In Memoriam: Henry A. Millon, 1927-2018

Henry A. Millon, a scholar of Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture who served on the faculty at MIT for almost 50 years, left a lasting legacy on his scholarly field through his own work and that of the many students he taught and advised.

Known as “Hank” to both colleagues and students, Millon co-founded the History, Theory, and Criticism (HTC) section of the Department of Architecture with Professors Stanford Anderson, Wayne Andersen, and Rosalind Krauss in 1975. HTC was the first doctoral degree in a school of architecture in the United States, and Millon helped to elevate the track into one of the leading Ph.D. programs in the country.

Millon taught at MIT from 1955 through 2003. His emphasis on methodological rigor and scholarly excellence set the tone for generations of students and is still felt to this day, according to Mark Jarzombek, Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at MIT. 

“Not only was Hank instrumental in designing HTC’s core mission in the mid-1970s,” says Jarzombek, “but his teaching left an indelible impression on all. He taught us how to look closely at drawings, how to think in terms of spatial geographies and, just as important, how to write clearly and effectively. For him maps, drawings, and models were not the backstory of architecture’s history, but almost the opposite—the bearers of its meaning.”

Among the young academics mentored by Millon was Joseph M. Siry, now Professor of Art History at Wesleyan University and the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the Humanities. “He was a wonderful graduate mentor for many students in the HTC program,” he recalls. “His stature as a scholar, teacher, and international leader in the field of architectural history was known to all of us, and we all looked to up to him as a model. Hank was intellectually meticulous in his approach to historical evidence and argument, and warmly sympathetic to those fortunate enough to study with him. We will always be grateful for him. His leadership and continued presence at MIT’s HTC program were life-changing for many of us.”

“[The] discipline of art history has lost one of its most committed and successful champions,” wrote another of Millon’s early advisees, Martha Pollak, now Professor and Chair of Art History at the University of Chicago. In commemorating her former mentor in the November 2018 edition of the Burlington Magazine, Pollak emphasized Millon’s dedication to the field over six decades and the enduring impression he left on his students. “[He] made far-reaching contributions to architectural history, to institutionally supported research and to the education of generations of historians of art, architecture and urban design,” she wrote. “Millon’s infectious love of Italy and its way of life was particularly palpable to a group of MIT graduate students, including the present writer, who accompanied him to Pienza for a month-long term in 1978 and were helplessly drawn into Italian cuisine and architecture.”

In addition to his work at MIT, Millon offered his expertise to many renowned research and preservation institutions. While helping to found the HTC program, he also served as the director of the American Academy of Rome from 1974 to 1977. In 1980, he became the founding dean of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery, a post he maintained until his retirement in 2000.

Additional positions held during his expansive career included President, Society of Architectural Historians; Convener, Architectural Drawings Advisory Group; President, Foundation for Documents of Architecture; Scientific Secretary, Thesaurus Artis Universalis Working Group of the International Committee for the History of Art; Vice-Chair, Council on American Overseas Research Centers; Chair, Dumbarton Oaks Senior Fellows Committee, Program in History of Landscape Architecture; President, International Union of Academies of Archaeology, History and History of Art in Rome; President, University Film Study Center; Vice-Chair, Boston Landmarks Commission, Co-Chair, Advisory Committee, Cambridge Architectural Historical Survey; and Curator, American Philosophical Society.

Millon published numerous books and articles that have been frequently cited by other scholars. These include: Baroque and Rococo Architecture (1961); Key Monuments of the History of Architecture (1964); Filippo Juvarra. Drawings from the Roman Period, Part I (1984) and Part II (1999), with A. Griseri, S. McPhee, and M. Viale Ferrero; Michelangelo Architect (1988), with C.H. Smyth; The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo (1994), with V. Lampugnani; and The Triumph of the Baroque (1999).

In 2017, Millon donated his archives to the Academy of Sciences in Turin, Italy, a testament to his commitment to international cooperation among art historians. In February 2019, scholars came together at the Academy to commemorate his life and work; a conference in celebration of his many contributions to the field is planned for 2020.


Photograph courtesy of Phoebe Cervigni Millon.