Saturday, May 9, 2009

Jasper Rose, Uniquely Himself

Jasrper passed away on June 12, 2019. He was 89. He was a brilliant man with a special quality that many brilliant men wish they possessed. He was kind.

There is a page on the UCSC website that gives more information about his life and career than is available here.

Jasper Rose was a professor of Art History at UC Santa Cruz for many years. During those years, he touched the lives of many people. Oddly enough--probably because Jasper felt modern technology was the downfall of civilization--he has left little trace of his passage on the internet. As shown by the interview in this blog, "Goodbye, Mr. Rose", he believed his talent lay in teaching, not publication, so it is no surprise that he has published little. If you knew Jasper and would like to tell a story about him, please add a comment to this post. I would also like to hear from people who know his personal history, or where I can find that information. Once I have collected this information, I intend to write a wikipedia article about him, or some other appropriate tribute, with the assistance of my wife, Holly, nee Holst.

As of this writing, Jasper is alive and well and living near Bath, England, with his wife and a box of watercolors.
Sketch of a Hay Wain and a dog by John Constable (1821)

Recently, an artist of our acquaintance criticized a friend of mine's ability to draw. This made me remember (a la Proust) a lecture given by Rose about the English landscape artist, John Constable. Rose projected the painting, The Hay Wain, which is a full-size landscape. In 2005 this painting was voted the second greatest English painting, after Turner's, The Fighting Temeraire. So it is definitely one of the icons of art that Rose loved to deflate.

Next, Rose projected a sketch of a hay wain Constable had drawn as a study for the famous painting. He pointed out in what ways the sketch was not very well drawn. Also in that sketch is a dog that is so poorly drawn as to be barely recognizable as a dog. It looks like one of James Thurber's animals. Rose concluded his lecture by saying that anyone in the lecture hall could draw a sketch as well as that one by Constable. And he urged everyone not to be discouraged in their artistic endeavors.

To date, more than 2700 people have viewed this post. Please comment on this post to add your thoughts, positive or negative, about Jasper Rose.


eurydike said...

I, too, was a student of Jasper's at UC Santa Cruz about 30 years ago. He taught a class with Mary Holmes, a great visionary painter herself, on "The History of Landscape Painting". He taught me a whole new way of looking at the world. I remember one tree on Graham Hill Road that I always looked at when passing by, and always thought of Jasper. Jasper is like a modern John Ruskin.
I wish I could have tea with him today.
Stuck in L.A.
Nicholas Pierotti 7-7-2009

I think his and Mary's class alone made my four years at UC Santa Cruz worthwhile.

Unknown said...

Bluntly honest and vociferously opinionated, (perhaps due to the large lecture hall in which I took his Art History class), Jasper Rose would signal the tech in the faraway booth to proceed to the next slide by slamming his cane down on the nearby table, thus indelibly imprinting our young and impressionable minds with each and every image of the art of the past.

thinking said...

jasper sat on my oral History boards. This was in 1982, and even back then I remember him railing against the computerization of the card catalogue at the library. When I graduated, I remember him saying, "I shall miss your....effervescence." No before or since has referred to my effervescence! I'm sure he doesn't use email. Do you know his address or town he's living in?

Chris Wilcox
Cowell '82
Berkeley CA

Derek said...

I too took my oral exams with Jasper and he was force of nature! Funny, interesting and never boring! I remember how e had to handwrite our papers because it was a lost art in his opinion!

Shyamala said...

I was among the original Arts and Crafts and their Histories cohort studying with both Jean and Jasper Rose, as well as Al Johnsen, Mary Holmes, Paige Smith and more.
I recall sketching peppers for an aquatint while Bruce Chadwick (?)moved about his green house lairs.
It was due to Jasper that I was admitted to UCSC despite never graduating from H.S. and at that point a run-a-way living beneath redwoods behind the fure Whole Earth restaurant Fall, 1969.
I gather that the only man with whom I ever waltz hass passed over to another realm given this is entitled a tribute to his memory.
Is Jean alive? How are their children, what are they up to?

