David Talbot Rice

David Talbot Rice CBE (11 July 1903 in Rugby 12 March 1972 in Cheltenham) was an English art historian. His father was "Talbot-Rice" and both he and his wife published using "Talbot Rice" as a surname, but are also sometimes found under "Rice" alone.

Born in Rugby and brought up in Gloucestershire (England), he was educated at Eton prior to reading archaeology and anthropology at Christ Church, Oxford.[1] At Oxford his circle of friends included Evelyn Waugh and Harold Acton as well as his future wife (Elena) Tamara Abelson (1904–1993) whom he was to marry in 1927. She was a Russian émigrée he had first known at Oxford, who was also an art historian, writing on Byzantine and Central Eastern art and other subjects as Tamara Talbot Rice.[2]

Following his graduation Talbot Rice undertook a number of archaeological digs overseas and developed a passion for all things Byzantine. His expertise in the area of Islamic art was recognised when, in 1932, Samuel Courtauld endowed the Courtauld Institute at the University of London and Talbot Rice was among the first appointments, taking up a position as lecturer.[1]

Professor David Talbot Rice was subsequently appointed to the Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Art at the University of Edinburgh in 1934, a post he held until his death in 1972. In 1937 he gave the Ilchester Lecture, later published as The Beginnings of Russian Icon Painting.[3]

During the Second World War Talbot Rice served with modest distinction as Head of the Near East Section of Military Intelligence (MI3b), which was responsible for Eastern Europe including Yugoslavia but excluding Russia and Scandinavia. Originally commissioned onto the Special List in 1939, he transferred to the Intelligence Corps in 1943. He ended the war with the rank of Major.

When peacetime returned he came back to Scotland and established an Honours degree at the University which combined art history and studio art and is still offered today. His ambition to establish an arts centre in the University was realised posthumously when the Talbot Rice Gallery was founded and named after him.

From 1952 to 1954, he led the excavations of the Great Palace of Constantinople in Istanbul, Turkey.[4]

Awards and honours

He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1968 Birthday Honours.[5]

Selected publications


  1. 1 2 "Professor David Talbot Rice". The Glasgow Herald. 14 March 1972. p. 11. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  2. Dictionary of Art Historians Tamara Talbot Rice.
  3. David Talbot Rice, The Beginnings of Russian Icon Painting: Being the Ilchester Lecture Delivered in the Taylor Institution, Oxford, on 19 November 1937 (Oxford University Press, H. Milford, 1938)
  4. "Palace of the Emperors Excavation". Research. British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  5. The London Gazette: no. 44600. p. 6308. 31 May 1968.

External links

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