Invaluable Support: Japanese Art History and the Legacy of Joan B. Mirviss

The Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is excited to announce the full endowment of the Joan B. Mirviss Chair in Japanese Art through the generosity of alumna Joan B. Mirviss. The position is held by Professor Quitman E. (Gene) Phillips.

Joan Mirviss, one of the founders of the Art History Board of Visitors, credits her time at UW–Madison and in the Department of Art History as the critical foundation for her career. “There were zero faculty members in Japanese art or anything east of Greece,” recalls Mirviss about her days as an undergraduate art history major. However, through her studies in art history, the Elvehjem Museum (now the Chazen Museum of Art), and Japanese courses in other departments across campus, Joan was able to stitch together a curriculum that addressed her interest in Japanese art and culture. This training allowed her to pursue Japanese Art History in graduate school at Columbia University in New York City, where she now owns and manages the Joan B. Mirviss LTD gallery that specializes not only in Japanese fine art but also Japanese ceramics. As a result of her endowment, UW–Madison students interested in the art and culture of Japan will have ample opportunity to explore their interests in their area.

After coming into a small inheritance, Joan realized that she could bring the Japanese art history professorship up to a fully endowed chair with a “Morgridge Match” made possible by John and Tashia Morgridge. “I take great pleasure in knowing that Japanese art history at UW will not just survive but flourish as never before thanks to the significant increase in support for research,” says Phillips. “Beyond UW, the field that has meant so much to me benefits from having a new center of scholarship and teaching. I applaud Joan for her vision and her commitment.”

The legacy of Joan Mirviss will provide the field of Japanese Art History a secure place to grow, but, most importantly, a place for our students to learn about the arts and culture of Japan.