Mary D. Sheriff
1950 - 2016
Hudson Funeral Services
211 S Miami Blvd
Durham, NC
Mary D. Sheriff

September 19, 1950 - October 19, 2016

Chapel Hill

Mary D. Sheriff, internationally celebrated art historian and beloved teacher, died on October 19 at the age of 66. She specialized in eighteenth-century French art and transformed the field by re-evaluating rococo painting, introducing feminist perspectives, and examining European art in a global context. She published widely on artists such as Fragonard and Vigée-Lebrun, as well as on questions of art and gender. She taught at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill since 1983, was a former chair of the Art Department, and was named W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor in 2005. She was also a central figure in eighteenth-century scholarship as an editor of the journal Eighteenth Century Studies and as a founding member of the Historians of Eighteenth-Century Art group. Her scholarly achievements were recognized through numerous visiting professorships, invitations to lecture around the globe, awards, and fellowships from, among others, the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEH. She also made a great impact on the field with her teaching. Both undergraduate and graduate students revered her, and she trained many doctoral students, who follow her example of commitment to excellent teaching and scholarship. In addition to her professional work, she was also an avid traveler, bird watcher, and scuba diver. She and her husband Keith Luria were devoted to each other and shared these professional and non-professional passions. Mary Sheriff was born on September 19, 1950 in Plainfield NJ to Robert William Sheriff and June Leaf. She was educated at Bucknell University and the University of Delaware. She is survived by her husband Keith Luria of Chapel Hill, NC and her father Robert Sheriff of Tarpon Springs, FL. In lieu of flowers, those wishing to honor Mary's memory can make donations to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network or the Duke Homecare and Hospice, 4321 Medical Park Drive, Suite 101, Durham NC 27704. Graveside services will be held on Sunday, October 23, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. at Markham Memorial Gardens in the Kehillah Cemetery. Online condolences may be made at www.hudson
Published by The News and Observer & The Chapel Hill News from Oct. 21 to Oct. 26, 2016.
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Graveside service
Markham Memorial Gardens in the Kehillah Cemetery
Funeral services provided by:
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18 Entries
Dear Mary,

We all miss you. At least, through your writings, we are still connected. Thank you fir what you've done.
lots of love,
Valérie Sauvestre
October 17, 2019
Mary was an unforgettable person, generous with her time and attention. This quality spilled out into her style of scholarship: she didn't scruple to try out new and daring approaches, and not a page of her work lacks daring and freshness. A huge loss, indeed. But her writings broke ground and will last, inspiring many
Madelyn Gutwirth
June 3, 2017
It is really hard to think we will never share again the good, cheerful, happy and interesting moments we had every time Mary came to Paris. Keith, I send you all my love. Valerie Sauvestre, Paris
November 8, 2016
It is really hard to think we will never share again the good, cheerful, happy and interesting moments we had every time Mary came to Paris. Keith, I send you all my love and my thoughts are with you. Valerie Sauvestre, Paris
November 8, 2016
I am deeply saddened by this news. Mary was a lovely person and brilliant scholar. Her work is inspiring and illuminating. I will miss her presence at ASECS and other venues.
Aurora Wolfgang
October 24, 2016
Dear Keith and Mary's loved ones,

Mary was one of my dissertation readers and I am saddened to hear of her passing. She was a tremendous scholar and mentor to me. She became a close friend and I will always treasure our time in Paris together exploring art expositions. She will be sorely missed.
Jennifer Ferng
October 24, 2016
I know Mary memories will last forever in the hearts of all she had touched over the years. May the words at Psalm 116:15 give you peace.
October 24, 2016
Tom and I are stunned and deeply sad to hear of Mary's death. We send our love; our thoughts are with you,
Katherine and Tom Brennan
Katherine Brennan
October 23, 2016
Condolences to those who knew her. Her work has helped so many scholars and her passing is to be mourned.
Shelley King
October 23, 2016
Mary Sheriff was a remarkable person and scholar. She always had great insights into all kinds of issues; and her knowledge of French art history was extraordinary. She enjoyed all aspects of an active life far beyond the University. She was also an energetic leader of her department at the University of North Carolina. We have lost a special person who was a friend to people of all ages and backgrounds. I have great memories of teaching a course with her, sharing good meals, talking about French history, lifting a glass together in French cafes, and reflecting on the vicissitudes of life.

