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David Craven: In Memoriam

The following obituary was compiled by the deceased’s family and submitted by Patricia Mathews, professor of art history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and a member of the CAA Board of Directors.

David Craven

David Craven

David Lee Craven, distinguished professor of art history at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, passed away on February 11, 2012. He was 60 years old. Craven was beloved by all who knew him for his passionate dedication to writing, lecturing, and teaching art history. He is recognized by his peers as one of the most informed and incisive art historians in the world, a leading scholar in twentieth-century art from Latin America, post-1945 art in the United States, and the critical theory and methodology of art history and visual culture. His ten books and over 150 articles have appeared in twenty-five different countries and been translated into fifteen different languages. Craven’s close friend and fellow professor at the University of New Mexico, Susanne Baackmann, recalled his “generous spirit” and remembered that “his love for life and work, two concepts that were synonymous in his mind, was as intense as it was infectious.” He had taught at New Mexico since 1993 and was affiliated with the university’s Latin American and Iberian Institute.

Craven earned a PhD in art history from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1979, an MA degree in art history from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1974, and a BA in European history from the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1972. Fluent in Spanish, German, and French, Craven gave lectures in universities and museums in the United States and internationally, traveling to Russia, Mexico, Spain, Germany, England, and France. His art-history books are respected as authoritative in the field, and many are popular with a general audience, such as the widely read Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910–1990 (2002), which was nominated for a 2004 Mitchell Prize. His other books include Diego Rivera as Epic Modernist (1997); The New Concept of Art and Popular Culture in Nicaragua since the Revolution in 1979 (1989); Poetics and Politics in the Life of Rudolf Baranik (1997); and Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique: Dissent during the McCarthy Period (1999). He recently edited Dialectical Conversions: Donald Kuspit’s Art Criticism (2011) with Brian Winkenweder.

Jenny Saville

Among the many awards and recognitions Craven received during his long teaching career are a Medal for Excellence from the state of New York in 1991 for his work at Cortland College at the State University of New York, and a Faculty Acknowledgement Award at the University of New Mexico in 2003. In 2007 he was chosen to be the Rudolf Arnheim Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin. Craven won more than fifteen major national and international grants and fellowships from numerous organizations, such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ministerio de Cultura de Espana, and the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes de Mexico. His work on Latin and Central American art has earned him the praise of Ernesto Cardenal Martínez, Nicaragua’s minister of culture from 1979 to 1987.

Craven was born in Alexandria, Louisiana, on March 22, 1951, to Peggy and Albert Craven. He lived with his family in Houston, Texas, before moving to Oxford, Mississippi, where his father taught at the University of Mississippi. Craven’s parents encouraged his early interest in art, and he began taking art classes in fourth grade. A gifted athlete, Craven was the star quarterback for the Oxford High School football team and won MVP honors in the 1969 season. He also brought his high school’s basketball team into the state championship.

Craven was preceded in death by his father Albert Craven; his sisters Anita and Peggy Melinda; and his brother Jonathon. He is survived by his mother Peggy Craven; his sister Laura Duncan and her husband Lee, and a niece and nephew, Caroline and Lee Duncan; his brother Brian Craven and his wife Pam and nephews Jonathon, Allen, and Mark Craven; his brother Paul Craven; his niece Edy Dingus and nephew Charles Dingus, and nephew John Phillip Dingus, as well as his dear friends Susanne Baackmann and Hannah Baackmann-Friedlander of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Published on April 3, 2012.

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