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Oral history interview with James S. Ackerman, 1991 January 2

Oral history interview with James S. Ackerman, 1991 January 2

Ackerman, James S., 1919-

Art historian, Architectural historian

Collection Information

Size: 2 sound cassettes (1 hr. 47 min.) : analog.

Format: Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 3 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hrs., 47 min.

Summary: An interview of James Ackerman conducted 1991 January 2, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.

Ackerman talks about his childhood in San Francisco in a wealthy family of German-Jewish descent; travels with his family in Europe; early exposure to art and art history; education at the Cate School, California; education at Yale University, 1938-41, including recollections of teachers and curriculum, especially the charismatic teaching of Henri Focillon; graduate work at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1941 and 1945-52, including curriculum and teachers such as Karl Lehmann, Richard Krautheimer, and Erwin Panofsky; World War II experience in signal intelligence; early publications and their fortunate effect on his career, and contrast of those who solely pursued facts and those who also have ideas.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Ackerman (1919- ) is an art historian from Cambridge, Massachusetts.


This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.


Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

Use requires an appointment.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with James S. Ackerman, 1991 January 2. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.