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David Talbot Rice

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David Talbot Rice

David Talbot Rice CBE (11 July 1903, Rugby - 12 March 1972, Cheltenham) was a British art historian. His father was "Talbot-Rice" and both he and his wife published using "Talbot Rice" as a surname, but are also sometimes found under "Rice" alone.

Born in Rugby and brought up in Gloucestershire (England), he was educated at Eton prior to reading archaeology and anthropology at Christ Church, Oxford. At Oxford his circle of friends included Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton as well as his future wife (Elena) Tamara Abelson (1904–1993) whom he was to marry in 1927. She was a Russian émigrée he had first known at Oxford, who was also an art historian, writing on Byzantine and Central Eastern art and other subjects.[1]

Following his graduation Rice undertook a number of archaeological digs overseas and developed a passion for all things Byzantine. His expertise in the area of Islamic art was recognised when, in 1932, Samuel Courtauld endowed the Courtauld Institute at the University of London and Rice was among the first appointments, taking up a position as lecturer.

Rice was subsequently appointed to the Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh in 1934, a post he held until his death in 1972. During World War II, he served as Head of the Near East Section of Military Intelligence (MI3b), which was responsible for Eastern Europe including Yugoslavia but excluding Russia and Scandinavia. Originally commissioned on the Special List in 1939, he transferred to the Intelligence Corps in 1943. He ended the war as a Major.

When peacetime returned he came back to Scotland and established an Honours degree at the university which combined art history and studio art and is still offered today. His ambition to establish an arts centre in the University was realised posthumously when the Talbot Rice Gallery was founded and named after him.

Selected publications

  • The Birth of Western Painting: a History of Colour, Form, and Iconography Illustrated from the Paintings of Mistra and Mount Athos, of Giotto and Duccio, and of El Greco. London, Routledge, 1930.
  • Byzantine Art. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1935 (last revised edition Penguin, 1968).
  • Byzantine Painting at Trebizond. London, Allen & Unwin, 1936.
  • Russian Icons. London, Penguin Books, 1947.
  • English Art, 871-1100. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1952.
  • The Beginnings of Christian Art. London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1957.
  • The Art of Byzantium. London, Thames and Hudson, 1959.
  • Byzantine Icons. London, Faber and Faber, 1959.
  • Constantinople: Byzantium - Istanbul. London: Elek Books, 1965.
  • Dark Ages: the Making of European Civilization. London, Thames and Hudson, 1965.
  • Byzantine Painting: the Last Phase. New York, Dial Press, 1968.
  • Icons and their Dating: a Comprehensive Study of their Chronology and Provenance. London, Thames and Hudson, 1974.


External links

  • David Talbot Rice entry in The Dictionary of Art Historians
  • MA in Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh
  • Mention of David Talbot Rice's period of employment at the Courtauld Institute in the 1930s

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