Dennis Patrick Longwell, an active community member, published author and Sag Harbor art history professor, died in his sleep April 24 at his home with his wife by his side. He was 83 years old.
Longwell was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1938 to two physician parents, Charles Longwell and Edna Mae Longwell. A proud New Yorker by choice since the 1960s, he moved to the East End with his young family in 1983.
He attended public schools in Herrin, Illinois and graduated from Yale University in 1960 with a BA in philosophy. He earned an MA in Film Studies from Northwestern University and an MA in History of Photography from the Visual Studies Workshop at SUNY Buffalo University. He also took courses towards a doctorate. in Art History from the Graduate Center at CUNY.
He studied acting under Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in the 1960s and co-authored, with Meisner, Sanford Meisner on the gamea seminal work of theater instruction which has been translated into Chinese, German, Danish, Italian and Spanish and has remained in print continuously since 1987. An accomplished actor himself, as a young man Longwell performed at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT as well as the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival alongside a teenager John Lithgow.
While he was assistant curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he wrote the monograph Steichen: The Master Prints 1895–1914, the definitive book on Edward Steichen’s early photographs. His varied professional career also included work as a real estate agent and, later in life, as a visiting professor of art history at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and an instructor at the Graduate Center and Parsons School of Design.
Longwell was a longtime parishioner of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Bridgehampton. An enthusiastic amateur choral singer, he sang for many years with groups such as the Choral Society of the Hamptons and the New York Choral Society as well as the Riverside Choral Society.
He was also active in politics and labor advocacy, serving as treasurer of the Common Sense Party of Sag Harbor and as a member of the first contract negotiation committee for assistant instructors at Parsons. He had met the great love of his life on a picket line, at MoMA, when he was dissuaded from crossing by a persuasive registrar named Alicia Grant. For nearly half a century, they will be inseparable. He was an integral part of the East End art community, faithfully accompanying his wife to events at the Parrish Art Museum, where she had worked since the 1980s.
He was happiest near the water, at Long Beach or Sagg Main Beach and under sail on Peconic Bay. He was an accomplished cook who loved ice cream and well-prepared simple foods, nothing more than the summer bounty from our local farms. He was also a committed member of the Sag Harbor Meetings of Friends of Bill W. His nearly 40-year commitment to putting personal health and family well-being first was an inspiration to many.
Longwell is survived by Alicia, his devoted wife of 46 years, and his two children, Julia, of Lake Worth Beach, FL and Oliver, of Portland, OR. He was the beloved grandfather of Milena and German Lopez-Longwell, also of Lake Worth Beach. Sabrina, an ARF rescue cat, is the latest in a long line of pets close to her heart.
The family thanks East End Hospice for the comforting and expert care he received during his last peaceful days. Deep gratitude is also extended to Angelo Bagnoli, of Sag Harbor, for his unwavering devotion to the welfare of Longwell in the final chapter of his life. The family suggests a donation in Longwell’s name to Doctors Without Borders or Eastern Hospice as a suitable heirloom for those who wish it.