Barbara Gold, 58, Sun's art critic, civil rights attorney and lobbyist

May 13, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Barbara Gold, a lawyer who was The Sun's art critic for 12 years, died Tuesday in her sleep of a brain tumor at her home in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood. She was 58.

As the newspaper's art critic from 1966 to 1978, she often raised the ire of local painters and sculptors with her frequently negative commentary.

"She had the guts to take positions that were unfashionable," said painter Raoul Middleman of Baltimore. "Although she was often negative about the arts scene in Baltimore, in a sense she dignified it by bringing such high standards of criticism."

She also made appearances on "The Critics' Place," a Maryland Public Broadcasting television show during the same period.

When she gave up her Sunday art column in 1978, she wrote in her farewell article that she often felt the work of Baltimore's artists was "unimaginative and tentative."

She continued: "A couple of artists frightened me out of a lecture hall once at the Maryland Institute, and that set a pattern for dramatic reaction to much of what I wrote."

Born Barbara Adolph in Newton, Mass., she was a 1963 magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass. She later received a master's degree in fine arts from Harvard University and studied the works of the painter Rembrandt. She earned a law degree from the University of Maryland in 1973.

She established her legal practice while writing her art criticism. For many years, she also was a Maryland General Assembly lobbyist who represented the Maryland Motor Coach Association.

Recalled as a tenacious advocate, she battled school boards over censorship of student newspapers. She also was a member of the Howard County Human Rights Commission.

"If she was on your side, you had a warrior," said lawyer Michael I. Gordon, a friend and colleague. "She did not suffer fools easily."

She was an American Civil Liberties Union attorney in the 1970s, but relinquished the post when she was asked to defend a client with ties to the Nazi party. She told her employer she felt the man was entitled to a defense -- but not by her.

"Barbara was sophisticated, educated, cultured, feminine, and yet her speech was often gruff -- she could speak like a truck driver and said, `I look like a woman, but I speak and act like a man.' -- her words," said Rabbi Paul Caplan at her funeral Thursday.

Her reputation as an attorneyearned her an award from city Comptroller Hyman A. Pressman. He named her the "fightingest lawyer of 1978."

"I am sure the award was well earned," said lawyer Philip Sherman, a friend and colleague.

In the 1960s, she married Joseph Gold, a biologist and attorney. He died in 1998.

She is survived by a companion, Mitchel Abramowitz of Roslyn, Pa.; her parents, Sydney and Dorothy Adolph of Boston; and a brother, Joseph Adolph of Sudbury, Mass.

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