Allan said...

Jasper is alive and well and living in England near Bath. The article refers to his departure from UCSC. Sorry if some of you were confused.

Nathan said...

I was at Porter 85-6 and fortunate enough to be under Jasper's wing. (He and my father were professors together at Rice in the 60s.) Rose and I shared a tipple, he always complimented my shoes (Brogues were and I imagine still are a rarity on the UCSC campus), and I had Office Hours with the man (the esteemed Gillian Welch another minion therein) and Rose instructed us to produce illustrated books of original poetry. That book remains, to this day, my most regrettable outing in a long history of regret. But I thank him for that damn exercise every day. God bless you Jasper Rose, you have touched many a soul.

Jim Meskimen said...

Jim Meskimen, Oakes '82.

I am so happy to find this Blog! I would like to find the interview mentioned in the Blog, "Goodbye Mr. Rose"
I have created a character in performance, Knestor Jackdaws, who owes much of his style and viewpoint to Jasper, and recently wrote about that in my blog at
I hope those who remember and revere Mr. Rose will find some shadow of his lecturing style in my meager presentation.
Thanks very much for posting this!

Anonymous said...

I studied at UCSC from 1977-1982. I was a Crown science geek, so I never had a class with Jasper Rose. I did occasionally attend Penny University with Mary Holmes and Page Smith at the original Cafe Pergolesi in the court yard behind the pre-quake Bookshop Santa Cruz.

I do have an unforgettable memory of Jasper Rose etched into my mind. Around 1979 there was a great deal of pressure coming from the Regents to end the narrative evaluation system and institute a grading system. Students were in an uproar. The narrative system provided much more information about a student's actual abilities, work completed, and unique talents. I attended a rally in the Cowell dining hall, and Jasper Rose was one of the speakers. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard of Mr. Rose. He made an enormous impression, and one felt that was the nature of his personality: somehow larger than life.

He strode onto the stage with a dramatic flourish. As I recall, he wore a cape, and the head of his walking stick was a small bust of himself in silver. He eyed the podium and microphone that had been used by the other speakers, and then continued to walk defiantly past it a good ten yards to the right of the stage. He leaned upon his stick and surveyed the crowd for a good twenty seconds, allowing a pregnant silence of anticipation to build. Then he projected his booming voice into the room with all the force of a fine shakespearian actor and spoke the word "Grades". He drew the word out to it's full possible value, paused a few seconds, then completed his statement: "are a method of sorting vegetables." The room exploded with applause and wild cheering for perhaps a full minute or more.

I was led to this blog after reading the following blog post:

It is about grade inflation, and how meaningless the A grade is becoming. It made me think of the days at Santa Cruz and the fight to preserve an intelligent alternative to grades in a world insisting on short, coded, and relatively meaningless categorization of students. As the cost of education soars out of control, and the prevailing tides of our country force administrators into focusing on hard business choices more intently than educational quality, I suspect Universities are subject so some of the negative incentives of greed that led Wall St. rating agencies to inflate their grades so that toxic CDO's undeservedly carried AAA ratings. Any more recent University of California students may weep to learn that when I first attended in 1977, the annual tuition was $770! And based on my SAT scores, I was awarded what was known as a Cal Grant A that paid that tuition for me. In those days it was still understood that investment in education was a net gain for society. Now the logic of markets has inflated the cost of education beyond belief, students graduate with inflated grade averages, and are saddled with decades of debt.

Allan said...

Thank you for your comment, lapelpinhead. Jasper was certainly a fighter for education as opposed to training for a career. The situation is similar to the credit-rating agencies. Since the companies pay for the rating service, they compel the agencies to give them good ratings or forgo the fee.

Similarly, the students are the ones paying for the instruction and they demand high grades for their money. Our country is currently so divided that we cannot agree to support public education because we do not think the disadvantaged students deserve our support.

