Bonnie Clearwater

Irving Sandler made art history. As a chronicler of the New York School and beyond, he held a privileged position as an active participant in the scene he documented. Affable, approachable, and wise, Irving's insightful writing balanced his personal affection for his subjects with the objectivity of an art historian. Right to the end, he was attending openings, following the careers of new artists, and writing reviews. His landmark book, The Triumph of American Painting, produced an indelible origin study of the struggles and success of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists that remains a valuable resource. Irving was an exceptional mentor to all who knew him. It goes without saying that I owe my career to him. As a former New York University art history student of Irving's wife, the eminent medievalist Lucy Sandler, and a recent graduate in the same subject from Columbia University, Irving tapped me for the position of curator of The Mark Rothko Foundation in 1980. Although Lucy would always feign displeasure at Irving having "corrupted" me by turning my focus to contemporary art, working for the Rothko Foundation, where Irving was a Board trustee, was a life-changing experience. Fortunately, a few months ago, my husband Jim Clearwater and I had the chance to thank Irving in person for opening the world of contemporary art to us. His history ultimately became our history.