Joseph Connors is an American art historian specializing in Italian architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque. A New Yorker by birth, Connors was educated in classical languages at Regis High School and Boston College(A.B. 1966). While studying at Clare College Cambridge on a Marshall Scholarship in 1966-68 he discovered art history in lectures by Nikolaus Pevsner. After a period teaching Greek and Latin at the Boston Latin School, Connors studied with Ernst Kitzinger and James Ackerman in the Department of Fine Arts of Harvard University (Ph.D. 1978). He has taught at the University of Chicago (1975–80) and Columbia University (1980–2001), where he served as chairman of the Department of Art History and Archaeology in 1999-2001 and received the President’s Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2001.
Connors’ research centers on the architecture of seventeenth-century Rome and in particular on the genial, enigmatic figure of Francesco Borromini (1599–1667). He has also written on town planning in Rome from the late Renaissance to the eighteenth century, pioneering a view of urban change generated around large and long-lived institutions.
Connors served as director of the American Academy in Rome in 1988-92 and of Villa I Tatti, The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence, from 2002 to 2010. To date he is the only person to have directed both of the major American research institutes in Italy. Since 2002 he has been a member of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard, and will return to teaching in Harvard College in 2011.
He has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, CASVA at the National Gallery of Art, the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome, All Souls College Oxford, and the Clark Art Institute, and he was Slade Professor at Oxford in 1999. He was elected to the Accademia nazionale di San Luca in Rome in 1993, and to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in 2006.