Robert Hughes, Celebrated Critic and Historian Whose Work Inspired Documentary Series
Hughes became a television personality through the documentary adaptations of his books.
Robert Hughes, an Australian-born critic and historian whose work inspired acclaimed documentary series, died August 6, 2012, at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York. He was 74.
According to news reports, Hughes had been in failing health for some time.
Hughes, who served as Time magazine for 30 years, was a prolific writer whose books included such landmark titles as The Shock of the New, an examination of modern art, and The Fatal Shore, a sprawling history of his homeland, Australia.
Both books were adapted into critically acclaimed documentary television series. The Shock of the New became an eight-part series in 1982, and 2000 brought the six-part Australia: Beyond the Fatal Shore. Also, his 1997 book American Visions: The Epic History of Art in America became a documentary series the same year.
Hughes’s other books included examinations of Rome and Barcelona and the artists Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud, as well as a memoir, Things I Didn’t Know.
Robert Studley Forrest Hughes was born July 28, 1938, in Sydney. His family included several highly accomplished lawyers. He left Australia in 1964 and lived for a time in Italy and London before moving to New York when Time offered him the position of art critic.
In 1999, while in Australia working on the Fatal Shore documentary, he was driving on the wrong side of the road and collided with another car carrying three men, one of whom was seriously injured.
Hughes, who was badly hurt as well, spent weeks in a coma. In the aftermath of the accident he went through lengthy legal proceedings. He also walked with a cane.
Hughes and his first wife, Danne Patricia Emerson, died in 2003. Their son Danton, a sculptor, committed suicide in 2002 at age 34.
He is survived by his second wife, painter Doris Downes, two stepsons, two brothers, a sister and a niece.
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