Dr. Norman Earl Land Jr. was an art history professor at MU from 1975-2015, specializing in the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods.
He served as chairman of the Department of Art History and Archeology from 1985-1988, 1990-1992 and 2003-2004. He also served on the Faculty Council for University Policy from 2000-2003 and 2006-2012.
Land died Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021, in his home in Columbia at the age of 78. He leaves behind his two children, William and Sarah Riley-Land. He also leaves behind his granddaughter, Della Riley-Land; brother, A. Parker Land; and sister, Kay Lutz.
Julie Plax, a former art history professor at the University of Arizona, met Land during his second year of teaching at MU. During Plax’s time as a graduate student, he acted as both her MA thesis advisor and a member of her dissertation committee.
She recalls having long, enriching conversations with Land, whom she thought of as not just a teacher, but a friend as well.
“Norman was always very personable and very helpful,” Plax said. “He was a great help to me in honing my writing style.”
Colleagues say he would go on to be a professor beloved by his students and highly respected by his colleagues. His passion for Renaissance art shone through in his lectures, and he was always happy to help students who were struggling.
“He was always very courteous with the students in a way that kind of felt old-fashioned and formal and I think was sometimes kind of soothing to students,” said Anne Stanton, an associate professor of Medieval Art History at the MU College of Arts and Science and a longtime colleague.
Despite large lectures where he might teach hundreds of students, he would stand at the door at the beginning of each class to greet them. He would also be sure to share his personal recipe for spaghetti carbonara with every class he taught.
Land was an avid writer with several published works, such as “Potted Tree: Essays in Venetian Art” and “The Viewer as Poet: The Renaissance Response to Art.” In addition to books, he published shorter studies, articles and peer-reviewed journals.
He was a recipient of many academic honors, including his status as mentor for the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program from 1996-1998 and 2010-2011. According to his obituary, the academic honor he held in the highest regard was the Outstanding Professor Award he received from the Kappa Delta sorority in 2000.
Sarah Marsh, the Kappa Delta alumna who nominated Land for the award, said she felt a close bond during the time she was his student, viewing him as a role model.
Marsh said she struggled with depression during her freshman year and was unsure what she wanted to study. After her first class with Land, she immediately changed her major to art history.
“His passion was really contagious. He made me want to dive in and really learn everything I could about art history,” she said. “He believed in me, and I always considered him one of the main reasons that I was able to succeed at Mizzou.”
Beyond the classroom, Land took pride in and spent a great deal of time with his two children. He and his wife divorced when his children were young, so he would drive several hours every other weekend to pick them up from their mother’s home in Cape Girardeau.
Activities he did with his children growing up included playing “Mario Kart,” visiting the Museum of Art and Archaeology in Columbia and spending summers in Outer Banks, North Carolina.
Reflecting on her father, his daughter Sarah Riley-Land described him as reserved and introverted, yet compassionate and understanding. Growing up, she always felt comfortable coming to her father with problems.
“He always made us feel very supported,” she said. “He literally was there for me every step of the way. Looking back, he was really good at giving advice and making us feel like everything was gonna be okay.”