Art historian John Clarke specializes in the art and architecture of ancient Italy, with a particular emphasis on Pompeii. Since 2005, he has co-directed a team of international scholars working on the Oplontis Project, where a magnificent villa hidden beneath the volcanic ash of Mount Vesuvius for 2,000 years is now coming to light.
A faculty member of the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin since 1980, Clarke arrived on the Forty Acres from a teaching position at his alma mater, Yale University. There, he had to hide aspects of his personal life — particularly his relationship with his “great love,” Michael Larvey.
“The department chair at Yale advised it was best for Michael and me not to appear to be together,” Clarke says. “We always had to arrive at parties at different times. The first invitation we received at UT was for us both to come to dinner. We were elated.”
Before Michael passed away in 2014, he contributed his photographic talents to numerous art history books authored by Clarke. To honor their collaboration, their shared love of Italian culture and their appreciation for UT Austin, Clarke has established the John R. Clarke and Michael Larvey Professorship in Ancient Roman Art and Culture. The gift will ensure the inclusion of ancient Roman art history in future curricula and will support graduate student research.
“When we talked about where we wanted to give back, we agreed to support UT because it was really good to us and gave us such a wonderful welcome as a couple,” Clarke says.