Sir John Davidson Beazley, CH, FBA (13 September 1885 – 6 May 1970) was a British classical archaeologist and art historian, known for his classification of Attic Vases by artistic style. He was Professor of Classical Archaeology and Art at the University of Oxford from 1925 to 1956.
Beazley was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 13 September 1885, to Mark John Murray Beazley (died 1940) and Mary Catherine Beazley née Davidson (died 1918). He was educated at King Edward VI School, Southampton and Christ's Hospital, Sussex. He then attended Balliol College, Oxford where he read Literae Humaniores. He received firsts in both the Honour Moderations and the Final Honour School. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1907. While at Oxford he became a close friend of the poet James Elroy Flecker.
During World War I, Beazley served in military intelligence. For most of the war he worked in Room 40 of the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division. He held the temporary rank of second lieutenant from March to October 1916 when he was on secondment to the army.
In 1925, he became Lincoln Professor of Classical Archaeology and Art at the University of Oxford., a position he held until 1956. He specialised in Greek decorated pottery (particularly black-figure and red-figure), and became a world authority on the subject. He adapted the art-historical method initiated by Giovanni Morelli to attribute the specific "hands" (style) of specific workshops and artists, even where no signed piece offered a name, e.g. the Berlin Painter, whose production he first distinguished. He looked at the sweep of classical pottery—major and minor pieces—to construct a history of workshops and artists in ancient Athens. The first English edition of his book, Attic Red-figure Vase-painters, appeared in 1942 (in German as Attische Vasenmaler des rotfigurigen Stils, 1925).
Beazley retired in 1956, but continued to work until his death in Oxford, on 6 May 1970. His personal archive was purchased by the University of Oxford in 1964. It was originally accommodated in the Ashmolean Museum, but in 2007 it moved into the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies as part of the new Classical Art Research Centre.
Awards and recognition
Beazley was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1927. He was knighted in 1949. In 1954, he was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 1959 New Year Honours "For services to scholarship".
In 1919, Beazley married the widow Marie Ezra (née Bloomfield), whose first husband had been killed in World War I. She died in 1967. His stepdaughter, from Marie's previous marriage, Giovanna Marie Therese Babette "Mary" Ezra married the Irish poet Louis MacNeice.
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