News Archive 2023

Shulamith Behr (1946 – 2023)

12 Apr 2023

Shulamith Behr in front of artworks
Dr. Shulamith Behr, at home in north London, July 2022. Photograph Justin Piperger.

It is with the very greatest sadness that we announce the death on Friday 7th April of Dr Shulamith Behr, Honorary Research Fellow and former senior faculty member of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Those who worked with Shulamith or studied under her will never forget her devotion to her research and teaching and to her students, her academic integrity, her wonderful warmth and kindness and the beauty of her person and her personality. Many others have benefited from her engagement with exhibitions which reached wide audiences in the UK, in Germany and in Sweden.

Shulamith Behr (née Ruch) graduated with a B.A. Honours degree in Fine Arts (1969), receiving the Henri Lidchi Prize for the top undergraduate student in the History of Art at the University of the Witwatersrand. She subsequently attained a First Class Honours degree in History of Art in 1971. Between the years 1971 and 1978, she lectured in the History of Art department at Witwatersrand, then under Professor Heather Martienssen’s leadership. She was one on the youngest members at Wits University

Shulamith completed her studies in Art History and Theory at the University of Essex before joining The Courtauld’s faculty in 1990, as Bosch lecturer in German Art. She held the post of Senior Lecturer in 20th century German art until her appointment in 2012 as Honorary Research Fellow, and her retirement the following year. Throughout this time, she remained a dearly loved colleague.

As an expert in German Expressionism Shulamith published widely in the field: as a solo writer, for example Expressionism, for Tate Gallery Publishing in 1999; as an editor, jointly with David Fanning and Douglas Jarman, of Expressionism Reassessed (Manchester University Press, 1993), as the curator and author of accompanying catalogues – of exhibitions on Conrad Felixmüller at the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery (Leicester) and at the Courtauld Gallery in 1994.

Her publications encompass the contribution of women artists to German and Swedish modernism, staring with her Women Expressionists (Phaidon, Oxford, 1988) to essays for catalogues of the Gabriele Munter (1992-3) and Sigrid Hjerten (1999) retrospectives held in Germany and Stockholm.  Relating to these interests, she was the curator and contributor to the catalogue of the exhibition Gabriele Münter: The Search for Expressionism 1906-1917, held in the Courtauld Gallery (2005).

Shulamith’s research on art and exile – a theme close to her heart and experience, is published in the volume Arts in Exile in Britain 1933-45: Politics and Cultural Identity, which she co-edited with Marian Malet. As a Leverhulme and CRASSH Research Fellow at Cambridge in 2007-8, she focused on the exile period of Ludwig Meidner, a leading exponent of German literary and artistic Expressionism. She subsequently collaborated with the Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt am Main on an exhibition of his works and an essay and catalogue entries appeared in the dual language Horcher in die Zeit – Ludwig Meidner im Exil (Eavesdropper on an Age – Ludwig Meidner in Exile), Museum Giersch der Goethe-Universität, in 2016.

Shulamith continued her work actively until very recently. Her most recent curatorial contribution was for the wonderful exhibition Making Modernism at the Royal Academy, curated by Dorothy Price; and her much awaited book, Women Artists in Expressionism: From Empire to Emancipation (Princeton University Press) was published in November 2022.

A gift from the AKO Foundation endowed the post of Tangen Reader in 20th-century Modernism in honour of Dr Shulamith Behr, who taught its founder, Nicolai Tangen, during his MA studies at The Courtauld. The post is held by distinguished scholar, Dr. Robin Schuldenfrei, specialising in the history and theory of European and American modern architecture and design. She is the first appointee to this endowed post.

Altogether, Shulamith published and edited 10 books, wrote 27 major book chapters, 18 reviews and catalogue contributions, curated 4 exhibitions, ran 12 research seminars and conferences, made 22 guest contributions to conferences and symposia, several of these as keynote speaker, and 27 public lectures across the world. Alongside this recognition of her excellence, she taught hundreds of BA and MA students, taking them (and occasionally her husband Bernard) on annual pilgrimages to Munich. She also supervised 20 students to completion of their PhD degrees.

All who knew Shulamith will be very saddened by her loss and will miss her greatly, but we particularly send our deepest sympathies to her husband Bernard and her sons Elijah and Gabriel and their wider family.

Prayers of Remembrance for Shulamith will be held on Sunday 16th April at 6.00pm at New London Synagogue, 33 Abbey Road, London NW8 0AT.

New London Synagogue – Masorti – Google Maps (Nearest Underground: St. John’s Wood).

The Courtauld plans to hold an informal gathering later in the year to provide an opportunity for friends, colleagues and former students of Shulamith to meet and remember her, details to follow.