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Ivan Galantic

March 15, 1921 ~ February 23, 2018 (age 96)


Galantic, Ivan Art Historian and Educator Ivan Galantic died at his home in Belmont, Massachusetts on February 23rd, just a few weeks shy of his 97th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Joyce Galantic, son John, daughter-in-law, Alexandra, and two grandchildren, Alexi and Isabella. An art historian who specialized in the Italian Renaissance, he was Professor of Fine Arts Emeritus at Tufts University. For forty years he also lectured at the Harvard Extension School before retiring in 2011. Born in Sveti Vid on the Croatian Island of Krk, in Italian, Veglia, Ivan was a nineteen-year-old university student when Italy annexed Dalmatia. Protesting actively against the Fascist government, he was jailed, and as a political prisoner, deported to a succession of concentration camps in Italy. The last words he heard his mother speak to him were "Biti dobar" (Croatian), that is "Be good". After a year and a half of imprisonment, he eventually escaped German captors and fled to Rome in 1943 where he endured extreme deprivation while awaiting the Allied invasion. But his trials did not end with liberation; he contracted tuberculosis and almost lost his life. Yet it was during this time of great hardship that he also witnessed the kindness of strangers, and it was through these interactions that he experienced the "humanism" which guided him throughout his life. Here, he said, "I witnessed the greatest value man has ever known, or could ever wish to know. I saw goodness." It became clear to him that the way to "disarm misery" was "by facing it and accepting the reality of suffering." After the war, Ivan completed university study in Italy, at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, stayed on in Rome, and became a successful painter. He received a number of awards and prizes, including Fonds Europeens de Secours aux Etudiants, from France and a UNESCO fellowship. His works were exhibited in Florence, Milan, and Rome. His work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Zagreb. "But I took a good look in the mirror one day," he recalls, "and thought, do I really want to continue on my own artistic path, or do I want to study, and ultimately teach others about the greatest artists in the Western tradition— the Rembrandts, the Michelangelos, and the rest?" Answering that question led him to emigrate to the United States in 1951 where he supported himself initially as a textile designer and a contract painter of murals for churches. Eventually, drawn to his calling of Educator, he became an Assistant Professor of Art at Marygrove College in Detroit. It was there that he was to meet his lifelong love and future wife, Joyce Filipac, an undergraduate studying music. Last June, the Galantics celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They moved to Cambridge, MA in 1959 to pursue doctoral programs at Harvard--he in art history and she in medieval literature. Their son John was born in 1961. In June of 1968, he completed his thesis "The Sources of Leon Battista Alberti's Theory of Painting." Although his thesis has been continuously cited in scholarly works, it was teaching which was most meaningful to him, especially his years at Tufts and Harvard Extension, both tenures beginning in 1971. He is remembered as a remarkable man, unsurpassed as a scholar of cultural history, and a charismatic lecturer who mentored and inspired legions of students. His mission, as he conceived it, was to EDUCATE according to the etymology of that word which derives from the Latin ex ducere, meaning, "to lead out." He was gifted with the power to lead out each student's fullest potential. One former Tufts student said: "I took his classes over thirty years ago, but remember his teaching as if it were yesterday. He wasn't a large man, but with his shock of white hair, twinkling blue eyes, and sly humor, he had a wonderful presence. He taught the visual literacy essential to study art history--but he was also the absolute master of posing the 'WHY does it matter?' question. I think it goes a long way toward understanding his popularity. The ordeals he accepted--as such a young man--in order to be able to live with his conscience, totally shaped the rest of his life. In our classes, he went straight to the heart of what objects revealed about human nature, why they mattered." "How and what did the famous 'Bust of Nefertiti' say about Egyptian culture and her reign in particular? How and what did "The School of Athens" say about Platonic and Socratic philosophy? How and what did the portrait of the Bellelli Family say about that family's relationships? He worked to tease out of each of us the ability to see these things for ourselves. He yearned for us to experience the life-enhancing moments a great work of art can give. He was exceptional." Some of his most inspiring thoughts were imparted to his students on cultural tours to Rome, Florence, Athens, Istanbul, Vienna, Prague and elsewhere to view great works firsthand. "When traveling with my students," he said, "I observe such enriching results--above all, their fresh approach to understanding the objects which are a part of art historical study. These students are pilgrims of a sort--as am I, their companion. We become humble before great achievements of the human spirit. And, as we all know, humility is the first step in any real learning experience." He often quoted these words of scripture, "Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven." Professor Galantic received many academic and teaching awards including the Fellowship for Study at I Tatti in 1965, the Kress Foundation Award for Senior Research at the Warburg Institute in London in 1966. Later, he received the Petra Shattuck Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1996 and a Distinguished Service Award after 40 years at the Harvard Extension. A Scholarship Fund established by his former students at Tufts University provides for the annual award of the Ivan Galantic Prize for Achievement in the Humanities. Professor Galantic remained active in his retirement. He continued to read Cicero (in Latin), Dante (in Italian), Simone Weil (in French), numerous Croatian writers and many others. He kept in touch with former students and colleagues, spent time with his beloved grandchildren, and alternately fretted and rejoiced over AS Roma's standing in Serie A. Because he valued humility above all virtues, he tried to disguise his pride in his son John, but his delight in his son was abundantly evident to those who knew him best. His greatest happiness was in sharing everything with Joyce, his partner, in heart and mind.  A mass will be held remembering Ivan Galantic at St. Paul's Church in Cambridge,MA at 12pm on April 7, 2018. 

Many of you have asked about how to contribute to the Fund for Ivan Galantic Special Achievement in Humanitiesprize. If interested, you may donate through this link: In Memory of Ivan Galantic. If you prefer to send a check, these can be made out to Trustees of Tufts College, indicating Ivan Galantic in the memo. Checks can be sent to: 
Tufts University 
PO Box 3306 
Boston, MA 02241-3306

 

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