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Rose, Barbara E[llen]

Date born:   1937

Place Born:   Washington, DC

Date died:  

Place died:  

Art critic and historian of modern American art.  Rose attended Smith College undergraduate and then graduate school at Columbia University for her Master's Degree, where she heard lectures of Julius Held (q.v.) and the medievalist/modernist Meyer Schapiro (q.v.) among others. (Fearful of Schapiro's reputation on oral examinations, she planned her for the year he was on sabbatical). She met and lived with (future cinematographer) Michael Chapman (b. 1935), who introduced her to the emerging moderns artists of the New York scene, including Carl Andre in 1957 and Frank Stella in 1960. By 1961 she and Stella had become a couple. The same year, Rose received a Fulbright Fellowship for Spain.  She and Stella married in London in 1962; Rose gave birth to a daughter the same year;  the art historian Michael Fried (q.v.) was a god-parent.  It was Fried who encourage Rose to write criticism.  She began writing criticism of modern art for the Spanish art magazine Goya. A chance submission to Art International led to a monthly column "New York Letter" in 1963, learning much from its editor, Philip Leider.  In 1965 she relinquished her position at Art International for similar positions at Art in America and Art Forum (through 1972). Rose wrote the article, "ABC Art," in the October,1965 issue of Art in America which became the defining text of minimalist art.  She was awarded a Distinguished Art Criticism Award by the College Art Association of America in 1966 (a second was awarded in 1969). During these years, she and Stella lived in New York City and Rose was a dominant figure in the modernist art-historical/gallery world. Together with her husband, the two became a focus of the New York avant-garde socialite world. In 1967 Rose and Stella moved to California where Stella took a position at the University of California, Irvine.  Rose published her landmark survey of 20th-century American painting and sculpture, American Art since 1900 the same year and began teaching art history at Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY.  The couple divorced in 1969.  She accepted a visiting lecturer in art history at Yale University the following year.  Rose never finished her dissertation formally, but in 1984 her essays on art were accepted for a Ph.D. at Columbia.  She permanently settled in Perugia, Italy, buying the villa Camerata di Todi.  In 1987 she was a visiting lecturer at Hunter College. The following year she was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Art. Rose produced a short film about her Schapiro's lectures, La Leçon de Meyer Schapiro, for the 2004 anniversary of his birth.  Her papers for the years 1966-1967 in part reside at the Archives of American Art, and at the Getty Research Institute for 1940-1993.

Rose claimed she never wanted to be a critic.  Of her methodology, she wrote, "My approach has been empirical and pragmatic: I attempt to describe the phenomena observed before making a judgment regarding its meaning and quality. I have also focused on the intended role and function of the art in question as opposed to employing a priori categories of judgment." (from her dissertation).  However, she remained wedding to a theoretical interpretation of modern art, disparaging "popular culture's" influence in modernism. Her first-hand knowledge of the New York art world brought her to deny the claims of Serge Guibualt that the emergence was anything more than organic and spontaneous.

Home Country:  United States

Sources: Rose, Barbara.  Autocritique: Essays on Art and Anti-Art: 1963-1987.  New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1988, pp. vii, xi-xix; Who's Who in American Art 22 (1997-98): 1021; Solomon, Deborah. "A Critic Turns 90: Meyer Schapiro." New York Times, August 14, 1994, p. 22,  Guberman, Sidney. Frank Stella: an Ilustrated Biography. New York: Rizzoli International, 1995, pp. 55, 60, 96-97,103-104.

Bibliography: [dissertation:] Selected Publications on Twentieth-Century Art.  Columbia University, 1984; American Art Since 1900. New York: F. A. Praeger, 1967; American Painting: The Twentieth Century. New York: Rizzoli, 1986; Autocritique: Essays on Art and Anti-Art, !963-1987. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988.