Richard Brettell

Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetic Studies, Edith O'Donnell Distinguished Chair
Vice Provost - EOD Institute for Art History

Professional Preparation

Ph.D. - History of Art
Yale University - 1977
Yale University - 1973
Yale University - 1971

Research Areas

Areas of Specialization
  • 19th- and 20th-century visual representation: mechanical, assisted, and handmade; the history of art museums and of private collecting in capitalist societies; visual "translation" of texts; artists as writers; 19th- and 20th-century architecture.


PISSARRO’S PEOPLE, THE HUMAN FIGURE AND IMPRESSIONISM, The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, with the Clark Art Institute, Fall 2010, Book by Richard Brettell, published by Yale University Press 2010 - Publication
Catalogue by Richard Brettell and CD Dickerson, Yale University Press. IMPRESSIONISM AND ECOLOGY: Art and Nature in Third Republic France The Vitttoriano, Rome, Spring 2010, Catalogue by Richard Brettell and Stephen Eisenman, published by Skira, Milan. 2010 - Publication
FROM THE HOMES OF TEXAS, Private Collecting of European Art in Texas, 1900-2009, The Kimbell Art Museum, November, 2009 2009 - Publication
EUROPEAN PAINTING (1800-1950) IN THE ROBERT LEHMAN COLLECTION (with Paul Tucker and Natalie H. Lee), The Metropolitan Museum, Princeton University Press, 2009 2009 - Publication
MONET TO MATISSE; THE MARIANNE AND HENRY BLOCH COLLECTION, Richard Brettell and Joachim Pissarro, Marquand Books for the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, 2007 2007 - Publication
GAUGUIN: ARTIST OF MYTH AND DREAM Stephen Eisenman and Richard Brettell, Skira, Geneva and Milan, 2007 (English and Italian Editions) 2007 - Publication
MONET AND NORMANDY (with Heather Lemonedes, David Steel, and Lynn Federle Orr), Rizzolli, New York, 2006 2006 - Publication
19TH CENTURY ART IN THE NORTON SIMON MUSEUM, (with Stephen Eisenman), Yale University Press, 2006 2006 - Publication
GAUGUIN AND IMPRESSIONISM, (with Anne-Birgitte Fonsmark), Yale University Press, 2005 2005 - Publication
EUROPEAN DRAWINGS, 1770-1930, IN THE LEHMAN COLLECTION, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Princeton University Press, 2002 2002 - Publication


Edith O'Donnell Distinguished Chair
The University of Texas at Dallas [2014–Present]
Edith ODonnell Institute of Art History [2014–Present]
Visiting Scholar
The Clark Art Institute [2009–2009]
American Director
FRAME, French Regional & American Museum Exchange [1999–Present]
Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair
The University of Texas at Dallas [1998–Present]
Visiting Scholar
The Clark Art Institute [1996–2000]
Visiting Professor, Fine Arts
Harvard University [1995–1995]
Visiting Professor, The History of Art
Yale University [1994–1994]
Independent Art Historian and Museum Consultant
Visiting Instructor
Northwestern University [1985–1985]

Additional Information

Personal Statement

Richard Brettell is among the foremost authorities in the world on Impressionism and French Painting of the period 1830-1930. With three degrees from Yale University, he has taught at The University of Texas, Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, Yale University, and Harvard University and is currently Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetics in the Interdisciplinary Program in Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. He is also an international museum consultant with projects in Europe, Asia, and the United States. He established the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums at UT Dallas. 

In 1980, Dr. Brettell was appointed Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1988, he became the McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Since leaving the DMA, Dr. Brettell has been involved with the purchase of the M. H.W. Ritchie Collection for the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, with the building and renovation program of the Portland Museum of Art (Oregon), and with the Millennium Gift of the Sara Lee Collection, for which the company won the National Medal for the Arts in 1999. He is Senior Advisor for International Art for the National Gallery of Australia and is working with Professor Stephen Eisenman of Northwestern University to catalogue the collection of 19th and 20th century French Paintings at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. 

Dr. Brettell worked with Elizabeth and Felix Rohatyn, former Ambassador to France, and Françoise Cachin, former Director of the French National Museums, to create FRAME (French/Regional/American Museum Exchange). Dr. Brettell has established at UT Dallas the American office of FRAME, a coalition of 24 regional museums in both countries. 

