Robert G Ousterhout

A sad goodbye to one of the finest art historians of his generation

By Cornucopia | May 2, 2023

We are deeply saddened to receive news of Bob Ousterhout's passing on April 23, 2023. Bob was quite simply one of the finest writers and art historians that Cornucopia has ever had the privilege to publish and his loss will be felt immensely by all our readers.

This obituary was kindly sent to us by Professor Brian Rose:

Robert G. Ousterhout, emeritus professor Byzantine Art and Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, received his BA. from the University of Oregon, his M.A. from the University of Cincinnati, and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He taught in the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois from 1983-2006, and at the University of Pennsylvania from 2006-2017, where he also directed the Center for Ancient Studies. Beginning in 2011, he served as director of the summer program “Cappadocia (Turkey) in Context” for Koç University in Istanbul, which he continued until 2022. A recognized specialist in Byzantine architecture, his research focused on the documentation and interpretation of the architectural heritage of the eastern Mediterranean, particularly the Byzantine architecture, monumental art, and urbanism in Constantinople and Cappadocia. 

Ousterhout was the author of numerous books, including The Architecture of the Kariye Camii in Istanbul, Dumbarton Oaks Studies 25 (Washington, D.C., 1987), Master Builders of Byzantium (Princeton, 1999), Art of the Kariye Camii (London-Istanbul, 2002), A Byzantine Settlement in Cappadocia, Dumbarton Oaks Studies 42 (Washington, DC, 2005; 2nd edition 2011), The Byzantine Monuments of the Evros/Meriç River Valley (Thessaloniki, 2007, with Ch. Bakirtzis), John Henry Haynes: A Photographer and Archaeologist in the Ottoman Empire, 1881-1900 (Istanbul, 2011), Visualizing Community. Art, Material Culture, and Settlement in Byzantine Cappadocia (Dumbarton Oaks Studies 46, 2017), and Eastern Medieval Architecture: The Building Traditions of Byzantium and Neighboring Lands (Oxford University Press, 2019).  He co-curated the exhibits Kariye: From Theodore Metochites to Thomas Whittemore (2007, Pera Museum, Istanbul) and Osman Hamdi Bey and the Americans (2011, Pera Museum, Istanbul, and Penn Museum), and Magic in the Ancient World (2016, Penn Museum). In later years, he also began to produce fiction: Reluctant Stories (2020), To the East (2022), Indifferent Oracles/Random Objects (2023), and It Might Have Ended Differently (2023).

At Illinois he was honored as University Scholar (1992-95), Outstanding Faculty in the College of Fine and Applied Arts (1991, 2002), and Associate at the Institute of Advanced Study (1993-94, 2006).  He has also held Fulbright and Dumbarton Oaks fellowships, and served as a senior fellow at Dumbarton Oaks from 2012 to 2018. In 2021 he was awarded the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America for his book on Eastern Medieval Architecture.  He was elected President of U.S. National Committee for Byzantine Studies (2002-07) and President of the Byzantine Studies Association of North America, 2010-11.

He is survived by his husband C. Brian Rose, his sister Jean, and brothers Neil and Doug.

Bob’s memorial service will take place at the Penn Museum on Saturday, September 9. 

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