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2012 John Frederick Lewis Award

Autumn General Meeting
Neil L. Rudenstine

The American Philosophical Society awarded the 2012 John Frederick Lewis Award to Neil L. Rudenstine for his book The House of Barnes: The Man, The Collection, The Controversy. The award was presented by Glen Bowersock, chair of the Lewis Award Committee and Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study. An educator, administrator, and literary scholar, Neil L. Rudenstine is President Emeritus of Harvard University and Chairman of the Advisory Board for ARTstor, an initiative of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He is a Trustee of the Barnes Foundation and is Vice-Chair of the Getty Trust in California. In addition to his fine work as a teacher and scholar of English literature, he has proved himself to be a clear-sighted academic administrator who is deeply imbued with and committed to intellectual inquiry and the life of the mind.

Rudenstine studied the humanities at Princeton University (B.A., 1956) and later attended New College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where he received another B.A. and an M.A. In 1964, he received a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard University. Most of his subsequent career has been dedicated to educational administration. He stayed at Harvard from 1964 to 1968 as an instructor and then as an assistant professor in the Department of English and American Literature and Language. Between 1968 and 1988 he was a faculty member and senior administrator at Princeton University, serving as Dean of Students (1968-72), Dean of the College (1972-77) and Provost (1977-88). After his time as Provost at Princeton University, he served as Executive Vice-President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation from 1988 to 1991. He was President of Harvard University from 1991 to 2001. Dr. Rudenstine was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in 1992. He is an honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

The House of Barnes: The Man, The Collection, The Controversy places Barnes within the context of his own historical era, sheds light on the ideas and movements (especially concerning art collecting, education, and aesthetics) that influenced him and shaped so much of his thinking, and considers the validity of his ideas. The impressive Barnes collection of mostly impressionist and post-impressionist art includes the works of Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Pissarro, Cézanne, el Greco, and Matisse. The art Barnes chose to add to his collection, and his choice not to purchase certain pieces, had a tremendous influence on other art collectors.

Dr. Rudenstine’s volume offers a thorough examination of Barnes’s ideological (aesthetic and political) formation and of the context in which his thought evolved, including the English and American models of education and art appreciation that he wanted to emulate. He also provides a detailed history of Barnes’s collecting and an analysis of his idiosyncratic taste. The last chapters of the book deal with the events surrounding the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia, including the reasons that have been put forward in opposition and in support. There is an analysis of the Foundation’s financial plight, a review of the major court cases involving the Barnes, and a description of the fervent reactions following the court’s decision to allow the move to take place.

In 1935 the Society established the John Frederick Lewis Award with funds donated by his widow. The award recognizes the best book or monograph published by the Society in a given year. The selection committee consisted of Glen W. Bowersock (chair), Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, Institute for Advanced Study; Julia Haig Gaisser, Professor Emeritus of Latin, Eugenia Chase Guild Professor Emeritus in the Humanities, Bryn Mawr College; and Noel M. Swerdlow, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and Astrophysics and of History, University of Chicago.