Shiff, Richard

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SHIFF, Richard


Male. Education: Harvard College, B.A., 1965; Yale Graduate School, M.A., 1969, Ph.D., 1973.


Office—University of Texas at Austin, Fine Arts Doty Fine Arts Building (DFA) 2.4, 23rd Street and Trinity Street, Austin, TX 78712-0340. E-mail—[email protected].


Writer, historian, painter, and educator. University of Texas at Austin, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in art and director of the Center for the Study of Modernism.


University of Pennsylvania, Mellon Fellow in Humanities, 1979-80; John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, 1985-86; National Humanities Center Fellow, 1986; Getty Senior Research Grant, 1996-97.


Cézanne and the End of Impressionism: A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1984.

(Author of introduction) Joachim Gasquet's Cézanne: A Memoir with Conversations, translated by Christopher Pemberton, preface by John Rewald, Thames and Hudson (London, England), 1991.

Paul Cézanne, Rizzoli International (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with Robert S. Nelson) Critical Terms for Art History (essay collection), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1996, 2nd expanded edition, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

(Author of introduction) Solomon's Temple: The European Building-Crafts Legacy, edited by James Alinder, photographs by Laura Volkerding, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1996.

Contributor to volumes such as Foirades/Fizzles: Echo and Allusion in the Art of Jasper Johns, The Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA), 1989; Willem de Kooning: Paintings (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), 1994; In Visible Touch: Modernism and Masculinity, edited by Terry Smith, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1997; Robert Mangold, Phaidon (London, England), 2000; Chuck Close: Recent Paintings: March 17-April 29, 2000 (exhibition catalogue), Pace Wildenstein (New York, NY), 2000; Donald Judd: Late Work: October 27-November 25, 2000(exhibition catalogue), Pace Wildenstein (New York, NY), 2000; Impossible Presence: The Work of Art in the Age of Replication, edited by Terry Smith, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2001; and Barnett Newman, edited by Ann Temkin, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.

Articles and criticism have appeared in publications such as Burlington Magazine, Artforum, and Parkett.


Art historian and scholar Richard Shiff has spent much of his career as an educator and an academic, and many of his works are particularly useful for the art history student as well as established scholars in the field. He is the editor, along with Robert S. Nelson, of the book Critical Terms for Art History, which provides more than thirty essays on prominent subjects and important terms in the field of art history. Included are essays by art history and cultural studies scholars such as Paul Wood, Richard Meyer, and Ivan Gaskell, who delve in-depth into the history and meaning of terms such as "Performance," "Body," "Memory/Monument," "Originality," "Representation," and "Visual Culture/Visual Studies." Critical Terms for Art History "thoroughly examines the variable meanings and historic usage of each term or concept selected for inclusion," commented Savannah Schroll in Library Journal, who also noted that the essays "are carefully conceived and thoroughly accessible." The "erudite essays" in the book are "intended to promote research and debate," noted Joan Levin in a Library Journal review of the first edition of the book. Art Journal reviewer David Carrier commented, "There is in this book almost always a good balance between exposition of theory and presentation of examples; forced to be relatively brief, the contributors are mostly highly engaging."

Shiff has also been a contributor of introductions, essays, commentaries, and other material to volumes on a variety of art styles and artists. Willem de Kooning: Paintings is an exhibition catalog that offers a retrospective of the lengthy career of abstract expressionist painter de Kooning. Shiff, along with coauthors David Sylvester and Marla Prather, examines various periods of de Kooning's work, from the 1930s through the 1980s. De Kooning himself "was a restless and quixotic painter of many moods whose art, over the course of a very long life, kept shifting in significant ways," commented Mark Stevens in New Republic. De Kooning "never moved toward a summary style or image," Stevens remarked. "No single moment can represent him the way, for example, the 'poured' or 'drip' paintings can represent Pollock." Shiff provides "a carefully researched essay … on the great constant in de Kooning, which is change," Stevens wrote. Shiff's contribution "provocatively explores de Kooning's preoccupation with certain recurring body features," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, including facial features such as the mouth and eyes, extremities such as the feet, and more intimate body parts, such as the breasts and genitals. Deidre Robson, writing in Art History, noted that Shiff's "discussion of the body in de Kooning's art brings out two main themes: that of the importance of the artist's coming to terms with the physicality of his own body, and the contemporaneity of favored figural references such as lipsticked lips, feet, and shoes, which Shiff traces to de Kooning's background as a commercial artist."

The book Barnett Newman, a study of expressionist and minimalist abstract painter, sculptor, and print-maker Newman, offers a "magnificent account of Newman's art production and its influence on late modern Western culture," noted R. W. Liscombe in Choice. Shiff contributes "a thoughtful assessment" of Newman's role and his impact in associated areas of art and the New York school of transatlantic modernism, Liscombe noted.

Shiff, himself a painter, is also the author of scholarly studies. In Cézanne and the End of Impressionism: A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art, Shiff looks closely at the works of Paul Cézanne in the context of the last years of Impressionism, the French school of painting marked by its emphasis on mood and impressions, and the "broader spectrum of creative activities in 19th-century France," noted R. Dittman in Choice. "Concentrating on the years after about 1880, Shiff attempts to home in on Cézanne's aims and achievements, by close analysis of selected paintings, discussion of the artist's remarks and writings, and by studying the early critics' comments," commented Richard Thomson in Burlington Magazine. He shows how "an artist's self-understanding, his contemporary reputation, and the dominant trends of criticism in his wake come together," noted Alexander Gelley in Library Journal. Shiff's "impressive familiarity with essays and monographs is manifested by the endnotes which occupy seventy-five pages," Dittman observed. "Richard Shiff's rich volume on Cézanne is a dense, cerebral text, which will no doubt bear regular rereading in years to come," Thomson remarked. Although Shiff "covers familiar ground," Thomson observed, "he has added great intensity and depth to the notional foundations of Cézanne scholarship."



Art History, June, 1995, Deirdre Robson, review of Willem de Kooning: Paintings, pp. 311-312.

Art Journal, summer, 1997, David Carrier, review of Critical Terms for Art History, pp. 93-95.

Burlington Magazine, April, 1986, Richard Thomson, review of Cézanne and the End of Impressionism: A Study of the Theory, Technique, and Critical Evaluation of Modern Art, pp. 297-298.

Chicago Tribune August 4, 1991, Alan G. Artner, "More than Picture Books: A Crop of Summer Editions Provides Fine Reading amid the Masters," p. 18.

Choice, February, 1985, R. Dittman, review of Cézanne and the End of Impressionism, p. 806; November, 2002, R. W. Liscombe, review of Barnett Newman, p. 460.

Library Journal, June 15, 1984, Alexander Gelley, review of Cézanne and the End of Impressionism, p. 1234; August, 1996, Joan Levin, review of Critical Terms for Art History, p. 67; May 1, 2003, Savannah Schroll, review of Critical Terms for Art History, p. 128.

New Republic, July 4, 1994, Mark Stevens, review of Willem de Kooning, pp. 28-33.

New York Review of Books, February 2, 1989, William Gass, review of Foirades-Fizzles: Echo and Allusion in the Art of Jasper Johns, pp. 22-27.

New York Times, July 28, 1991, John Russel, "The Poet Who Kick-started a Stalled Cézanne," p. H27.

Publishers Weekly, May 23, 1994, review of Willem de Kooning, p. 74.


University of Chicago Press Web site, (April 2, 2004).

University of Texas at Austin Web site, (April 2, 2004), biography of Richard Shiff.