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Hibbard, [Benjamin] Howard

Date born: 1928

Place born: Madison, WI

Date died: 1984

Place died: New York

Columbia University professor of Italian Baroque art; documentary and psychoanalytic approach; connoisseur. Hibbard's father was the distinguished professor of agricultural economics at the University of Wisconsin, Benjamin H. Hibbard (1870-1955). The younger Hibbard graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1949, receiving an M. A. in 1952. Hibbard attended Harvard University where Rudolf Wittkower exerted a significant influence on him. Hibbard received his doctorate in 1958, writing his dissertation on the Palazzo Borghese. He married Shirley Griffith. He joined the faculty at Columbia University the following year, 1959, by which time Wittkower was chairing the department. The early years of Hibbard's research centered around archival research, following the lead by Johannes Orbaan. Hibbard's analysis of his archival findings were deeper than Orbaan's, publishing research which had mined the neglected archival (documentary) collections of the baroque era in Rome. These included the published form of his dissertation (1962) and two important publications of the early 1970s. One was an essay on the programs for the altarpieces of Il Gesù, and the second, a monograph on Carlo Moderno, still considered the definitive study on that architect. He was appointed full professor in 1966. During this period, too, Hibbard became fascinated with psychoanalytic theory. He applied for special research training at Columbia's Psychoanalytical Clinic for Training and Research, College of Physicians and Surgeons, during the years 1967-1970. The earliest of his periodic artist biographies had already appeared, Bernini (1965). In 1973 Hibbard was tapped to writing the Pousin volume in the important monographic series on single works of art, Art in Context. He chose Poussin's Holy Family on the Steps (1666-88) from the National Gallery of Art. The second of Hibbard's artists biographies, on Michelangelo, appeared in 1975. In 1976-1977 he was Slade professor at Oxford University. He chaired the Art History Department at Columbia 1978-1981. As chair, he hired Joseph Connors, the outstanding Renaissance/Baroque architectural historian, among others, to Columbia. Hibbard agreed to write the survey volume on the collections for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which appeared in 1980. A difficult book for a serious art historian to write, Hibbard mastered his material and made sense out of the large and diverse objects the museum encompasses. He completed his third artist biography, on Caravaggio, in 1984. He was diagnosed with cancer, dying in a New York hospital at age 56. His biography on Rubens remained unfinished.

Hibbard's biographies of majors artists formed both readable accounts as introductions and original perspectives on the artists for the scholar. After an initial hard-back printing, they appeared in paperback versions as required reading by most undergraduate courses in the United States. Irving Lavin characterized Hibbard's research skills and writing on a par with Ludwig Pastor (1854-1928), the great documentary historian of the popes. LS

Home Country: United States

Sources: Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 51 mentioned; 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. 51; [obituaries:] McGill, Douglas C."Howard Hibbard Dies at 56; Professor and Art Authority." New York Times October 30, 1984, p. B6; Lavin, Irving. "Howard Hibbard: 1928-84." The Burlington Magazine 127, no. 986 (May, 1985):305

Bibliography: [dissertation:] The Architecture of the Plazzo Borghese. Harvard University, 1958, published under the same title, Rome: American Academy, 1962. (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome: 27); edited, Essays in the history of architecture presented to Rudolf Wittkower. London: Phaidon, 1967; Bernini. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1966;Carlo Maderno and Roman Architecture, 1580-1630. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1971; Michelangelo. New York: Harper & Row, c1974; Poussin: The Holy Family on the Steps. London: Allen Lane, 1973; Masterpieces of Western Sculpture: from Medieval to Modern. New York: Harper & Row, 1977; The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Harper & Row, 1980; Caravaggio. New York: Harper & Row, 1983.

Subject's name: Howard Hibbard