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Boime, Albert [Isaac]

Date born: 1933

Place Born: St. Louis, MO

Date died: 2008

Place died: Los Angeles, CA

UCLA professor of art history, patronage scholar of Marxist methodology; political activist. Boime's father was Max Boime, a salesman, and his mother Dorothy Rubin (Boime), both eastern European Jewish immigrants.  His father worked in the Brooklyn naval yards during World War II.  The younger Boime, his interest in art stemming from cartooning, joined the U.S. Army in 1955 and was stationed in Germany.  After discharge in 1958, he entered the University of California, Los Angeles, B.A., graduating in 1961.  He continued to Columbia University, receiving his M.A., in 1963.  During this time he was greatly influenced by his brother Jerome Boime (1934-1977), then in Chicago. Through his brother, he met and married Myra Block, a teacher and socialist activist in 1964.  His Ph.D. was granted in 1968. He began as an instructor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1967 moving to associate professor in 1969.  He was appointed professor of art at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1971. The same year he published Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century, a detailed description of teaching practice of the French Academy. The book revived interest in the works of many academic artists and demonstrated the academy was much more flexible in the breadth of painting it allowed than previously thought. In 1971, too, he was awarded the A. Kingsley Porter Prize for his article in the Art Bulletin, "The Second Republic's Contest for the Figure of the Republic."  He chaired the art department at Binghampton, 1972-1974.  Boime won his first Guggenheim fellowship in 1974 (second, 1984). During that time, Boime became concerned that abstract-style art was becoming elitist and that artists of verisimilitude were being marginalized.  He taught at Binghamton until recruited by the University of California, Los Angeles, as professor of art history in 1978. A Rome Fellowship prize was awarded in 1979. The following year, his Thomas Couture and the Eclectic Vision appeared.  In drawing the history of the teacher of Manet, Boime underscored the tenets leading up to Impressionism. Boime's research centered in the 1990s on the ideology of representation.  His examination of how blacks were represented and excluded from art resulted in the book,  The Art of Exclusion Representing Black People in the 19th-Century. This was followed by a polemic on the use of images in the United States,  The Unveiling of the National Icons A Plea for Patriotic Iconoclasm in a Nationalist Era.  A 2006 symposium on the social history of art was convened at UCLA in his honor.  Boime completed his a book form of his popular UCLA class, A Social History of Modern Art (6 vols). He died of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder, at a local hospital.

Boime employed a Marxist/social-history-of art approach to his art history writing.  His commitment to so-called realist artists (working of objective verisimilitude) stemmed from a Marxist interpretation that meaning is derived from identifiable representation.  Boime's interest combined with his social activism resulted in an interest in the use of images for political manipulation.  His choice of the French Academy and its members as subject matter caused some to accuse him of trying to rehabilitate second-rate academic artists (Broude).

Home Country: United States

Sources: Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Research Guide to the History of Western Art. Sources of Information in the Humanities, no. 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1982, p. 120 mentioned;  Daneshmand, Shapour. A Toast to Al. Film; [obituaries:] Fox, Margalit. "Albert Boime, 75, Leading Art Historian." New York Times, November 2, 2008, p. 34; Rourke, Mary. "Albert Boime, 1933 - 2008, Art historian viewed works from social, political standpoints." Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2008 p. 6.

Bibliography: [dissertation:] Academic Instruction and the Evolution of Nineteenth-Century French Painting. Columbia University, 1968;  The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century.  New York: Phaidon, 1971; "The Second Republic's Contest for the Figure of the Republic." Art Bulletin 53 (1971): 68-73; "Entrepreneurial Patronage in Nineteenth-Century France." in,   Carter, Edward C., II, and Forster, Robert, and Moddy, Joseph N., eds. Enterprise and Entrepreneurs in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century France.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, pp. 137-207;  Thomas Couture and the Eclectic Vision. Yale University Press, 1980; A Social History of Modern Art, 1750-1914. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Volume I: Art in the Age of Revolution, 1987; The Art of Exclusion Representing Black People in the 19th-Century. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990;  Art and the French Commune Imagining Paris after War and Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995; The Unveiling of the National Icons A Plea for Patriotic Iconoclasm in a Nationalist Era. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Subject's name: Albert Boime