A few special writers achieve influence that extends beyond their readership. Such was the case with historian Anne Hollander, who died Sunday of cancer at age 83 at her home in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.
Hollander in her pioneering work showed the importance of fashion and clothes and their relationship to art. One of her main accomplishments was to show style's significance in the history of painting.
"In her deeply researched books and essays, she argued that clothing revealed far more than it concealed - about art, about perceptions of the body and ourselves - and her interests spanned centuries and mediums," New York Times writer William Yardley said in Hollander's obituary, published Wednesday.
While I haven't read much of Hollander's work, I and many others know of Hollander's ideas, even if unaware that she originated them. Her understanding of clothing and style's importance holds a central place in our cultural landscape. Hollander was among the writers who set the tone and personality of The New York Review of Books, where her work often appeared.
Born Anne Helen Loesser, Hollander acquired her writer's name from her marriage to the Yale poet and critic John Hollander. The marriage ended in divorce. John Hollander, whom I met at the Sewanee Writers' Conference, died last August, also at 83.
As the Times reported, Anne Hollander was among the last of a declining tradition, the independent scholar. She received no graduate degrees - she received a bachelor's in art history from Barnard College in 1952 - and never joined a university faculty. Beginning her writing career in the 1970s, she was the author of several ground-breaking books including "Seeing Through Clothes" (1978) and "Feeding the Eye" (2000), an essay collection. Her 1989 book "Moving Pictures" examined film's role in fashion and art.
She is survived by her husbnad, Thomas Nagel, an emeritus professor of law and philosophy at New York University, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, from her marriage with John Hollander.