Grades are bunk. Standardized testing is worse. Jasper retired while still at the peak of his intellectual powers because he grew tired of fighting for his principles. Fortunately he left behind a few who will continue the fight. Thank you for your comment.

Verbivore said...

As a studio art major, Jasper Rose was my adviser, although I knew him only very superficially in that capacity. However, I took four classes from him from 1979 to 1983 (three art history and one studio art class, the latter which was held at his home on Ocean Avenue Extension in Santa Cruz), which gained me the most access to him. From my first Art History survey class to the upper division course I took from him on William Morris, I found him to be thoroughly enthralling and entertaining. He was unrivaled by any of my other professors, save perhaps by Art Pearl, my Education 101 professor.

Jasper was definitely larger than life and a theatrical professor, using his cane to great advantage to emphasize his strong opinions! I loved his flowery speech and my favorite passage from my narrative evaluations came from him. I was tickled when he wrote: "She shone in the universe!" Needless to say, there was never another evaluation that sparkled like that one. And now I return the favor...

I recall fondly his patience with my slow drawing pace, encouraging me to focus on the process and not the product. He was definitely unorthodox and gave us refreshing and imaginative assignments. For one project in our 500 person Art History class, we were tasked to dress as angels. The parade of characters was an amazing sight for a university class (or anyplace else for that matter)! The highlight came though when one of the female students flitted through the crowd (with much fanfare), wearing only the sheerest, diaphanous fabric covering her angelically naked body. Well, at least she was art-historically accurate and Jasper approved! I suspect she received a glowing evaluation for her daring "costume."

Personally, the most memorable experience I had with Jasper was being permitted into his home for various drawing and painting sessions. His house was so Jasper. In fact, he described the roofline on the pair of dormers on his second story as resembling his eyebrows, which was quite accurate! The interior was overwhelmingly English and was filled with antiques and artifacts that felt like something out of Hogwarts. Having never been to Europe at that point, it was like a fairy tale set to me. Jasper's trademark wild white hair, cane, bow tie and beret (or wooly cap) completed the eccentric professor mystique for me. Anyone taking these classes knew they were experiencing something unique and extraordinary!

He really did try to embody his philosophy of connecting with his students and I sensed he was quite shy behind all his bluster and exaggerated eccentricity. Now that my son is contemplating colleges for application next year (including UCSC), I researched Jasper to find out if he was still around and found the update on this blog. I am sad to read that he left Santa Cruz so disillusioned.

He will always remain for me emblematic of a magical and philosophically committed period of my life. He was the quintessential Santa Cruz professor--outspoken, dedicated, charming, witty and a brilliant intellectual! Long live Jasper Rose!

Dream Unfold said...

I never took a class with Jasper Rose, but I was lucky to attend one of his lectures on, well, I want to say impressionism, but it was something much more encompassing. The thing I remember most is when he said that we, in Santa Cruz, were blessed with an atmosphere, very much like that in which the Impressionists flourished. We had sunshine, dappled shadows, ponds, rivers, etc. He awakened me to the splendor my surroundings. Another time I had the pleasure of dining with he and his family. He asked what I was doing and I told him I'd graduated and was staying in Santa Cruz because I liked it so much. He paused for a moment and then, in a very dry, English tone, said, "Ah... still skimming the cream."

David Hingston said...

It was the sixties. Anything and everything seemed more-or-less possible. It seemed that UCSC was dedicated to the proposition that the main purpose of a liberal arts education was to illuminate and bring forth something particular and essential in the individual student/scholar.

Jasper modeled what that could look like.

Someone on this blog said he was sad that Jasper left UCSC disillusioned. I don't know the details. However, it's true that UCSC has morphed into something quite different from what its founders and those who went there in the first ten or so years of its existence wanted, or felt they were building. As far as I can tell, it's now one of the prettier pieces of the military-industrial complex. No surprise, that. The complex I speak of has got just about all of us in its grip. There must a reason; I mean, maybe it's a good thing somehow.

