Oleg Grabar first to teach history of Islamic art and architecture

Area studies to Islamic studies 1969

Oleg Grabar First to Teach History of Islamic Art and Architecture

Born in Strasbourg, France in 1929, Professor Grabar earned his A.B. at Harvard in Medieval History and his Ph.D. at Princeton in Oriental Languages and Literatures and the History of Art. In 1969, he joined the Harvard faculty as Professor of Fine Arts and became the first to teach the history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard. His expertise, however, included the peoples, history, and culture of Muslim societies more broadly. Professor Grabar taught courses such as “Medieval Islamic Art (1000-1300)” and “Studies in Islamic Decorative Art” and is remembered for his “flamboyant, exciting, and always substantive” lectures and ability to make Islamic art and architecture appealing to non-specialists. His publications include The Formation of Islamic Art (1973), The Illustrations of the Maqamat (1984), The Shape of the Holy: Early Islamic Jerusalem (1996). Professor Grabar played an instrumental role in the founding of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture in 1979 and became the first Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art in 1980. His student, Gülru Necipoğlu, is Harvard’s current Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art.

Oleg Grabar
Oleg Grabar (1929-2011)/photo credit: T. Kevin Birch photographer. From the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, USA