Oleg Grabar

Professor Emeritus, School of Historical Studies; Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University

The Great Themes of Representation

The Meanings of Representation

April 13 & 15, 1998

Oleg Grabar, an emeritus professor in the School of Historical Studies at Princeton's world-renowned Institute for Advanced Study, has fundamentally reshaped the study of Islamic art and architecture. When he began his career more than forty years ago, there were few historians of Islamic art and architecture. Now there are dozens of scholars in that field, and Grabar has been involved in training most of them. His pioneering The Formation of Islamic Art (Yale University Press, 1973), revised, translated into several languages, and reprinted many times, laid the intellectual and structural frameworks for all subsequent investigations into medieval and contemporary Middle Eastern ornamental representation. The Alhambra (Penguin, 1978), also reprinted and translated often, introduced western audiences to the intricacies of monumental construction of Muslims during the Middle Ages. More recently, Grabar produced visually stunning and intellectually insightful investigations of one of the holiest sites in the world at Jerusalem through his The Dome of the Rock (Rizzoli, 1996) and The Shape of the Holy (Princeton University Press, 1996).

Originally a native of Strasbourg, France, Oleg Grabar was born into a highly-educated family; his father, Andre Grabar, was a well-known historian of Byzantine art. Oleg Grabar attended the University of Paris, receiving certificates de licence in ancient, medieval, and modern history (1948 and 1950). He obtained a B.A. in medieval history from Harvard University (1950), and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Oriental Languages and Literatures and History of Art from Princeton University (1953 and 1955). Grabar gained a reputation as a lucid and witty undergraduate lecturer and as an exacting and invigorating graduate seminar director at the University of Michigan, where he began his teaching career in 1954. His fame in research and teaching grew at Harvard University, where he accepted a professorship in fine arts in 1968. He was named the first Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture there in 1980. In 1990, he moved to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton as a professor and permanent faculty member devoted to research and lecturing. During his years as an academic, Grabar visited the Middle East and Asia on numerous occasions for research and presentation in archeology, architecture, art history, and fine art. Now retired, he continues to be in great demand as a public speaker, academic advisor, and seminar director.

Grabar, the author of more than eighteen books and one hundred and forty articles, has been honored for his contributions to the humanities by election as a fellow or as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Austrian Academie, the German Archaeological Institutes, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Italian Istituto per gli Studi del Medio e Estremo Oriente. He has also served as a distinguished lecturer at College de France, Columbia University, New York University, the National Gallery of Art, Oberlin College, and the University of California at Los Angeles.

In addition to the Patten Foundation lectures at Indiana Universitys Bloomington campus, Grabar will be conducting a two-part colloquium at the Lilly Library on April 20th and 22nd. The colloquium will focus on the sources and development of Islamic art. It will be held under the auspices of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, the Middle Eastern Studies Program, the Turkish Studies Program, the History of Art Program, the Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center, and the Medieval Studies Program. During that time, Grabar will also be a resident fellow at Indiana University's Institute for Advanced Study.