With respect, appreciation, and sadness.
Lloyd Kramer
October 23, 2016
What I remember most vividly about Mary Sheriff is her vibrant energy. She walked with a bounce. She was faculty and I was staff, but she always greeted us with a smile-treated us like equals. I respected her brilliant achievements in her field, but she was modest about all that-it was just what she did, her life's work, in addition to being a teacher-her students thought the world of her.When she was a newbie in the UNCArt Department, the most recent hire, we went out to lunch a couple of times and I liked her immediatelysensed what a real, down to earth person she was-and, like me, a cat lover. In the long run we did not get to be close friends-it's just the way things are-once established she had her colleagues and her students-but on this beautiful autumn day I am thinking a lot about her, and am sad that she is gone.
Caroline Trippe
October 23, 2016
What I remember most vividly about Mary Sheriff is her vibrant energy. She walked with a bounce. She was faculty, I was staff---Slide Curator at the UNC Art Department--but she was always nice to the staff, always greeted us with a smile---the smile you see in this photo of her---she treated us like equals. I respected her brilliant achievements in her field---she was a very great asset to the UNC Art Department, but she was modest about all that. It was just was she did---her life's work, in addition to being a marvelous teacher---her students thought the world of her. When she was a "newbie," just joining the faculty, we had lunch together a couple of times, and I liked her immediately---sensed what a real, down to earth person she was. And, like me, a great cat lover. Ultimately didn't get to be close friends --that's just the way things are ---once established she had her colleagues and her students and her personal life---but on this beautiful autumn day, I miss he, and she is very much present in my thoughts.
October 23, 2016
Dear Keith, I was a friend and colleague of Mary's long ago at the University of Delaware and later as an art historian. Mary was one of those friends I could encounter after years of being out of touch, and it would seem as though we had just seen each other the week before. I remember hearing from her shortly after she had met you, and I could tell it was something very special for her. Mary had such a vibrant zest for life. She was an amazing scholar, teacher, and wonderful person. I was so sad to hear about her passing and wish you my heartfelt condolences.
Kirsten Hoving
October 23, 2016
so many vivid memories of Mary Sheriff, and gratitude for the extraordinary legacy of an extraordinary woman.
Beth Wright
October 23, 2016
Michael Yonan
October 23, 2016
I did not know Mary as well as I wished as she came to UNC just as I was being told to leave for NYC. But over the years the stories came from Chapel Hill about how she had grown to become a beloved faculty member. Her professional accomplishments reflect all that is best in an academic, involved and outgoing, and rewriting history to make it more accurate and timely. UNC was so lucky to have hired her when they did. I only wish I had known her better.
Russell Flinchum
October 23, 2016
Dear Keith and other beloveds of Mary,
I don't know if we've met but I want you to know I am so sorry to learn this sad news.

Just so you know how much we all revered Mary, here is the message I posted on my blog tonight:

It is with a heavy heart that I pass along what I saw with a shock on the back page of the New York Times Business section this morning: the obituary of Mary Sheriff, art historian of the eighteenth century and revolutionary period in France. I knew her from seeing her nearly every year at the meetings of ASECS, although I would have liked to spend more time with her. I'll always remember with bedazzlement the Clifford Lecture she gave the year she was president of ASECS, on the Medusa myth in art. It was absolutely engrossing--and had great pictures too, of course! She was a fabulous scholar and brought Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun back into sight for generations of readers with her book, The Exceptional Woman, among her many other publications.


I hear her students loved her very much, too.

Rest in peace, Mary. We miss you.
Julia Douthwaite
October 22, 2016
Mary Jo Gohmann
October 22, 2016
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