Nonetheless, for me, being part of the experiment at UCSC that Jasper helped to lead was a really great experience. After I graduated from UCSC I went to grad school at Princeton -- and that was like going back to high school.

jules said...

I met Jasper Rose today although I didn't know who he was until later this evening when I found this blog. I was in Bath with my husband and children and we decided to walk past our old art college on Sydney Place (it was in two large Georgian houses knocked through to create the premises for the art foundation course). As we walked past one of the houses we saw a woman speaking to a man who had come to open the door. I asked what the buildings were now used for since the art courses all moved to Corsham and the wonderfully eccentric man invited us all in to look round. He bought the property in 1997 and it was now his home. Our old painting studios were now his living room complete with dozens of paintings on the walls by himself (at which point I noted his name was Jasper Rose), his wife and two sons. A baby grand piano, several tapestries and pieces of antique furniture were dotted about giving an air of faded grandeur. Our old print room was now his library full of hundreds of books. It was only a brief visit before we were ushered out again as he was expecting more guests but it made our day. What a delightful old chap!

Unknown said...

@ Jules--So great tohear theat you met Jasper. By any chance do you have his mailing address? I'd loe to send him a note.

eurydike said...

I'd love his mailing address as well, if you have it. Jasper taught me how to SEE

Unknown said...

99 Sydney Place

I hope you manage to make contact. Isn't the internet wonderful!

Unknown said...

Jasper is often to be found in the Waitrose cafe in Bath. I had coffee with him yesterday.

Alan Arthurs

Unknown said...

Anyone who sees Jasper should give him this message: Cowell College is having a celebration of his old dear friend (my grandmother) Mary Holmes this April and May. If there were ANY way to get him on the horn while the festival is happening, it would be great.
-Rachel O'Malley

Unknown said...

Wish I had known he lived near Bath, England (visited there in 2007). Found a great blog from my time at UCSC (Cowell) from 1966 - 1970 and there is great picture of him with Mary Holmes. Also Page Smith is pictured there, too.

jes said...

I was a music composition student at UCSC from 1981-85, and a College V/Porter student. I always loved running into Jasper and talking with him on campus, even through I wasn't studying art history as a major (my minor was Classics, with Norman O Brown, another great prof!)
When I graduated, I was pretty angry about some Porter College things (unimportant now, of course) so I thought what I should do was go the way of the medieval university students, who were essentially kicked out into the real world at the end of their studies dressed in a burlap sack.
I found and wore a burlap sack instead of a graduating gown.
When I walked up on stage, Jasper visibly reacted, and he got up and walked over and shook my hand. I think he got it.

Aaron said...

Jasper Rose was one of the first professors who really encouraged my creativity as a writer and painter when I was a freshman as UCSC in 1985. I wrote a book of poetry with paintings that was inspired by William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience that the University Library ended up buying as a result of his class assignment. I was fortunate to have had him in a small discussion group as part of my first year core class as well as in his art history course. I feel that I owe much of my continued endeavors as a writer to his influence on me at a young age. Aaron Leventman, Class of 1989, UCSC

bhorn12000 said...

Unfortunately I never had any classes with Jasper Rose during my student years '77 off and on through '83.

Seeing the comment about him banging his cane on the table to request the next slide reminds me of the comment from the person who was the head of my department when I first started working at UCSC who started in our department as a projectionist. Apparently in some classrooms he would bang his cane on the projection screen rather than the table, ruining at least one large lecture hall screen. I believe the same person said that Jasper always had a flask of brandy with him to keep him going during lectures.

On our trip to England last year, my wife insisted on seeing the great scissors arches in the Wells cathedral because Jasper Rose had spoken so enthusiastically about it in the class she had with him.

Allan said...

My wife, Holly, and I attended many lectures and had tea with Jasper at his home. At no time did I notice he had taken brandy, although the English certainly have no qualms about the habit. He was always mentally sharp and had a wonderful Oxbridge accent.

