Thomas Whittemore

Thomas Whittemore

Thomas Whittemore (1871–1950)

Thomas Whittemore was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1871. He graduated from Tufts College in Massachusetts with a bachelor of arts degree in English in 1894 and took graduate courses at Harvard University through 1898. Beginning in 1902, he gave lectures on ancient and medieval art and, by 1906, on art history, at Tufts College. Whittemore met the art connoisseur Matthew Prichard when Prichard was at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. Prichard introduced Whittemore to the artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954), who became his life-long friend, and to Byzantine art, which became his passion. In 1911, Whittemore became the American representative for the British Egyptian Exploration Fund and participated in the excavations at Abydos and Balabish. He taught art history at New York University between 1927 and 1929 with the rank of assistant professor. In 1930, he established the Byzantine Institute of America in Boston with a research center in Paris and a field office in Istanbul. In 1931, he began the work of uncovering the early Byzantine mosaics of the church of Hagia Sophia that had been covered over in 1849. Whittemore became keeper of Harvard's Byzantine coin collection in 1933 and was named a research fellow in Byzantine art in 1938. He retired from Harvard in 1942. He died in 1950 in Washington, D.C. A character modeled on Thomas Whittemore, Professor Darchivio, appears in Edith Wharton's novel Glimpses of the Moon (1922).

 

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