Michael Liversidge 1947 - 2021
20 July 2021
We are very sorry to announce the death of our colleague, Michael Liversidge, on 5th July 2021, after a short illness. Michael came to History of Art at Bristol in 1970, having graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1969, and taught here until his retirement in 2008. During that time he served as Head of Department (1979–96, 2002–03 and 2004–06), and as Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 1996 to 2001. Even after his retirement he remained closely associated with the History of Art Department, offering his expertise and experience to students on the Prints unit, and frequently attending the research seminar, so that his association with the department lasted for almost fifty years. His own research specialism was in British art from the Renaissance to the early 20th century, with particular interests in landscape art of the 18th and 19th centuries, the history of designed landscapes and gardens, and classical receptions in British painting. He co-curated Canaletto and England (Birmingham City Museums and Art Gallery, 1993) and Imagining Rome. British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century (Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery, 1996). He was a Visiting Fellow at the Yale Center, Chairman of Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and Honorary Secretary of the Friends of Bristol Art Gallery, and served on the South West Museums Council.
Michael had an eye for an interesting object, and was skilled in the kind of connoisseurship that is becoming increasingly rare. He was instrumental in identifying the only known surviving panels from the Painted Chamber in the medieval Palace of Westminster when they turned up in Bristol in 1993. One such astonishing find would be enough for anyone’s career. But Michael went on, in 2006, to discover two missing panels from Fra Angelico’s San Marco Altarpiece, during a visit to a private home in Oxford, where he had gone to look at something quite other in the resident’s collections.
Among Michael’s other gifts was a facility for friendship, and for promoting interesting ventures and supporting people with potential. He had an extraordinary memory, and seemed to remember every student he had ever taught. The unrivalled number of contacts that he had in every area of the art world (many of them former students), and the deep respect with which he was held, meant that he was continually called upon to recommend collaborators for projects, as well as potential employees. Many of his students and colleagues benefited from his enthusiasm for putting people together, and making things happen. He was endlessly imaginative, enthusiastic, and resourceful. He was always ready to talk, preferably over a glass of red wine. We will miss him very much, as will his family and his many, many friends.