Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, who led the institution with greatness and grace since 1982, died Sunday, June 1, 2008 at her home in Center City Philadelphia of cardiac arrest.
“Anne’s death is a severe loss to our beloved Museum, to the world of art and to those who knew and loved her,” said Gerry Lenfest, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “I have never known a person with higher human attributes: she was learned, a gifted speaker, had an effervescent personality, was a great director and, above all, a deeply caring person. We will miss her greatly.”
An internationally respected art historian and museum leader, she served as The George D. Widener Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1982, and as both Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Museum since 1997. As Director, Miss d’Harnoncourt fostered the growth and distinction of the Museum’s professional staff, and encouraged a sequence of major exhibitions and publications by Museum curators and scholars. Among these are the retrospectives Brancusi (1995), Cézanne (1996), Hon’ami Kōetsu (2000), Barnett Newman (2002) and Salvador Dalí (2005) and surveys on topics ranging from The Pennsylvania Germans: A Celebration of Their Arts (1983) to Japanese Design (1994) and The Splendor of Eighteenth-Century Rome (2000). Each exhibition was accompanied by a groundbreaking catalogue, while other Museum publications produced under her leadership have included British Paintings in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (1986), Handbook of the Collections (1995), Gifts in Honor of the Museum’s 125th Anniversary (2002), and Italian Paintings 1250 – 1450 (2004).
Between 1992 and 1995, Miss d’Harnoncourt oversaw a massive project to reinstall all of the European collections in more than 90 galleries; renovation of 20 galleries of modern and contemporary art followed in 2000. Also in 2000, the Museum achieved a long-term goal by acquiring The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, a neighboring landmark which opened in September 2007 with greatly expanded, state-of-the-art facilities for the Museum’s collections of prints, drawings, and photographs, costume and textiles, modern and contemporary design, and the Library and Archives.
Miss d’Harnoncourt led the Museum through two major capital campaigns: the Landmark Renewal Fund, which raised $64 million between 1986 and 1993; and the 2001 FUND 125th Anniversary Campaign which concluded in 2004, exceeding its goal and raising over $246 million. The 2001 FUND, like the acquisition of the Perelman Building, supported the strategic goals of two successive Long-Range Plans.
Prior to becoming Director, Miss d’Harnoncourt served as the Museum’s Curator of Twentieth-Century Art from 1972 to 1982. A specialist in the art of Marcel Duchamp, she co-organized a major retrospective exhibition in 1973-1974, which traveled to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and The Art Institute of Chicago. During her tenure as curator, the Museum built its contemporary collections and acquired important works by Jasper Johns, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Elizabeth Murray and Sol LeWitt, among others. Miss d’Harnoncourt has written extensively about Duchamp, John Cage, Futurism, and other topics in modern and contemporary art.
Miss d’Harnoncourt received a B.A. from Radcliffe College and an M.A. from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She was a Director of the Henry Luce Foundation, a Trustee of the Fabric Workshop and Museum, and a member of the Visiting Committee of the J. Paul Getty Museum, among other affiliations.
She is survived by her husband Joseph J. Rishel, the Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting Before 1900 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Donations in her memory may be made to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.