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In Remembrance of David Rosand CC’59, GSAS’65, art history scholar and Columbia professor

Monday, August 18, 2014

David Rosand CC’59, GSAS’65, an art historian and the Meyer Schapiro Professor Emeritus of Art History, died in New York City, where he resided, on August 8, 2014. He was 75.

Though he specialized in 16th-century Venetian painting, Rosand was known for his breadth of knowledge and ability to connect seemingly disparate periods, fields and ideas in art history. He wrote on topics ranging from modernist abstraction to 19th-century American art to Chinese calligraphy. In addition to his most famous text, Painting in Sixteenth-Century Venice: Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, Rosand wrote Robert Motherwell on Paper, on the abstract expressionist, and Edward Koren [’57]: The Capricious Line, on The New Yorker cartoonist.

Rosand was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on September 6, 1938. His parents worked at Brooklyn Tech H.S., from which he graduated. Rosand earned a B.A. in art history and a Ph.D. in art history and archeology. He originally aspired to be an abstract-expressionist painter but as he said in a 2008 CCT profile, “the prospect of being alone with a canvas so frightened me that I came back and threw myself into art history.” Rosand’s devotion to the subject was inspired by a two-year residence in 1961 in Venice, where he completed his dissertation on Venetian drawings and guilds on a Fulbright grant. He taught his first class at Columbia in 1964.

During the 1968 student protests, Rosand and Professor of English Robert Hanning ’58, GSAS’64 designed a seminar on themes in the art and literature of the Renaissance, which they held at The West End to protect students from the police. For the next 35 years, Rosand continued to teach his seminar, occasionally organizing the syllabus around the theme of theater.

Rosand played a significant role in creating the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, of which he was chair 1984–86 and 1997–2009. In 2003, he helped the University obtain Casa Muraro — the former intellectual enclave of Venetian art historian Michelangelo Muraro — as a study abroad home and resource in Venice for Columbia students. In the 2008 CCT profile, Rosand said, “I want Casa Muraro to be my legacy to alma mater.”

For his work at the University and abroad, Columbia honored Rosand numerous times. In 1994, he was presented the College’s Alexander Hamilton Medal; in 1997, the Society of Columbia Graduates named him a “Great Teacher”; in 2000 he was presented with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum by the Heyman Center for the Humanities; and in 2010 he was presented a John Jay Award for professional achievement by the College. Rosand chaired the Columbia University Society of Fellows in the Humanities 1979–83 and was twice chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology: 1981–84 and 1990–94. He also was director of Art Humanities 1996–97. Rosand retired in 2010.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen, and sons Jonathan CC’88, PS’94 and Eric LAW’95.

Karl Daum CC’15

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