic; it arose out of research conducted by Sandra Hindman, a Hopkins faculty member. The department's first symposium on modern art was held in the same year, when four experts were invited to talk on Dada. Of the four, only one, Robert Knott of Wake Forest University, was an art historian. Two, Nicolas Calas and Suzi Gablik of New York City, were critics and one, Julien Levy, was an art dealer. The Dada symposium was an indication of the growing interest in the department in fields of scholarship other than the medieval and renaissance periods. This expansion of fields within the department has broadened the range of subjects covered by faculty members and still continues today.

"Arts Professor at Hopkins Dies." The (Baltimore) Sun, October 1, 1964.
"Dr. Gray, Former Professor at Hopkins, Dies." The Sun, May 20, 1970.
"Dr. Howland New Head of National Trust." The Sun, June 16, 1956.
"Hopkins Fine Arts Department To Be Instituted This Fall." The Sun, June 12, 1947. The Johns Hopkins University. The University Circular, 1948-1987.
"Smithsonian Curator Will Open Art Series." The Sun, October 18, 1962.


1.833 Cubic Feet (5.5 document cases)

1 Website(s)

Language of Materials



Transferred by Dorothy King, Administrative Assistant of the Department of the History of Art.

Accession Number

86.30, 86.35, 87.48

Processing Information

Finding aid prepared by James Knighton and Adam Coccaro.

Department of the History of Art records
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA