Jonathan Brown, Pioneering Historian of Hispanic and Latin American Art, Dies at 82

Jonathan Mayer Brown was born in Springfield, Mass., on July 15, 1939. His father, Leonard M. Brown, was an insurance agent; His mother, Jean (Levy) Brown, works as a librarian. Both are avid art collectors, regularly traveling to Manhattan to pick up small Abstract Expressionist works by Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Franz Kline. Jean Brown later became a major collector and patron of the works of Fluxus, an experimental, interdisciplinary art movement. (Her vast archive of Fluxus documents is now housed in the Getty Center in Los Angeles.)

Professor Brown entered Dartmouth College in 1956, where he initially studied Spanish literature. And when he spent his senior year in Spain, where he read Ortega y Gasset’s 1948 book about Velázquez and encountered the work of the “living” artist, he shifted his focus from literature to art.

After graduating from Dartmouth, he enrolled as a doctoral student in art history at Princeton University, where he earned a Ph. in 1964 with Sevillian’s thesis on Baroque painting. He began teaching there and after his first book, “Italy and Spain, 1600-1700,” appeared in 1970 and was awarded the Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize by the American Association of Collegiate Arts. , he was appointed as an associate professor.

In 1973, New York University recruited him to be the director of the Institute of Fine Arts, the school’s graduate program in art history. He was appointed full professor in 1977 and continued to teach for 40 years, until his retirement in 2017, mentoring generations of teachers and curators.

Over time, his own books and exhibitions have become stable. He wrote or contributed to monographs on El Greco, Francisco de Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, most of them accompanying exhibitions he curated or collaborated on. In 1986, he published the landmark book “Velázquez: The Painter and Courtier”, a critically acclaimed biography of the artist. His 1991 book “The Golden Age of Painting in Spain” (expanded in 1998 and republished as “Painting in Spain 1500-1700”) is considered by many to be the standard survey of this topic. Jonathan Brown, Pioneering Historian of Hispanic and Latin American Art, Dies at 82

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