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Judith Wechsler personal archives

Identifier: MC-0756

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

This collection documents Judith Wechsler’s career as a professor of art history, including her time at MIT, Rhode Island School of Design, and Tufts. Materials span They primarily span the 1970s to 2000s and document her teaching, writing and filmmaking. Original order of the collection was maintained. Other materials in the collection include correspondence, lecture notes, submissions for the edition of Art Journal on caricature she edited as well as copies of many of her films.


  • Majority of material found within 1969 - 2017


Language of Materials

Majority of materials are in English, but some scripts and correspondence are in French.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials in this collection are open unless they are marked as restricted. Restrictions are noted in the container list.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Separate written application for permission to publish must be made to the Department of Distinction Collections of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by donor of collection.

Biographical Note

Judith Wechsler is an art historian primarily of 19th century French art, who has engaged in interdisciplinary studies: the intersection of art and theater, art and film, caricature and physiognomy, art and science. Her book, A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in 19th Century Paris, focuses on Daumier in a political and historical context. She has published articles and catalogue essays on Daumier including “Gender and Gesture in Daumier,” “Movement in the Drawings of Daumier: Still and Still Moving,” and two films on Daumier, “Daumier Paris and the Spectator,” directed with Charles Eames and “Daumier. One Must be of One’s Time,” made for the Daumier exhibition in Paris and broadcast in France and the US. Her books, The Interpretation of Cézanne and Cézanne in Perspective (ed and intro) have been widely used. More recently she has written on “Sensation and Perception in Cézanne.” Her 1999 book Le Cabinet des dessins, was published by Flammarion. Her film on drawing was commissioned by the Louvre, “Dessiner, la main qui pense,” “Drawing the Thinking Hand“ (in its English version.) From her years at MIT, Wechsler edited a book On Aesthetics in Science, which has gone through several editions and translations. She has written a catalogue essay “Caricature of medicine,“ and “Lavater, Stereotype and Prejudice,” on anti-semitic attitudes in physiognomic theory. Wechsler has explored relationships between art and theater in the 19th century, in her essay, ”Ophelia and the Representation of Madness,” and curated an exhibition in Paris on the actress Rachel, co-edited the catalogue and contributed an essay on the representations of Rachel. In collaboration with La Comédie Francaise, she directed a film on Rachel. In France, she has lectured and/or presented her films lectures at the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Centre Pompidou, the Comédie Francaise, Musee de l’Orangerie, Musee d’art et d’histoire du judaisme, and L’Institut national de l’histoire de l’art. Wechsler has made some 28 films on art, informed by her scholarship. The French government awarded her a Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des letters. In 2010 she was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin in 2010. She has been the recipient of 7 NEH grants, 2 NEA grants, and a Mellon faculty fellowship. In addition to teaching 7 years at MIT, she has been professor of art history at the Rhode Island School of Design, and was the NEH Professor at Tufts from 1989-2010. She has been visiting professor at Harvard,The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, The Ecole Normale Superieure, in Paris and The University of Paris. In 2012, she was Senior Visiting Fellow at the Van Leer Institute, Jerusalem and a Fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy.


3.91 Cubic Feet (3 record cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box)


This collection documents the career of Judith Wechsler. Wechsler was a fellow at the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1977-1978. Her area of practice included art history. She was also an associate professor at the MIT Department of Architecture. She has been professor of art history at the Rhode Island School of Design, and was the NEH Professor at Tufts from 1989-2010. As an art historian, she has focused primarily on 19th century French art, exploring the intersection of art and theater, art and film, caricature and physiognomy, art and science. This collection contains materials from Wechsler’s time at MIT, including course materials, as well as RISD, Harvard and Tufts. In addition, there are correspondence, materials for lectures and symposia she participated in, drafts of her writing, as well as scripts and notes for her films, including her series “The Painter’s World.”


Organized into six series: 1. MIT Art, Science and Technology, 2. RISD, Harvard and Tufts course materials, 3. Correspondence, 4. Lectures, symposia and writings, 5. Film scripts and proposals, 6. Art Journal

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. At least two business days notice is required for use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were given to the Department of Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Judith Wechsler.


Materials were in good order and original order maintained. Some duplicate folders were combined.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Folders were replaced as determined necessary and collection was described at the folder level. Some titles were amended or changed to be more descriptive.



Guide to the Judith Wechsler personal archives
Alex McGee
2019 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US