Whither Connoisseurship?

The practice of connoisseurship occupies a complicated position within the contemporary realm of art history. In recent decades, the legacy and economic connotations of connoisseurship have clashed with the aims and attitudes of many scholars. To generations steeped in social art history, moved by the urgencies of identity politics, and versed in a post-structural suspicion …

Erica E. Hirshler, Croll Senior Curator of American Paintings; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

On Connoisseurship There’s a grey suit available for purchase online called the “classic connoisseur … the most practical suit you [could] own.” Of course, it’s a man’s suit; I wonder what would happen if a female museum curator were to put it on. Would it endow me with the connoisseur’s superpower to distinguish one maker’s …

A. Joan Saab, Chair, Department of Art and Art History, University of Rochester

CONNOISSEUR  1:  expert; especially:  one who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge  2:  one who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties <a connoisseur of fine wines>   For those of us who practice a form of visual studies or socially informed art …

Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., Curator of American Art, Emeritus, Harvard Art Museums

The Death of Connoisseurship? Only rarely have I been called a “connoisseur.” I dislike the term. It evokes pretension and snobbery, Berenson and opinions for hire, musty drawing rooms and phony accents. However I do not mind being called an expert, in American paintings in general, and especially on the work of Martin Johnson Heade, …

Alan Wallach, Professor Emeritus, The College of William and Mary

In May 2014, the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art hosted a one-day conference entitled “The Educated Eye? Connoisseurship Now.”1 As might be expected, several speakers complained that, in the words of the connoisseur-dealer Bendor Grosvenor, “the basic element of being a connoisseur isn’t appreciated or encouraged enough anymore.” In a similar vein, Professor Elizabeth …