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Breckenridge, James D. (James Douglas), 1926-1982



  • Existence: 1926-1982


Art historian James Douglas Breckenridge was born in Brooklyn, New York, August 8, 1926, the son of Clarence E. and Erna Gritschke Breckenridge. He received a B.A. with distinction in fine arts from Cornell University in 1945, and from Princeton University, an M.F.A. with honors in 1949 and a Ph.D. in 1957. Breckenridge joined the art faculty of Northwestern University in 1961, remaining until his death in 1982. His research interests focused on religious art and the art and architecture of Rome, Byzantium, and the Middle Ages.

From 1952 to 1955, Breckenridge was Curator and Keeper of the Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. During 1954 he was a visiting lecturer in art at Goucher College. Breckenridge served as a curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art from 1955 to 1960, and from 1957 to 1959 he also was a lecturer in art at Johns Hopkins University. During 1960-1961 he was a visiting Associate Professor of fine arts at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1961 Breckenridge came to Northwestern University as an Associate Professor of art. He was promoted to Professor in 1966. In 1973, the year after Northwestern's Department of Art History was separated from the Department of Art, Breckenridge's title changed to Professor of Art History, the position he held until his death on December 18, 1982. He served as Chairman of the Department of Art from 1964 to 1972 and of the Department of Art History from 1972 to 1974.

Although a specialist in religious art and the art and architecture of Rome, Byzantium, and the Middle Ages, Breckenridge taught, lectured, and wrote on a wide variety of topics in art history. His publications centered on antique portraiture and numismatic motifs.

Breckenridge was a founder of the Midwest Art History Society in 1973 and served as President from 1977 to 1980. He also served the Society as its Secretary/Treasurer and as a member of several of its committees. Breckenridge was active in the American Numismatic Society and the College Art Association. He sat on numerous committees of Northwestern University and its College of Arts and Sciences.

He received two Fulbright grants: studying in Paris in 1950-1951 and in Bulgaria in 1981-1982. In 1959 and 1960 Breckenridge was a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. He was a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1970-1971 and during 1974-1975 he was a visiting member of the Institute for Advanced Research at Princeton.

Breckenridge married twice, in 1949 to Charlotte from whom he was divorced in 1963, and in 1964 to Dorte Ulrich. With his second wife he had two children: Alexander and Susanne. James Breckenridge died on December 18, 1982.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

James D. Breckenridge (1926-1982) Papers

Identifier: 11/3/4/3

The James Breckenridge Papers, spanning the period 1924-1983, contain: biographical materials, education files, correspondence, teaching files, research and consulting files, professional organizations files, speeches and papers, and publications.

Dates: 1924-1983