Elisabeth Stevens Schleussner

Published Jul 4, 2018 at 4:00pm

Art critic, fiction writer, and graphic artist, Elisabeth Stevens Schleussner died at her home in Sarasota, Florida, on June 10 of a sudden heart attack. She was 88.

With a journalistic and artistic career that spanned six decades, Elisabeth Stevens Schleussner, who worked under her maiden name Elisabeth Stevens, published over 20 books of fiction, poetry, and drama. As a journalist, she served as the art critic for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Trenton Times, and The Baltimore Sun. Her reviews and articles also appeared in publications including Art News, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Mademoiselle, LIFE, and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 

Born in Rome, New York Elisabeth was, the only child of George May Stevens, who worked for National Distillers, and Elisabeth Stryker, daughter of Hamilton College president Melancthon Woolsey Stryker. Elisabeth studied at Wellesley College. After working briefly in Washington, D.C., she moved to New York, where she attended Columbia University and received a MA with High Honors in Modern Literature.

At the time, when women in journalism were more the exception that the rule, Elisabeth was hired as a general reporter by The Washington Post in the mid sixties and soon became the paper’s art critic. In 1967 she married Robert C. Schleussner, Jr., an engineer and executive. She then moved back to the New York area, beginning her work for The Wall Street Journal and then The Trenton Times. In 1979, after the death of her husband, she moved to Baltimore to take on the post of Art and Architecture Critic for The Baltimore Sun. In 2002 she moved to Sarasota, Florida, where she wrote articles for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Throughout her life, she also wrote fiction and poetry and did artwork that largely encompassed drawings and prints. Shortly before her death she completed her fifth collection of short stories. For her writing she received numerous awards, including residency fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her longtime friend, US Poet Laureate Josephine Jacobsen, described her works as having “a depth of emotion and simultaneous control ... a haunting quality that will linger in the mind.” 

A strong and independent personality, a staunchly loyal friend, and a loving and devoted parent and grandparent, she is survived by her daughter Laura and grandson Xavier.

A memorial service will be held at St. James Episcopal Church, 9 Williams Street in Clinton, New York on Tuesday, July 10 at 10:30 am. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to Brown University for the John Hay Library, which has been endowed with her literary and artistic estate.