Hugh Honour, Art Historian and Author, Dies at 88

The book, awarded the Mitchell Prize for the History of Art in 1982, is now in its seventh edition.

In a post on his Facebook page, Luca Menesini, the mayor of the municipality of Capannori, where the village of Tofori is situated, northwest of Florence, wrote that "the tranquillity and beauty of our hills" made it possible for Mr. Honour to pursue his studies, "which will remain forever his important contribution to culture."

Patrick Hugh Honour was born on Sept. 26, 1927, in Eastbourne, East Sussex. He attended King's School in Canterbury and studied 18th-century English literature at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, graduating with a bachelor's degree.

As a volunteer at the print room of the British Museum, Mr. Honour helped catalog the collection of English drawings. He then worked briefly as an assistant to the director of the Leeds Art Gallery and Temple Newsam House, an affiliated Tudor-Jacobean House landscaped by Capability Brown.

In 1954 he joined Mr. Fleming, a solicitor and amateur art historian whom he had met at Cambridge, in Lerici, on the Ligurian coast. Mr. Fleming had been hired to read to the literary scholar Percy Lubbock, a close friend of Henry James's, who had lost his sight. Through Mr. Lubbock the two men entered into the artistic and literary milieu of I Tatti, the art historian Bernard Berenson's villa.

Mr. Honour began contributing reviews and articles to T he Times of London and The Connoisseur magazine and wrote "Horace Walpole," a study of the 18th-century politician and man of letters, published in 1957.

After the couple moved to Asolo, near Venice, Mr. Honour, in "Chinoiserie: A Vision of Cathay" (1961), turned his attention to the Western fascination with Chinese art in the 18th century that found expression in the visual and decorative arts.

The book took an unusual tack, setting chinoiserie in a political and economic context and treating the style as a specific form of Western fantasy. His approach led to an invitation to organize the traveling exhibition "The European Vision of America" for the United States Bicentennial in 1976. As a companion to the exhibition, he wrote "The New Golden Land: European Images of America From the Discoveries to the Present Time."

After writing a travel book, "The Companion Guide to Venice" (1965), Mr. Honour embarked with Mr. Fleming on the Penguin "Style and Civilization" project. In addition to editing that multivolume series, they wrote "The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture" (1966), with Nikolaus Pevsner, and "The Penguin Dictionary of Decorative Arts" (1977).< /p>

Mr. Honour had ended "Neo-Clacissism" with a cliffhanger. Describing the 1808 Ingres painting "Oedipus and the Sphinx," he wrote: "A new vision of antiquity is here beginning to emerge — very different from the cool, calm land of liberty and reason described by Winckelmann and painted by David. In this grim mountain cleft there is no sign of an eternal springtime. The dark irrational gods are once more closing in."

He continued the story with "Romanticism," published in 1979. In The New York Review of Books, Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner called it "the best book yet available (and perhaps ever written) on romanticism in the visual arts."

In the 1980s, the De Menil Foundation in Houston engaged M r. Honour to take part in its gargantuan project, begun in the 1960s, to document the representation of blacks in Western visual art. Mr. Honour contributed the fourth volume in the series, a two-part work titled "The Image of the Black in Western Art: From the American Revolution to World War I" (1989).

With Mr. Fleming, Mr. Honour, who leaves no immediate survivors, returned to Venice and the world of Henry James in "The Venetian Hours of Henry James, Whistler and Sargent."

Published in 1991, it bore Mr. Honour's stylistic stamp: authoritative, concise, evocative.

"Nowhere, not even in Holland, where the correspondence between the real aspects and the little polished canvases is so constant and so exquisi te, do art and life seem so interfused and, as it were, so consanguineous," he and Mr. Fleming wrote. "All the splendor of light and color, all the Venetian air and the Venetian history are on the walls and ceilings of the palaces; and all the genius of the masters, all the images and visions they have left upon canvas, seem to tremble in the sunbeams and dance upon the waves."

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