Walter W.S. Cook Annual Lecture

Dr. Walter W.S. Cook (1888 - 1962) was the founding director of the Institute of Fine Arts and a historian of Medieval Spanish art. Cook received his doctorate from Harvard University and joined the faculty at New York University in 1926 where he served as a professor of art from 1932 to 1953. Of all his achievements, Cook is most remembered for his energetic leadership in developing the Institute of Fine Arts into one of the most prestigious centers for graduate study in the field of art history.

Cook’s legacy is his resolve to change the way art historical research and education is attained. He believed that the graduate art history program should engage in special relationships with New York’s art collections. To achieve this, in 1936 he moved the graduate art history program from NYU’s Washington Square campus to the Upper East Side and later named the research center the Institute of Fine Arts. This location is central to the city’s most renowned museums: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Cook ingeniously utilized New York’s cultural resources from this advantageous location, in line with the Institute’s mission of objects based research.

Cook further realized his vision of turning NYU’s graduate art history program into an advanced research institute by placing priority on acquiring faculty who were leaders in their respective art historical fields. He utilized his position as the Director of the Institute to appoint prominent German and Austrian scholars (forced to flee during the Nazi era) such as Erwin Panofsky, Walter Friedländer, Karl Lehmann, and Julius Held.  These professors were deeply involved with the evolution of the modern discipline of art history and essential to Cook’s transformative vision for the Institute.

The Walter W.S. Cook Alumni Lecture Series was inaugurated in 1959 on the occasion of the dedication of the James B. Duke mansion, the current home of the Institute of Fine Arts. The series, which invites prominent alumni to speak in honor of Dr. Cook, is organized by the Institute's Alumni Association.

View the program of the memorial held in 1962 in honor of Dr. Cook [PDF]

Check the events calendar for upcoming lectures in this series.


Thursday, October 5, 2023
Ronni Baer, Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer, Princeton University Art Museum
Murillo and the North: The Case of Michael Sweerts

watch for Patricia Berman's talk online [opens in new window]

Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Patricia Berman, Theodora L. and Stanley H. Feldberg Professor of Art, Wellesley College
The El Greco Effect in Fin-de-Siècle Scandinavia

watch for Patricia Berman's talk online [opens in new window]

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Lisa Conte, Head of Conservation, National 9/11 Museum and Memorial
Malleable Memories and an Evolving History: Preserving the 9/11 Memorial Museum’s Collection

Watch Lisa Conte's lecture online [opens in new window]

Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Denise Allen, Curator, Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A Catalogue for 2020: Italian Renaissance and Baroque Bronzes at The Met

Watch Denise Allen online [opens in new window]

Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Zainab Bahrani, Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology, Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
Aby Warburg’s Babylonian Paradigm: towards an epistemology of the irrational in the Bilder Atlas

Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection
‘Artists help God create the world.’ Markus Lüpertz at The Phillips Collection/ Journeys and Return with Orpheus

Watch Kosinki's talk online [opens in new window]

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Nadine Orenstein, Drue Heinz Curator in Charge, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Hercules Segers and Rembrandt, the Eccentric and the Traditionalist

Watch Nadine Orenstein's talk online [opens in new window]

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Emily Braun, Distinguished Professor, Hunter College and the Graduate Center CUNY; Curator, The Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection
Alberto Burri: The Making of an Exhibition

watch Braun's talk online [opens in new window]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Ian Wardropper, Director, The Frick Collection
The Notorious Guises: Portraits on a French Renaissance Enamel Plaque in The Frick Collection

Watch Wardropper's talk online [opens in new window]

Thursday, October 24, 2013
Emilie E.S. Gordenker, Director, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis
Are Cross-Sections Boring? The Case of Saul and David

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Nicholas Adams, Mary Conover Mellon Professor in the History of Architecture, Vassar College
Gunnar Asplund's Courthouse Extension in Gothenburg (1913-1936): The Ironies of its History

November 17, 2011
Alice Donahue, Rhys Carpenter Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology, Bryn Mawr College
Contradictions in Greek Naturalism

Thursday, October 7, 2010
Gary M. Radke, Dean's Professor of the Humanities, Syracuse University
"As will please the ladies": Planning Choirs, Kitchens, and Latrines in Fifteenth-Century Venetian Convents.

Thursday, May 7, 2009
Christine Smith, Robert C. and Marion K. Weinberg
Professor of Architectural History, Harvard University
Leon Battista Alberti: Old and New

Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Anne Litle Poulet, Director, The Frick Collection
The Lodge of the Nine Muses: Houdon and Freemasonry

May 3, 2006
Leo Seinberg, Benjamin Franklin and University Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania
Beware of Texts

Thursday, April 21, 2005
Naomi Miller, Professor Emerita, Boston University
From Babel to Broadway: Building Towers Towards Infinity

Monday, April 26, 2004
Dale Kinney, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Professor, of History of Art, Bryn Mawr College
When Objects become Spolia: Lessons from Historiography

Monday, April 28, 2003
Isabelle Hyman, Professor of Fine Arts, New York University
Brunelleschi to Breuer: An Art Historian’s Passage

Monday, April 15, 2002
Philip Pearlstein, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Brooklyn College
When the Dada Daddies got Real

