James S. Ackerman
James Sloss Ackerman is a prominent American architectural historian, a major scholar of Michelangelo's architecture, of Palladio
Andrea Palladio
Andrea Palladio was an architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture...

 and of Italian Renaissance architectural theory.


He was born in San Francisco. At Yale
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

, 1938–41, he came under the influence of Henri Focillon
Henri Focillon
Henri Focillon was a French art historian.Director of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Lyon. Professor of Art History at the University of Lyon, at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Lyon, at the Sorbonne, at the Collège de France and then in the United States, where he went into exile and taught at Yale...

. His graduate work was at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (MA 1947, PhD 1952), where he studied with Richard Krautheimer and Erwin Panofsky. His studies were interrupted by his World War II service in the US Army in Italy, which, however, gave him an opportuniuty to increase his on-site understanding of Italian Renaissance architecture, his specialty—He was assigned to retrieve the archives secured at the Certosa di Pavia
Certosa di Pavia
The Certosa di Pavia Gra-Car , Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of Grace, is a monastery and complex in Lombardy, northern Italy, situated near a small town of the same name in the Province of Pavia, 8 km north of Pavia...

. He was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (1949–52). He taught at Berkeley and from 1960 at Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 as Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Fine Arts until his retirement in 1990.
He was the editor of The Art Bulletin (1956–60) and Annali d'architettura. Ackerman was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963.. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society
American Philosophical Society
The American Philosophical Society, founded in 1743, and located in Philadelphia, Pa., is an eminent scholarly organization of international reputation, that promotes useful knowledge in the sciences and humanities through excellence in scholarly research, professional meetings, publications,...

, and a corresponding member of the British Academy
British Academy
The British Academy is the United Kingdom's national body for the humanities and the social sciences. Its purpose is to inspire, recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally, and to champion their role and value.It receives an annual...

, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the Accademia Olimpica, Vicenza
Vicenza , a city in north-eastern Italy, is the capital of the eponymous province in the Veneto region, at the northern base of the Monte Berico, straddling the Bacchiglione...

, the Ateneo Veneto
Ateneo Veneto
The Ateneo Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti is an institution for the promulgation of science, literature, art and culture in all forms, in the exclusive interest of promoting social solidarity, located in Venice, northern Italy...

, the Accademia di San Luca in Rome and the Royal Academy of Uppsala. He gave the Slade Lectures at Cambridge in 1969-70. He has received six honorary doctorates and is a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, an honorary citizen of Padua
Padua is a city and comune in the Veneto, northern Italy. It is the capital of the province of Padua and the economic and communications hub of the area. Padua's population is 212,500 . The city is sometimes included, with Venice and Treviso, in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area, having...

, and received the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Biennale of 2008.
His rigorous method sets architecture in the broader contexts of cultural and intellectual history. He was awarded the Balzan Prize
Balzan Prize
The International Balzan Prize Foundation awards four annual monetary prizes to people or organisations who have made outstanding achievements in the fields of humanities, natural sciences, culture, as well as for endeavours for peace and the brotherhood of man.-Rewards and assets:Each year the...

 2001 for achievement in architectural history and urbanism and the Paul Kristeller citation 2001 of the Renaissance Society of America for lifetime achievement.

Ackerman conceived and narrated the films shot by John Terry Looking for Renaissance Rome (1975, with Kathleen Weil-Garris Brandt) and Palladio the Architect and His Influence in America (1980).

Selected publications

Aside from numerous articles, Ackerman has written
  • The Cortile del Belvedere (1954) This was based on his PhD dissertation on the Renaissance extension of the Vatican Palace.
  • The Architecture of Michelangelo (2 vols., 1961; paperback version with condensed second volume, 1986) Volume I is a critical overview of the architect's practice and theory,and Vol. II an exhaustive catalogue of Michelangelo's mostly-unfinished buildings, employing architectural drawings and contemporary archival and graphic sources. The work received the Hitchcock Award of the Society of Architectural Historians
    Society of Architectural Historians
    The Society of Architectural Historians is an international not-for-profit organization that promotes the study and preservation of the built environment worldwide....

  • Palladio (series "Architect and Society") Pelican Books (1966; 1977, 2008) An introductory chapter "Palladio and his times" is followed by chapters discussing the examples of Palladio's villas, civic and domestic architecture, ecclesiastical architecture, and principles of his design and practice.
  • Palladio's Villas (1967)
  • The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses (1990), an overview of the country house from Roman times to le Corbusier and Wright.
  • James Ackerman Art Historian, 1992, book length interview for the Getty Foundation and U.C.L.A.
  • Distance Points: Studies in Theory and Renaissance Art and Architecture MIT Press (1991) Seven essays divided between the theory of criticism and the relation of architecture and science in the Renaissance, with individual studies of Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

  • Origins, Imitation, Conventions: Representation in the Visual Arts MIT Press (2002) Twelve essays. For a full bibliography see his Google website.

External links

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