Richard Spear's primary field of research is seventeenth-century European art, especially Italian painting. His numerous publications have focused on Caravaggio and the school of the Carracci, in particular Domenichino, on whom he has written the standard catalogue raisonne (Yale, 1982), and recently Guido Reni: The "Divine" Guido" Religion, Sex, Money and Art in the World of Guido Reni (Yale, 1997).
Prior to his appointment as Distinguished Visiting Professor at Maryland, Spear long was affiliated with Oberlin College; he also has served as distinguished visiting professor at George Washington University and as Harn Eminent Scholar at the University of Florida. He has had extensive museum experience, directing the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College (1972-83), organizing for the Cleveland Museum of Art the international loan show Caravaggio and his Followers (1971), and serving as the principal author of the exhibition catalogue, Domenichino, Rome, 1996.
Spear was Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin from 1985-88 and is the recipient of many awards, including a postdoctoral Fulbright-Hays to Italy, the Daria Borghese gold medal for the best book of the year on a Roman subject, and grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts of the National Gallery of Art, the National Humanities Center, and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.