My connection to Linda goes back to our undergraduate years at Vassar—a college for women at that time—where Linda graduated first in our class with an unsurpassed record of academic accomplishment. She was for me the inspiration to follow eventually a path towards art history with a Ph.D. from NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, but her interests were always vast and deep with a creative intellect of enormous range—the study of art history being only one of those interests. She was already a superb writer and while still an undergraduate she had a poem published in a highly respected literary journal—unheard of for someone of her age. It was not simply that she could “write” that was so impressive, it was the enormity of her intellectual grasp and her many creative skills (she could also, for example, paint well). And Linda was able to do all these things—to learn the material, to study with intensity, to understand with profundity—without ever compromising her “humanity”—her gift for friendship, her love for family and friends, her love of art and respect for creativity. At that time—the early 1950s—in the back pages of the Vassar catalogue there was a list of academic prizes awarded annually. One of those prizes was for an article about an outstanding woman in history. Linda submitted an essay about Beatrice Webb. (At that time I had not even known the name.) So good, and so well written was Linda’s article that she won the competition—the only time in Vassar’s history it had been won by a freshman. The prize—apart from high academic distinction—was fifty dollars, and with that fifty dollars Linda bought her beloved mother a hat. Linda has always been special but her brilliance has always been grounded in humanity: her love of her mother, her children and grandchildren, her friends; and also for the history of art, and for teaching it to others.
ISABELLE HYMAN is Professor Emerita in the Department of Art History at New York University.