Saarinen, Aline (1914–1972)

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Saarinen, Aline (1914–1972)

American art critic and television commentator. Name variations: Aline B. Louchheim; Mrs. Eero Saarinen. Born Aline Milton Bernstein in New York City on March 25, 1914; died in New York City on July 13, 1972; only daughter and middle of three children of Allen M. Bernstein (owner of an investment and industrial counseling firm) and Irma (Lewyn) Bernstein; graduated from the Fieldston School, New York City, 1931; Vassar College, A.B., 1935; Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, A.M., 1941; married Joseph H. Louchheim (a public welfare administrator), on June 17, 1935 (divorced 1951); married Eero Saarinen (1910–1961, an architect), on December 26, 1953 (died September 1961); daughter-in-law of Loja Saarinen (1879–1968); aunt of Pipsan Saarinen Swanson (1905–1979); children: (first marriage) Donald Louchheim (b. 1937), Harry Louchheim (b. 1939); (second marriage) Charles Eames Saarinen (b. 1954).

Aline Saarinen was born Aline Milton Bernstein in New York City in 1914, the only daughter and middle of three children of Allen M. Bernstein, owner of an investment and industrial counseling firm, and Irma Lewyn Bernstein . Raised in what her father termed a "high brow" family, Saarinen was encouraged in cultural and artistic pursuits from an early age, and later recalled her girlhood dream as wanting to be "intelluptuous." At nine, she made her first trip to Europe, where her older brother Charles Bernstein guided her through French chateaux and Gothic cathedrals, sparking her interest in art and architecture. Later, at Vassar College, she was further influenced by the art courses she took with John McAndrew and Agnes Ringe . Elected to Phi Beta Kappa in her junior year, and the recipient of a Vassar College fellowship, she also served as an art critic for the Vassar Miscellany News and in her senior year was editor of the yearbook, Vassarion. Immediately upon graduating in 1935, Aline married Joseph Louchheim, a public welfare administrator. In the fall of that year, she enrolled at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, to study the history of architecture. By the time she received her A.M. degree in 1941, she was the mother of two boys, Donald (b. 1937) and Harry (b. 1939). During World War II, while her husband served in the Navy, Aline put her career plans on hold to work as executive secretary of the Allegheny County Rationing Board in Pittsburgh and as a nurse's aide for the Red Cross in Washington, D.C.

In 1944, with her family reunited in New York City, Saarinen launched her career as an assistant at Art News magazine. After two years of covering gallery and museum exhibits, she became managing editor and began writing under her own byline. In 1946, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the magazine sponsored the book 5,000 Years of Art, which contained photographs and reproductions of artworks from 3000 bce to 1946, along with Saarinen's commentary. The New York Times praised the work as outstanding and in December 1947 hired her as an associate art editor and art critic. In addition to producing articles on a wide variety of art-related subjects for the Times, she also wrote for the Atlantic Monthly, House Beautiful, and other magazines.

Aline and Joseph were divorced in 1951, and in 1953 she married renowned Finnish architect Eero Saarinen; they had met two years earlier when she interviewed him for an article. The couple relocated to Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Eero's firm was headquartered, and where Saarinen gave birth to a son Eames in December 1954. Having by this time been promoted to associate art critic at the Times, she continued to work for the paper while handling public relations for her husband's firm. With the aid of a Guggenheim fellowship awarded in 1957, she also produced another book, The Proud Possessor (1958), a biographical study of major art collectors.

Following her husband's sudden death in 1961, Saarinen carried out his plans to move the firm to New Haven, Connecticut, and also saw to it that the ten buildings being developed by Eero were completed. In 1962, she published the biography Eero Saarinen on His Work.

In 1962, Aline was asked to appear on television to discuss Rembrandt's Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer, which the Metropolitan Museum of Art had recently purchased at great expense. Her performance was so engaging and down-to-earth ("highbrow without being high-blown," said one reviewer) that it led to further guest appearances and finally to a third career as an art critic. In 1963, she became art and architecture editor for the "Sunday Show" on NBC and art critic for the daily "Today" show. A year later, in October 1964, she broadened her purview, becoming the third woman correspondent for NBC News (following Pauline Frederick and Nancy Dickerson ), as well as the moderator of "For Women Only," an informative television panel program that focused on women's issues. In 1971, Saarinen was named chief of the NBC Paris News Bureau, the first woman ever appointed to head a foreign television division. Happily committed to her work, she only complained of the dreadful pace, remarking, "You almost have to be a widow to do it."

Throughout her career, Saarinen received numerous awards, including the International Award for Best Foreign Criticism at the Venice Biennale (1951), the American Federation of Arts Award for best newspaper criticism (1953), and two honorary degrees. The only woman member of the U.S. Fine Arts Commission in Washington, she was offered the post of ambassador to Finland in 1964, but turned it down. She died of a brain tumor in July 1972 in New York City.


Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography 1956. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1956.

Read, Phyllis J., and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Book of Women's Firsts. NY: Random House, 1992.

Sicherman, Barbara, and Carol Hurd Green, eds. Notable American Women: The Modern Period. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1980.


Aline Saarinen's papers are located at the Archives of American Art, Washington, D.C.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts