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An Art Teacher's Art Teacher

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Last November, a few days be fore his ninety-ninth birthday, my colleague and friend Lane Faison died in his Williamstown, Massachusetts apartment. He had hoped to live on into the new year so that his tombstone would read 1907-2007, but fate dictated otherwise.

Faison’s 70-year career as a professor of art history at Williams College was the subject of a lengthy and respectful obituary in the New York Times. Its focus, inevitably, was the “Williams Art Mafia”—a jocular term for those of Faison’s students who went on to lead the nation’s principal museums of art. The roster is prodigious: Glenn Lowry (Museum of Modern Art), Earl A. Powell III (the National Gallery of Art), James N. Wood (the Getty Trust and formerly the Chicago Art Institute), and many others. It also includes Kirk Varnedoe, the prominent curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York who before his death went on to the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. To have placed so many students so well, and for them to dominate a major American institution, is indeed little short of astonishing.

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