Alexander Nemerov GRD ’92, chair of the History of Art Department and Vincent J. Scully Professor of the History of Art, will leave Yale after this semester to begin teaching at Stanford in the fall.
Nemerov said he decided to accept a position on Stanford’s faculty within the past few days, after initially receiving the job offer in January. His spring survey course, “Introduction to the History of Art: Renaissance to the Present,” was Yale’s most popular class this term, with the highest number of students registered during shopping period.
“I’m very sad that I won’t be teaching here anymore,” Nemerov said in a Tuesday interview. “I have great feelings about Yale and this was a very difficult decision, but I’m happy to begin the next phase of my career at Stanford.”
Nemerov graduated from Yale with a master’s degree and doctorate in the history of art, and taught at Stanford before returning to Yale as an instructor in 2001.
Yale College Dean Mary Miller, who was part of the team that recruited Nemerov to Yale’s faculty from Stanford, said he has made a significant impact on the History of Art Department in his 11 years at Yale.
“His contribution to the department, to Yale College students and to the University is so great that it cannot easily be measured,” Miller said in an email. “We have all — colleagues, students, friends — benefited from his ability to make the paint on the canvas, the hand of the sculptor, the grain of wood come to life with his careful words and laser-like intellect.”
More than 500 students shopped “Introduction to the History of Art” this semester, but Nemerov capped enrollment in the course to about 300 for the first time to match the capacity of the auditorium of the Yale University Art Gallery, where the class is held. Ten students interviewed said they were disappointed to hear of Nemerov’s departure, and five said they had planned to take Nemerov’s course in the future.
Adrian Chiem ’15 said he wanted to take “Introduction to the History of Art” this spring but did not get in, adding that as a prospective art history major last year, the lecture Nemerov delivered during his Bulldog Days was one of the reasons he chose to attend Yale.
“Listening to him speak … and analyzing his strange nuances with people who were also in his class genuinely made me very happy, so I’m very sad to see him go,” said Chiem, who sat in on three of Nemerov’s lectures this spring. “I was really hoping to take his class next year.”
Jennifer Mosby ’12, an art history major and one of Nemerov’s advisees her sophomore year, said she loved Nemerov’s survey course because of its incorporation of broad ideas into its discussion of works of art. Mosby added that while Yale has been lucky to have Nemerov on its faculty, the department “will go on.”
Julia Cortopassi ’13 said she considered majoring in art history after taking Nemerov’s survey course during her freshman year, and has since continued to take courses within the department.
“Nemerov has this lyrical style that distinguished him from a lot of art history teachers,” Cortopassi said. “I really like how sometimes he’ll make up a word. After class kids would be laughing at these ‘Nemerovian’ terms. They don’t exist in modern language — they were just something he would spin up in lecture.”
Stanford is hiring Nemerov as it continues its “Stanford Arts Initiative,” a program launched in 2006 that aims to enhance Stanford’s arts program through the creation of new facilities and faculty positions, according to Stanford’s website. The initiative has raised over $250 million since its inception.
The National Research Council’s assessment of research-doctoral programs ranked Stanford’s art history department between 10th and 27th in the nation. By comparison, Yale is ranked between second and ninth.
The chair of Stanford’s art and art history department could not be reached for comment.
In addition to “Introduction to the History of Art: Renaissance to the Present,” Nemerov has taught courses on American photography, American Romanticism and Hollywood film.