Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of David L. Barquist to the position of Curator of American Decorative Arts. Dr. Barquist will oversee a world-renowned collection of American decorative arts, which includes outstanding strength in 18th- and 19th century Philadelphia furniture and silver; the arts of rural Pennsylvania; an unmatched collection of Tucker porcelain, design books, papers and tools; over 500 examples of American glass; and Shaker furniture and objects, as well as fine holdings of Victorian art, Rookwood ceramics and 20th-century crafts.
Prior to accepting the post at the Museum, Dr. Barquist served as Acting Curator of American Decorative Arts at Yale University Art Gallery, where he began his career in 1981 as a National Museum Act Intern in the American Arts Office and rose to positions including special exhibition coordinator, assistant curator of American decorative arts, and associate curator of American Decorative Arts.
"David is a distinguished art historian with a broad range of accomplishments as curator, author, and teacher," said Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Museum. "We are delighted that he has joined our exceptional staff, which will be shaping ambitious plans for the American collections and galleries in years ahead. We will also look to him for stimulating scholarship under the aegis of the Museum’s recently-established Center for American Art."
Joining a team of American specialists, Dr. Barquist will report to Dr. Kathleen Foster, the Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art, and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Museum established the Center for American Art in 2002 with the support of a $5 million endowment gift to its capital campaign from Robert L. McNeil, Jr. The center is dedicated to the exploration of the artistic and cultural heritage of the United States in general and the Philadelphia area in particular, through lectures, symposia, programs, fellowships, publications, research and collaboration.
"David is a widely -respected scholar, astute curator, and fine colleague," said Kathleen Foster. "This is a remarkable time for the Museum, in which David’s experience and skills will find enormous opportunity."
Dr. Barquist’s book, American Tables and Looking Glasses in the Mabel Brady Garvan and Other Collections at Yale University, which included essays by Elisabeth D. Garrett and Gerald W.R. Ward, was published by the Yale University Art Gallery in 1992. It earned Dr. Barquist the Charles F. Montgomery Prize, Decorative Arts Society, for "the most distinguished contribution to the study of American decorative arts in the English language by a North American scholar." Also a major authority on American silver, he is the author of two other important books published by Yale University Art Gallery: Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York, 2001, (with essays by Jon Butler and Jonathan D. Sarna) and American and English Pewter at the Yale University Art Gallery: A Supplementary Checklist, 1985.
Dr. Barquist attended Harvard University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude with highest honors in fine arts in 1979 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his M.A. degree from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Program in Early American Culture, and his Ph.D. in art history at Yale University, where his dissertation topic was Myer Myers and the Silversmith's Trade in New York City, 1746-1795.
In addition to his responsibilities for American decorative arts, Dr. Barquist will work closely with Dr. Foster in collections research and planning for future expansion and reinstallation of galleries and historic rooms in the main Museum building.
About American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The importance of the Philadelphia region as a center for distinguished artistic production for over 300 years as well as the city’s crucial role in American history assured the Museum's strong commitment to American arts. Today the collection, which continues to grow rapidly, is recognized as one of the finest public holdings of American art in existence, with major examples of decorative arts, architecture, painting, and sculpture that have been acquired steadily since the Museum’s founding in 1876. Outstanding areas of the collection are 18th- and 19thcentury Philadelphia furniture and silver, assembled primarily by gifts from R. Wistar Harvey, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Jeffords, H. Richard Dietrich, Robert L. McNeil, Jr., and members of other Philadelphia families. The rural Pennsylvania collections, which began at the turn of the century with the enthusiasm of curator and director Edwin AtLee Barber and patrons John T. Morris and Mrs. William Frishmuth, grew dramatically with large gifts from J. Stogdell Stokes, Titus C. Geesey, and most recently the heirs of Ralph Beaver Strassberger. Areas of strength include collections of Pennsylvania German furniture, ceramics, textiles, fraktur, and toys.
Other decorative arts of note are the unmatched collection of porcelain objects, design books, papers, and tools relating to the short-lived manufacturing venture of William and Thomas Tucker of Philadelphia in the 1820s and 1830s, given by their descendent Anne Tucker Earp in 1951; the 500 examples of American glass and their European prototypes given by George Horace Lorimer in 1938; the Shaker furniture and objects given by Mr. and Mrs. Julius Zieget, and fine holdings of turn-of-the-20th century ceramics and glass by Tiffany, Rookwood Pottery, and others.
Mrs. William Wilstach’s bequest of paintings in 1893 constituted the beginning of the American paintings collection. Among the first purchases with the fund she established were pictures by J. A. M. Whistler and George Inness in 1895, and in 1889, The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first painting by the young African American artist to enter the collection of a comprehensive art museum in the United States. The Museum is fortunate to house a remarkable group of portraits by the Philadelphia artist and scientist Charles Willson Peale, including Rachel Weeping and his Staircase Group, as well as the five family portraits in the Cadwalader Collection, which, together with their related furniture, represent a unique commission in 18th century America. The work of the pioneering early 19th-century Philadelphia sculptor William Rush has its most extensive representation in the Museum as a result of his public commissions to decorate buildings in the city. The most celebrated component of the 19th century paintings holdings, which also include four splendid canvases by Winslow Homer and a strong representation by Mary Cassatt, is the Thomas Eakins Collection, given by the artist’s widow, Susan Macdowell Eakins, and their friend Mary Adeline Williams in 1929 and 1930. Encompassing paintings, sculpture, sketches, and archival material, this gift formed the nucleus for the largest collection of the artist’s work in existence. The American art collections at the Museum are also strong in works by self-taught artists, Pennsylvania Impressionists, and early modernists such as Charles Demuth, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Charles Sheeler.
In 1981, the Women’s Committee of the Museum began to contribute funds from the proceeds of the annual craft show for the purchase of contemporary American crafts, which would bring the historically strong collection of decorative arts up to the present day. These objects provide a focus for the growing collections of contemporary craft art, which includes the Museum’s most recent purchase of period architectural elements, the library fireplace and doorway (acquired together with a wood-paneled music room) designed and carved in 1936 and 1937 by Wharton Esherick for the Curtis Bok house in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania.