Barbara Reise was born in 1940 in Chicago. Her Curriculum Vitae of 1977 gives us an insight into how she perceived herself and her achievements.
An obvious conclusion to draw about Barbara Reise is that she was a woman passionately devoted to her career, and the artists to which it related.
In the following sections you can read more about Barbara's career but there can be no doubt that art was the motivating factor in her life. Barbara's friend Charles Harrison
said of her:
Directly, Barbara's Art History is indispensable to her humanity.
It is part of any place in which she "settles down".
For special people like Barbara it is necessary to discover the right balance between a love like art history and a love like a family.
Letter from Charles Harrison to Barbara Reise, 19 August 1966
Barbara Reise moved to the UK in 1966. Between then and the time of her death in 1978, she developed something of a love / hate relationship with her adoptive home,
veering between struggling with finances and unhelpful landlords, and delighting in the British attitude to life and humour.
Too much English fog and phlegm and too much involvement with contemporary art only makes Barbara a dull Babe
Barbara Reise, 30 April 1975
These two letters, one dating from when Barbara first arrived in London and the other from shortly before she took her own life on 25 January 1978, illustrate the growing sense
of alienation she felt towards the end of her life.
She greatly enjoyed the European art 'scene', but sadly, as time goes on, her correspondence reveals a growing sense of alienation coupled with worries over increasing pressure
of work and legal issues.
In 1969 Barbara had everything going for her. She was the head of art history at a college that was the centre of the Art & Language activity.
She was a contributing editor to Studio International, one of the most influential art magazines of the period, and she was a close friend of a group of artists who were soon
to dominate the international world of art...And it all went wrong...
some of the blame must rest with Barbara herself; the difficulty of working with her became a legend...
We must accept that in our cosy little art world, or art worlds, the face that fits, the social charm, the clean little small-minded life still counts for so much more than the
surfeit of talent, precision, scholarship and emotional involvement that Barbara was capable of and dedicated to.
Lynda Morris, Studio International, 'Barbara Reise', 1978