Dr. Jacob Wisse is an Associate Professor of Art History at Stern College for Women, Co-Chair of YU’s Department of Fine Arts and Music, and Director of Yeshiva University Museum. He has headed the art history program at Stern since 2005 and the YU Museum since 2009. During his first year at YU, he was named Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year. A native of Montreal, where he received an extensive Jewish education, Jacob earned his B.A. from McGill University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University, where he specialized in Northern European art of the late Medieval and Renaissance eras. His book, City Painters in the Burgundian Netherlands, will be published by Brepols Press.
He also has a background in museum education and curatorial work and lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 2.
1. What did you do before you joined YU as a faculty member?
While in graduate school in Art History, I worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art for two years, which piqued my interest in museum work. Immediately after earning my Ph.D., I started teaching, which I loved – somewhat to my surprise. I taught at Cooper Union and Adelphi University before joining Yeshiva University.
2. What is your favorite aspect of your job at YU?
I have the opportunity to work at two things I love – teaching and museum work. The combination is complementary and very fulfilling. I enjoy the students, who are bright, serious and challenging. And I appreciate working within an institution that emphasizes the broader values of learning and education.
3. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’m quite happy with what I do, though one hazard of my trade is how appealing it makes the process of creating beautiful works of art or architecture. I can’t say I have ever seriously considered becoming an artist or architect, but I’m not immune to the fantasy.
4. What is your goal as a purveyor of the arts, and what is your goal as a teacher?
My goals through the museum are to make people experience history and culture in new, powerful and personally affecting ways, as well as to appreciate the interconnection of art and ideas. My main goals as a teacher are to encourage students to look closely at what we study in the classroom and what they encounter outside of it; to appreciate the power art has to express the human condition; and to take joy in what they see and learn.
5. What would your current and former YU students be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t know if students would be surprised to learn how much I love teaching. I suspect students generally aren’t aware of how affecting and meaningful the classroom experience can be on teachers; I know that as a student, I certainly wasn’t.