UVA Commonwealth Professor of Art History Paul Barolsky Retires after 47 Years
Paul Barolsky has always been fascinated with things people leave behind. Picked up over years of walks with colleagues including Dick Crozier, his found objects have been exhibited in formal and informal displays in his office and galleries across Grounds. Any visitor to his office has had a ball. Or many, many of them, thanks to his shelf-busting collection of those he has picked up along the way. But now, as he puts the finishing touches on his remarkable 47-years in the UVA Art Department, it is a good time to focus on what Barolsky himself has left behind – an extraordinary legacy of scholarship, friendship, and mentorship that makes him one of the University’s true found treasures.
Few people can speak to his talents, his influence and his scholarship like Beth Turner (College ’73; MA ’75; PhD ’85). She first met Barolsky in 1970 when he called her name in Campbell Hall 160 to congratulate her on an “exemplary” exam in front of the entire class. “I was thrilled and struck that someone would recognize something in me, and it galvanized something for me. It made me feel like I wanted to go into this type of study.” The encouragement propelled Turner to continue her studies at UVA, working with Barolsky on two graduate degrees, towards a successful career as a curator before returning to her alma mater in 2007 to reunite with her mentor as a colleague. This kind of encouragement would become a Barolsky hallmark as he both ignited sparks and shepherded careers for generations of young scholars.
“He has been a very significant and formative influence on the Art Department and on Art History at UVA,” said Larry Goedde, Professor and Chair of the McIntire Department of Art. “He arrived here as a very junior person and over the years his influence on students has grown steadily, from graduate students as he guided them through their degrees and dissertations and helped launch them into the field, to undergraduate students who flocked to his courses, including his highly popular course on art and mythology.”
An internationally renowned scholar in the field of Renaissance Art, Barolsky will forever be known and loved on Grounds for his own most unique collections. “We would find a hubcap on the street and Paul would say it was a mythical shield. I would find a shoe and say it was a sandal of Aphrodite!” The collection grew over the years and was for a long time displayed in Brooks Hall. Now that Barolsky is retiring from his official UVA duties, Crozier said there has been talk of a larger exhibition down the road.
“I kind of envision us wandering around picking up garbage off the streets,” Crozier said, “as long as we are not picked up by some well-meaning social services folk.”