Biography of John T. Spike

July 2017


John Thomas Spike is a noted art historian, curator, author and lecturer, specializing in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art. He is also an important critic of contemporary art and is past director of the Biennial of Florence.

Spike has been affiliated with The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, first as Distinguished Scholar in Residence and, since January 2012, as Assistant Director and Chief Curator of The Muscarelle Museum of Art. During his tenure to date, Spike has curated, and authored the catalogues for, several international loan exhibitions of Italian art: Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti and A Brush with Passion: Mattia Preti (1613-1699) as part of the “2013 Year of Italian Culture” in the United States in cooperation with the Italian foreign ministry; Caravaggio Connoisseurship: Saint Francis in Meditation and the Capitoline Fortune Teller in 2014; Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty in 2015; Botticelli and the Search for the Divine: Florentine Painting between the Medici and the Bonfire of the Vanities, with Alessandro Cecchi, in 2017. These exhibitions were under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C. Michelangelo: Sacred and Profane, Masterpiece Drawings from the Casa Buonarroti; Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty; and Botticelli and the Search for the Divine were also exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA. Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty then traveled to the Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

For the Fall of 2017, Spike is curating for the Muscarelle the exhibition, Fred Eversley: 50 Years an Artist: Light & Space & Energy, that will be shown as part of the celebrations of the fiftieth anniversary of the admission of Afro-American students to The College of William & Mary, 1967-2017.

Born in New York City, Dr. Spike earned his B.A. at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT and his M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. His thesis was the first complete study of the important Caravaggist painter, Mattia Preti (1613-1699). Among his many books on Mattia Preti is the Catalogue Raisonné of the Paintings of Mattia Preti (1999). In recognition of his many studies, Spike was named an honorary citizen of Taverna, the city of Preti’s birth.

From 2006 – 2011 Dr. Spike served on the Board of Trustees of the Muscarelle Museum of the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, one of the oldest universities in America. Since 2007, Dr. Spike has been on the faculty of the Masters in Sacred Architecture, Arts and Liturgy organized by the European University of Rome and the Pontifical Athenaeum, ‘Regina Apostolorum'.

John T. Spike has organized exhibitions and given lectures at many of the world’s most important museums: the Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna; the Uffizi Gallery and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence; the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Frick Art Collection, the Pierpont Morgan Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York; the Musée du Louvre, Paris; the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart; the Co-Cathedral of St. John and the National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta, Malta and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. He has also lectured at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford and the University of Malta. He is a consultant to the Museo Civico of Taverna and the Museo Civico of Urbania in Italy and the Wignacourt Museum, Mdina, Malta.

Spike’s contributions to Italian culture have been recognized on numerous occasions, including the Premio Anthurium, 1998, the Annual Medal of the Accademia delle Belle Arti di Messina, 2001, the Premio Anassilaos, 2002, and Man of the Year Award of the Tuscan-American Foundation in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 2006. On November 8, 2011, Spike was named to the board of judges of the Sir Denis Mahon Essay Prize, Courtauld Institute, London. On June 4, 2016, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Concilio Europeo dell'Arte, John T. Spike was awarded the Premio Paradiso for "Leonardo da Vinci and the Idea of Beauty". In 2013 HM Queen Elizabeth II appointed Spike to the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.

Spike is the author of numerous books on the Italian Renaissance, including Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine (editions, US 2010, UK 2011, Italian 2011). Masaccio (1996, in English, French and Italian) and Fra Angelico (1997, in English, French, German and Italian). In 2001, Dr. Spike published Caravaggio, a monograph with complete catalogue raisonné of the paintings; the Second Revised edition of Caravaggio with updated bibliography and text was published in 2010, in connection with celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the artist’s death in 1610.

Dr. Spike has also written numerous books and catalogues on many contemporary artists, including a biography, Fairfield Porter: An American Classic (1992). He wrote the Introductory Essay for the catalogue raisonné on Richard Anuszkiewicz, the leading American artist of the Op Art movement, published in 2010. Between 1999 and 2005, Dr. Spike directed the International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Florence. In 2005 he also served on the juries of the Turku Biennial in Finland and the Triennial of India in New Delhi.

For a complete list of Spike’s publications on Italian and on Contemporary Art, click here.

Biography & Bibliography