Thanks, once again, Jasper, for inspiring Holly and me!

Elaine said...

I was one of his Art History students at UCSC in 1978 and he taught me more about life than any teacher I've had before or since. I was also lucky enough to have seen his exhibition in town with a fellow classmate (we were the only students in attendance). I loved his watercolors and wish i could have afforded to buy one at the time.

It's so good to hear he is well and still painting :) I live in France now and am now tempted to go to Bath just to say hello and thank-you to the best teacher I've ever had.

eurydike said...

I was in Jasper's and Mary Holmes's "History of Landscape Painting"class, but I dont remember if it was 77 or 78. That class changed my life. I could never look at a tree the same way again.

I live now in the mind of Turner and the world to me is an impressionistic blur increasingly destroyed by the smartphone mindset and the digital plague.

Oh for a world where we all sat by canals and painted watercolours. Thank you for your poat, Elaine. Were we int he same class I wonder??????????

Allan said...

Thanks for the post, Elaine. Since you are living in France, I suggest you take the opportunity to cross the channel and visit Bath. Perhaps you will find Jasper beside a canal with a portable easel, or at the Whiterose Cafe expounding broadly upon the virtues of Constable and Stubbs. Please tell him about this website and show him the lovely things you said about him. Perhaps he'll knock down the price on one of his watercolors.

Unknown said...

Hello, I was thrilled to find this site and to discover that Professor Rose is still with us on this earth! I took his enormous and enormously inspiring art history survey as a first year student at UCSC in, oh dear, 1978. I was moved to write a poem for him about ancient Crete, and he loved it, read it aloud to the auditorium and praised my poetic gifts, even comparing me to Hopkins! I remember his presence, his wit, his mastery of the field, his love of teaching. Fast forward over 35 years--I am a professor at Williams College, and still write poetry. My first book is coming out. I would love to send a copy to him with a letter of thanks. Do you have his snail mail address? Thank you!

epw said...

Jasper Rose was my history tutor at King's College, Cambridge in 1960 for one tutorial session that began at 4 p.m. "Brandy and soda?" he inquired, holding out a glass which I nervously took. He stared at me (a gawky 19 year old) without saying a word. I began to feel uncomfortable. Then he shouted at me, "Why are you wearing a tie?" "Shall I remove it?" I asked. "No, no, he cried, "I want a sociological explanation." By this time I was so rattled that I could hardly mumble an answer.

The following day I went to the Senior Tutor and asked if I could be supervised by someone else. This was arranged.

beckster said...

I was a Studio Art student at UCSC from 83-87. I had a few experiences with Jasper, but only one official class. I think it was AH 101, around the Renaissance. There were 400+ people, or maybe it was more than that? A really huge class. Everyone wanted his class. We had sections, with TAs handling smaller discussion groups, but I had Jasper, which was wonderfully informative and entertaining. I went to his house twice, I think. That was a wonderland of Art and stuff. His wife was welcoming and kind to us. I remember he had a son named Inigo.
For the final, people had the choice to write a paper or paint/draw/sculpt some kind of related project. Mine was a section of a famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. When I saw him during office hours to get his opinion, he said, "MY Dear, you've turned Bruegel into Gauguin!!!". I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not? But looking at it, I saw that he was right. He also told me that my "whites were a bit too white" And it was like a lightbulb went on. I worked on the painting a bit more, then turned it in.
When I arrived for the last class, my painting was up on the stage on an easle with a few others and some drawings. I was extremely shy, so I was freaking out and hardly heard what he said. My prize was a book on Titian, with Jasper's name on the inside cover.
He spoke at my year's Porter Graduation and it made my day.
So glad to hear he is alive and well and living in Bath.
Oh, and I named my daughter, Jasper

Alan said...

This morning Jasper and I met in the Waitrose cafe near the Pulteney Bridge in Bath where we often meet. You will be pleased to hear that both he and his wife are well. He often speaks of his years in Santa Cruse which he remembers fondly.