Evelyn Byrd Harrison— 1992 Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement

Award Citation: 

Evelyn Byrd Harrison is best known for her devotion to fifth-century B.C. Athenian sculpture, yet her publications also embrace vase painting, monumental painting, and decorative art, and range from the Daedalic period to the age of Constantine. She has shaped the course of Classical art history during the second half of the 20th century by broadening its focus and extending its horizons. She has educated our eye and expanded our mind.

Eve Harrison received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1941 and her M.A. from Columbia University in 1943, but her graduate studies- as those of many of her generation-were interrupted by the Second World War. Until the end of 1945, she served as a Research Analytic Specialist, translating intercepted Japanese messages for the War Department. With characteristic modesty, she later observed, "They assumed that anyone proficient in Greek and Latin could learn Japanese in six months."

In 1949, Eve Harrison joined the staff of the American School of Classical Studies excavations in the Athenian Agora. She received her Ph.D. from Columbia in 1952, and a revised version of her dissertation on the portrait sculpture found in the Agora inaugurated the series The Athenian Agora: Results of Excavations Conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Her Portrait Sculpture was followed in 1965 by Archaic and Archaistic Sculpture, volume XI of The Athenian Agora. Both publications show the broad erudition, the consummate eye, the subtle thought, and the personal vision that are hallmarks of her work.

Eve Harrison’s scholarship has redefined our art historical perception of the fifth century. As her studies of Alkamenes and Phidias have sharpened our understanding of personal style, so her analysis of Archaic and Classical sculpture has refined our knowledge of period style. Her provocative reconstructions of lost originals -from the shield of Athena Parthenos to the cult statue of the Hephaisteion- have urged us to view all monuments with an acute awareness of their archaeological, cultural, and historical context. Her examination of dress and of coiffure has demonstrated to us the interrelationship of style and iconography. Her approach has extended our knowledge of Classical art beyond its aesthetic and intellectual achievement to an appreciation of its place in the continuum of cultural expression.

The single monument that has most benefited from Eve Harrison’s attention is the Parthenon. She has written nine articles on its sculpture: one on the metopes, two on the frieze, three on the pediments, two on the shield of Athena

Parthenos, and one on the Nike she held on her hand. Eve Harrison’s examination of the sculpture of the Parthenon and of the Nike Temple, too- reminds us that monuments are most illuminating when considered within their social and historical context

As a teacher Professor Harrison is an exemplar. She began her career in 1951 at the University of Cincinnati where she taught not only art history, but also first-year Greek and Latin. After a second research position with the Agora Excavations between 1953 and 1955, she joined the faculty of the Department of Art History and Archaeology of Columbia University, where she was named full professor in 1967. Four years as Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University followed, and in 1974 she was named Edith Kitzmiller Professor of the History of Fine Arts at the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, where she is currently Emerita and Adjunct Professor. The creativity, energy, conscientiousness, and dedication that mark her scholarship continue into the classroom and beyond, to all her colleagues. Few students of Greek sculpture -in fact, students of Greek art- have not been enriched by her wisdom.

Eve Harrison has been honored for her contributions to art history and archaeology by election as an Honorary Councilor of the Archaeological Society of Athens, a member of the German Archaeological Institute, a member of the American Philosophical Society, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Archaeological Institute of America is proud to join these distinguished institutions in recognizing her lifetime of accomplishment by awarding its Gold Medal for Distinguished Archaeological Achievement to Evelyn Byrd Harrison. 

Dig Deeper

Email the AIA
Subscribe to the AIA e-Update

Sign Up!