European Painting and Sculpture, 1840–1940
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1958
Professor Reff's principal interest is European painting and sculpture from about 1840 to 1940. He has lectured and written extensively on the principal movements of that period: Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and Surrealism; and above all on the artists Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, and Duchamp. His work is aimed at understanding the relations between an artist's work and 1) the earlier or exotic art on which he drew, 2) the social and cultural milieu in which he worked, and 3) the aspects of his personality that helped shape his art.
Reff has specialized in identifying artistic traditions and sources, in studying the interactions of art and literature, and in applying psychoanalytical models to the study of art. Recent and continuing work includes a book of essays on Cézanne and a critical edition of the letters of Degas based on archival research on his artistic and social circles.