The Way It Was – Stephen K. Scher

The Way It Was

Short Biography: Dr. Stephen K. Scher

Dr. Scher was awarded a B.A. from Yale University in 1956, a M.A. from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University in 1961, and a Ph.D. in art history from Yale in 1966. He taught at Brown University in the Art Department from 1961 to 1974, becoming chair of the department in 1972. In 1969 he organized the exhibition, The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century, at the museum of the Rhode Island School of Design, with an accompanying catalogue. In 1974 he left Brown to become President and CEO of Scher Chemicals, Inc., a manufacturer of specialty organic chemicals. He held this position until he retired in 2004. During this period Dr. Scher also continued his activities as an art historian and guest curator, organizing, in 1994, the exhibition The Currency of Fame: Portrait Medals of the Renaissance, at The Frick Collection, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, accompanied by a major catalogue. In 1997, he organized a second exhibition at the Frick: The Proud Republic: Dutch Medals of the Golden Age, also accompanied by a catalogue. In addition, he has participated in exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, both as a lender and a contributor to catalogues: (2004) Byzantium: Faith and Power; (2006) Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture; (2010) The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry; (2011) The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini.

Dr. Scher is a member of four departmental visiting committees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Medieval; European Sculpture and Decorative Arts; Paper Conservation; and Object Conservation. He is also a member of the Visiting Committee for Collections at The Frick Collection. Dr. Scher is a member of the Yale Library Associate Trustees. He is also on the Board of Visitors of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University.

Dr. Scher has lectured and published extensively on medieval and Renaissance art. His own collecting activities have focused on commemorative, especially Renaissance, portrait medals. He is donating the bulk of this collection to the Frick Collection, where he helped organize an exhibition of highlights from the collection, entitled The Pursuit of Immortality: Masterpieces from The Scher Collection of Portrait Medals. In 2019, The Frick published The Scher Collection of Commemorative Medals, a catalogue of the entire collection.

Dr. Scher received the Yale Medal in November 2015, the British Art Medal Society’s President’s Medal in October 2018, and the Iris Award for Outstanding Philanthropy in 2021.


This film was originally shot in 1972, and the objective was to present a brief, but comprehensive visual presentation of the extraordinary world of French cuisine, which was considered the pinnacle of gastronomy, a model against which other cuisines were measured and one of the most important elements of French culture. I wanted to introduce the viewer to some of the reasons why this was so: the fact that the desire for quality cooking existed at all levels of French society, meeting the expectations of a discerning public that needed to be satisfied not only by the restaurants, among which were the small family bistro, the brasserie, the grand, large-scale establishments, locations that offered reasonably priced food, the popular facility with some entertainment for tourists and natives alike, and finally, and most importantly, the famous sources of haute cuisine, but also by the markets that provided the raw materials. In place of a running narrative the film includes interviews with a famous food writer, chefs, and restaurant owners providing valuable explanations and opinions.

The original footage was never edited into a finished film until now, and the passage of time has necessarily changed my original intentions. With the title, THE WAY IT WAS: PARIS RESTAURANTS IN THE 1970s the new objective of the film is to look back to a past that no longer exists in what it offered and perhaps even at the level of quality that no longer exists. This opinion begins to emerge even in the interviews done in 1972 where reference is made to a time when some of these restaurants were founded in the 1920’s during a period of exuberance following World War I. The serious impact of the Great Depression was followed by the even more catastrophic events of World War II, the end of which is referenced by some of the interviewees as a starting point for their own experiences as restaurateurs and a return to a normality that has continued to contain disturbing changes.

The film has now become a retrospective, historical document, a reminiscence of another time with regrets, perhaps, for what has been lost. I hope to infer this through the range of locations, the excellence of the photography, and the narratives that are provided by the interviews. For some, there will be nostalgia, for others gratitude for an introduction to a world they never experienced, and for all, I hope, a satisfying visual delight.

The film was awarded a Grand prize for Cinematography at the 2023 Rhode Island International Film Festival.