Wooster mourns Beth Irwin Lewis, art history professor, administrator

Beth Irwin Lewis

Beth Irwin Lewis ’56 served in a variety of roles at The College of Wooster including adjunct professor of art history, assistant dean of faculty, associate director of admissions, and secretary of the college, among others. Lewis began her work at the College in 1979. She taught art history and history as an adjust professor of art history and served as assistant dean of the faculty at the College for a two-year term beginning in 1987. She mentored young faculty, advised students, and was highly involved in the first-year and the Wooster-Cleveland Academic Enrichment and Matriculation programs.

Lewis earned her bachelor’s degree at Wooster in history, and her Independent Study dealt with art and politics in Sienna. She completed her master’s degree and doctorate in European history from The University of Wisconsin. She met and married fellow graduate student D. Arnold Lewis in 1958, who later was also a professor of art at the College. The couple was highly involved in the College and Wooster communities and were members of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. As a member of session, Beth co-authored the 1979 report calling for gender equality in the language used throughout the Presbyterian Church, and she served on the Board of Education for the Wooster City Schools.

Her study of public art began with her research on George Grosz, a German artist whose anti-Nazi caricatures were celebrated by the Vietnam War opposition movement of the late 1960s. Lewis’s book, George Grosz: Art and Politics in the Weimar Republic first printed in 1971, was revised and reissued in 1991 by Princeton University Press and has been translated into Italian and Japanese. Her scholarly research focused on the intersections between power, politics, and art. She was keenly interested in public perception of culture and wrote foundational scholarship on the depiction of women in modern art. Her essay, “Lustmord: Violence against Women in Early Twentieth-Century German Art,” solicited invitations from Stanford, Harvard, Wisconsin, UCLA, Pomona, and Iowa, among others, for keynote lectures. She co-authored Persuasive Images: Poster of Art and Revolution with Peter Paret and Paul Paret, published by Princeton University Press in 1992, a book that examines international political posters dating from the early days of World War I through the end of World War II.

She achieved international recognition for her scholarship and writing from 1982 through 2009. She was invited by UCLA as a visiting associate professor for multiple years between 1982-1987, held the positions of visiting scholar at the Getty Center, scholar in residence at the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and research associate at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton between 1989-1994. She completed Art for All? The Collision of Modern Art and the Public in Late-Nineteenth-Century Germany in 2003, published by Princeton University Press, providing the first systematic, comprehensive study of that German art world.

A memorial celebration of her life, spirit, and work is planned for this summer. Her full obituary is available here: https://www.the-daily-record.com/obituaries/pwoo0440742.

Photo by John Corriveau, Wooster magazine, summer 1986.

Posted in News on March 9, 2023.