We are deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Mary Sheriff, who passed away on October 19, 2016.
Mary Sheriff was an internationally renowned scholar of 18th-and 19th-century French art and culture, who focused her research and teaching on issues of creativity, sexuality, gender, and, more recently, travel and cultural exchange. Her approach to visual culture was broad, encompassing not only painting and sculpture, but also gardens, book illustration, material culture, performance, and the graphic arts. Among her many publications were three books, all from the University of Chicago Press: J.-H. Fragonard: Art and Eroticism (1990); The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art (1996) and Moved by Love: Inspired Artists and Deviant Women in Eighteenth-Century France (2004). Her most recent book is an edited volume: Cultural Contact and the Making of European Art Since the Age of Exploration, University of North Carolina Press, 2010. At the time of her untimely passing, Dr. Sheriff’s next book, Enchanted Islands: Picturing the Allure of Conquest in Eighteenth-Century France, had been accepted by University of Chicago Press, and it will be published in 2018. Her co-authored book with Professor Melissa Hyde (University of Florida), Women In French Art: Rococo to Realism, will also be published in coming years, a further testament to her influence and the breadth of her scholarship.
In addition to her most impressive scholarship, Dr. Sheriff also strongly impacted the field through her teaching and her advising of a great many students, at undergraduate, MA and PhD levels. She supervised twenty-three doctoral dissertations and more than thirty-five MA theses—an extraordinary record. She was a dedicated mentor, guiding students through every stage of their education and into their careers beyond. Many of her students are perpetuating her legacy through their work in colleges, universities, museums, and in many other institutions. Dr. Sheriff was chair of the Art Department from 2003-2010. She was Daniel W. Patterson Distinguished Term Professor (2000-2005), and was named W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor in 2005. She offered a model of combined scholarship, teaching, and service to her profession, and her loss is keenly felt by countless people who studied and worked with her.
An exhibition, Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection, co-curated by Dr. Sheriff, will be presented at the Ackland Museum of Art (spring 2018) and the Harn Museum of Art (University of Florida, fall 2017) accompanied by symposium in Dr. Sheriff’s honor at UF. In addition, the Department of Art and Art History will present the 2018 Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art, the department’s annual event in Art History, as a symposium in honor of Dr. Sheriff.