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Gisela Richter was born in London to a family of eminent art historians. Her parents were Jean Paul Richter and Louise M. Richter, née Luise Marie Schwaab. The Richters lived for a while in Rome and Florence before moving back to London in 1892. Gisela attended Maida Vale School and the University of Rome, where she decided to become a classical archaeologist after hearing Emmanuel Loewy's lectures. She entered Cambridge University in 1901, but could not take a degree because the university did not officially admit women. She went on to study at the British School at Athens. In 1905, she followed American archeologist Harriet Boyd Hawes on her return to Boston, seeking more career opportunities. In Boston, Gisela Richter met Edward Robinson, director of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. When he became assistant directorr of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, he hired Gisela Richter as a temporary curator of Greek vases. She was named assistant curator in 1910. Beginning in 1915, she became a prolific author of popular books on art that made her one of the most influential people in classical art history of the day. She was made associate curator in 1922, and curator of Greek and Roman Art in 1925, a position she held until 1948. She lectured at Columbia University, Yale University, Bryn Mawr College, and Oberlin College. In 1952, she was named curator emerita and moved to Rome with her older sister Irma A. Richter, an artist and scholar. There she continued to publish and revise her other books. They included The Engraved Gems of the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans (1968-1971); a third edition of Kouroi (1970); Perspective in Greek and Roman Art (1970) and a fourth edition of Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks (1970). In 1961, she taught at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens.
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