Theodore Stebbins

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Theodore Stebbins
Born Theodore Ellis Stebbins Jr.
(1938-08-11) August 11, 1938 (age 76)
Nationality American
Education Yale University
Harvard University
Occupation Curator

Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. (born August 11, 1938) is an American art historian, curator, professor, and author. He is currently the Consultative Curator of American Art at Harvard University's Fogg Museum.


From 1977 to 1999, Stebbins was the John Moors Cabot Curator of American Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. During his tenure, he organized nineteen exhibitions ranging from John Singleton Copley in the 18th century to The Lane Collection and its important holdings of modern art. As curator, he guided the museum's acquisition of over three hundred paintings, from 17th century limners to Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. From 1968 to 1977, he was Curator of American Paintings at Yale University, as well as an associate professor of art history for the University. At Yale, he built the collection of 19th century American landscape and still lifes; his major purchase was Frederic Edwin Church's Mt. Ktaadn (1853).[1][2]

Complementing his career as a curator and academic, Stebbins served on the Board of Directors and the Art Advisory Council of the International Foundation for Art Research.[3] He also serves as a trustee for the Heinz Family Foundation, in honor of his high school friend and college roommate, H. John Heinz III.[4] He has served as advisor to the Henry Luce Foundation, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Art Museums, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the James McGlothlin Collection, and many other individuals, museums, and foundations. He was advisor to the Kingdom of Spain when it acquired the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection of American Art.

In 2014 he published American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Artists Born Before 1826, completing a two volume scholarly analysis of Harvard's extensive holdings of American Art. Stebbins retired as Curator at Harvard in the same year, but continues to teach at the university. In 2014, he established Theodore E. Stebbins Advisors, which serves as a consultant on issues of American art to museums, foundations, and a small number of private collectors.


Stebbins attended Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire.[5] He later received his B.A in Political Science from Yale University in 1960. He also holds a J.D. (1964) and a Ph.D (1971) in Art History, both from Harvard University.[6] His article entitled The Problem of Tort Liability for the Art Expert has been reproduced in numerous casebooks and for many years remained a standard reference.


  • Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade, 1975, ISBN 978-0300018080
  • American Master Drawings & Watercolors: A History of Works on Paper from Colonial Times to the Present, 1976, ISBN 978-0060140694
  • Oil Sketches by Frederic Edwin Church, 1978, ISBN 978-0874748888
  • Boston Collects: Contemporary Painting & Sculpture, 1986, ISBN 978-0878462766
  • Charles Sheeler: The Photographs, with Norman Keyes Jr., 1987, ISBN 978-0878462858
  • The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760-1914, 1992, ISBN 978-0810935617
  • Still Life Painting in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with Karyn Esielonis, Eric Zafran, and Malcom Rogers, 1994, ISBN 978-0878464210
  • Weston's Westons: Portraits and Nudes, 1994, ISBN 978-0821221426
  • Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism, with Leslie Furth and Karen Quinn, 1999, ISBN 978-0821225882
  • The Life and Work of Martin Johnson Heade: A Critical Analysis and Catalogue Raisonne, 2000, ISBN 978-0300081831
  • The Last Ruskinians: Charles Eliot Norton, Charles Herbert Moore, and Their Circle, with Virginia Anderson and Melissa Renn, 2007, ISBN 978-1891771446
  • Life as Art, 2008, ISBN 978-1891771293
  • American Paintings at Harvard: Volume Two: Paintings, Watercolors, Pastels, and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, with Virginia Anderson and Kimberly Orcutt, 2008, ISBN 978-0300122398
  • "American Paintings at Harvard: Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born Before 1826," with Melissa Renn, 2014, ISBN 978-0300153521


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