Monday, April 9, 2001
Phyllis Prayer Bober, Leslie Clark Professor in the Humanities Emerita, Bryn Mawr College
Art, Culture and Cuisine: The Defining Characteristics of the Early Renaissance

Monday, May 8, 2000
Sam Sachs II, Director, The Frick Collection
The Frick That Might Have Been

Wednesday, April 21, 1999
Vicki Goldberg, Author and Photography Critic for The New York Times
War at a Distance: Camera and Combat

Monday, April 20, 1998
Richard E. Stone, Conservator, The Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation, the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Donatello and Verrocchio: Casting Technology and Sculptural Form

Monday, April 28, 1997
Sarah Bradford Landau, Professor of Fine Arts, New York
University Inventing the New York Skyscraper

Monday, April 22, 1996
Bill Hood, Professor of Art, Oberlin College
Figs and Leaves: On Writing a History of the Male Nude

Monday, April 24, 1995
Susan Vogel, Henry J. Heinz II Director, Yale University Art Gallery
Exhibition Dilemma: African Art Not Meant to Be Shown

Friday, April 22, 1994
Adam Gopnik, Art Critic of The New Yorker
The Overabundant Larder and the Luminous Oblong Blur. A Theory of Everything in American Art

Friday, April 30, 1993
Lucy Sandler, Helen Gould Shepard Professor of Art History, New York University
From Heraldry to Portraiture: The Image of the Owner of the Book in the Age of Chivalry

Friday, April 10, 1992
Heather Lechtman, Professor of Archaeology and Ancient Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Style in Technology: Metal and Cloth in Andean Prehistory

Friday, May 3, 1991
Marcel Franciscono, Professor of Art History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Paul Klee and the Promise of Childhood

Friday, May 4, 1990
Edward Sullivan, Associate Professor, New York University
National Identity, Tradition and Innovation in 20th Century Mexican Painting

Friday, May 12, 1989
Marilyn Aronberg Lavin
The Place of Narrative in Italian Mural Decoration

Friday, April 29, 1988
William L. Barcham, Associate Professor, Fashion Institute of Technology
‘Sancta dei Genetrix:’ Tiepolo’s Mary and the Enlightenment

Saturday, Mary 2, 1987
A Symposium in Honor of Richard Krautheimer
James Ackerman, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Fine Arts, Harvard University
The Early Planners of Rome: 1450-1560

Frederick Hartt, Paul Goodloe McIntire Professor Emeritus of Art History, University of Virginia
Michelangelo: Imprint and Image

Irving Lavin, Professor of Art History, The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Bernini’s Image of the Sun King

Friday, May 16, 1986
Priscilla E. Muller, Curator of the Museum, The Hispanic Society of America
Goya’s ‘Mundus Tenebrosus’? The Politic Patriot’s Last Projects in Spain

Friday, May 11, 1984
William D. Wixom, Chairman of the Department of Medieval Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art
A Reliquary Chasse Attributed to Canterbury: Style, Iconography, Patronage

Carol Herselle Krinsky, Professor of 20th century Architectural History, New York University

April 30, 1982
Tom Freudenheim, Director of the Worcester Museum
Disappearing Act: The Art Historian and the Art Museum

Bernard S. Myers, Editor in Chief for Art Books, McGraw-Hall
The Expressionist Idea

Thursday, April 4, 1980
Wanda M. Corn, Professor and fellow, the Wilson Center
Overcoming Cultural Inferiority: The Case of the American Artist

Walter Cahn, Carnegie Professor of the History of Art, Yale University
The idea of the masterpiece: Medieval and northern Renaissance origins

Tuesday, May 2, 1972
John McCoubre, Department of Art History, University of Pennsylvania
Figures on the Beach: Reflections on a 19th Century Scene

Thursday, May 6, 1971
J. Edward Kidder, Jr., International Christian University, Japan
Early Buddhist Art: Horyu-ji

Tuesday, May 5, 1970
Linda Nochlin Pommer, Vassar College
Holman Hunt’s ‘Awakening Conscience’: The Theme of the Fallen Woman in Nineteenth-Century Realsim

Tuesday, May 6, 1969
Joachim Gaehde, Brandeis University
Ingeniosa Manus: On the Originality of Carolingian Artists

Tuesday, May 7, 1968
Alfred K. Frazer, Department of History and Archaeology, Columbia University
An Antiquarian Emperor Builds: Architecture in Claudius’s Rome

Howard Saalman, Professor of Architectural History, Carnegie-mellon University
Haussmann’s Paris Revealed

Creighton Gilbert, Sidney and Ellen Wien Professor of History of Art, Brandeis University
Change in Piero della Francesca

Milton Brown, Professor of Art, Brooklyn College
Art Nouveau

James Ackerman, Professor of Fine Arts, Harvard University
Palladio’s Villas

John P. Coolidge, Professor of Fine Arts, Harvard University and Director, Fogg Art Museum

Frederick Hartt, Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania
Love in Baroque Art

Phyllis Williams Lehmann, Professor of Art, Smith College
The Pedimental Sculptures of the Hieron in Samothrace

Millard Meiss, Professor of Art, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Giotto and Assisi