Dr. Brettell is actively engaged with architecture in Dallas, as a board member and founding president of the Dallas Architecture Forum, as a Consultant to Philip Johnson for The Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, and as curator of an exhibition devoted to "Five Dallas Modern Architects" for UT Dallas in January/February 2002. This exhibition has traveled to the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas in Austin, and the University of Houston. He has published architectural criticism, including "Beyond the Golden Age: Three New Art Museums for Texas" in Southwest Review (Vol. 87, no. 4) and "Lost in Translation: Ando's Building for The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth" for CITE: A Quarterly publication of the Rice Design Alliance. 

News Articles

Art Expert to Lead Discussion on Private Collecting
As part of a new series of community-centered events, the UT Dallas Development Board is hosting a presentation titled, “The Art of Private Collecting – The Texas Experience,” with Dr. Richard Brettell, Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Art and Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas. Brettell will share insights from his book From the Private Collections of Texas: European Art, Ancient to Modern from 9:30 to 11 a.m., Thursday, April 14 at the Dallas Museum of Art Horchow Auditorium. The event is free of charge and open to the public. Brettell founded the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Museums at UT Dallas in 1998. A Professor of Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas, Brettell’s expertise encompasses impressionism and French painting from 1830 to 1930. He earned his undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degrees from Yale University, and his museum experience includes serving as the Eugene McDermott Director at the Dallas Museum of Art and Searle Curator of European Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Prof to Share Impressionism Expertise Abroad
Dr. Richard R. Brettell, professor of art and aesthetic studies, has been awarded the 2011 Humanitas Visiting Professorship in the History of Art at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Brettell, who holds the Margaret M. McDermott Distinguished Chair in Art and Aesthetic Studies at UT Dallas, will give a lecture series at Cambridge titled, Is There Anything Left to Say About Impressionism? The series will include three lectures and one symposium between Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.
French Cultural Award Honors Profs Museum Work
Rick Brettell, Margaret McDermott Distinguished Chair of Art and Aesthetics at The University of Texas at Dallas, has received a commandeur certificate from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters). The award is the most prestigious of its type in France. The honor is conferred on no more than 20 people per year. The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres is an Order of France, established in 1957 by the Minister of Culture, and confirmed as part of the Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit) by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963. Its purpose is to recognize significant contributions to the arts, literature, or the propagation of these fields.
Prof is Uniquely Qualified for Talks on Impressionism
Art enthusiasts are invited to experience the history of the Impressionist collection visiting the Kimbell Art Museum from UT Dallas chaired professor Richard Brettell, the man who helped build it. n honor of The Impressionists: Master Paintings from the Art Institute of Chicago, an exhibit currently at the Kimbell in Fort Worth, Dr. Brettell will give two public lectures on private collectors of French avant-garde painting. The presentations will be at 7:30 p.m., Oct. 7 and 14, in the Davidson Auditorium at the UT Dallas School of Management. The Art Institute’s Impressionist collection, which has never before left Chicago in such a large group, is on display at the Kimbell through Nov. 2. The lectures will focus on renowned Chicago collectors Bertha Palmer, Frederick Clay Bartlett and Martin Ryerson.
Illuminating the Legacy of The Painter of Light
UT Dallas art and aesthetics professor Richard Brettell will provide an expert overview of paintings by landscape master J.M.W. Turner in a McDermott Library Lecture Series presentation Monday, March 24. The lecture, titled “Reviewing a Blockbuster: The Turner Exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art,” is scheduled for 2 to 3 p.m. in McDermott Library Auditorium (MC 2.410). The dicussion is free and open to the public. The artist, known as “the painter of light,” is regarded as the most prominent English Romantic landscape artist and one of the greatest in the history. About 140 works by Turner (1775-1851) are on display through May 18 at the Dallas Museum of Art in downtown Dallas. This showing is the largest and most comprehensive Turner retrospective ever presented in the U.S.


Professional Affiliations
Chairman (1990) and Member, The United States Federal Indemnity Panel, 1987-1990 The Getty Grant Program, Publication Committee, 1987-1991 The American Association of Museum Directors 1988-93 The Elizabethan Club The Phelps Association