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Anne d'Harnoncour
Anne d'Harnoncourt, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, Philadelphia Museum of Art. (Photo: Graydon Wood, 2005.)
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A Director’s Vision: The Legacy of Anne d’Harnoncourt
April 25, 2009 - July 19, 2009
Anne d’Harnoncourt (1943–2008), the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s late and beloved Director who served the Museum and its audiences for four historic and transforming decades, reveled in the art of all ages and cultures. Connecting art with people—while fostering “conversations” among works of art through inspired installations—was her great personal pleasure and professional goal.

To celebrate Anne, her passion for art, and her drive to share creativity’s treasures with all, the Museum presents A Director’s Vision. Throughout the Museum, labels announcing The Legacy of Anne d’Harnoncourt will highlight magnificent examples of the nearly 80,000 works of art acquired during Anne’s directorship (from 1982), some of the more than one hundred modern and contemporary paintings and sculptures acquired while she was curator of those collections (1972–1982), and selections from the great outpouring of gifts presented to the Museum in Anne’s memory. Many of these works of art are on paper or textiles and, due to light sensitivity, cannot be on long-term display, but more than 1,000 are currently on view in the galleries and others can be seen here on the Museum’s website.

Support the Anne d’Harnoncourt Memorial Fund for Art Acquisitions.

Curating Departments

American Art


Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic)
Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic), 1875
Thomas Eakins, American
Oil on canvas
8 feet x 6 feet 6 inches (243.8 x 198.1 cm)
Gift of the Alumni Association to Jefferson Medical College in 1878 and purchased by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007 with the generous support of more than 3,600 donors, 2007
2007-1-1
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Highlights include Thomas Eakins’s Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) (1875) and other treasures of Philadelphia’s cultural and artistic heritage once under threat of leaving the city through sale, such as John Singleton Copley’s Portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin (1773), and Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Angel of Purity (Maria Mitchell Memorial) (1902).

Anne encouraged a concerted effort to increase the Museum’s holdings of African American art, bringing to the galleries painted masterpieces such as Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1897) and Joshua Johnson’s Portrait of Edward Aisquith (c. 1810).

Philadelphia’s central role in the development of American furniture and decorative arts is reflected in the addition of suites of parlor furniture, including rococo examples created by Thomas Affleck in the 1770s for John and Elizabeth Cadwalader and contemporary dramatic wooden elements made by Wharton Esherick for his 1936–37 renovation of the Bok House in Gulph Mills, Pennsylvania.

The American collections, from the colonial era to the present, expanded on all fronts under Anne d’Harnoncourt’s enthusiastic and discriminating leadership. As curator of modern art, Passionate and tireless in her defense of the city’s artistic heritage, she led campaigns to secure some of the greatest masterpieces in the Museum’s collection: Houdon’s portrait of Benjamin Franklin, Copley’s portrait of Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Mifflin, Saint-Gaudens’s Angel of Purity, and Thomas Eakins’s The Gross Clinic. — Kathleen Foster

View selections from the department of American Art >>

 

Costumes and Textiles


"Hands" Quilt
"Hands" Quilt, Winter 1980
Sarah Mary Taylor, American
Pieced and appliquéd cotton and synthetic solid and printed plain weave, twill, flannel, knit, dotted swiss, and damask
83 1/4 x 78 inches (211.5 x 198.1 cm)
The Ella King Torrey Collection of African American Quilts, 2006
2006-163-11
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The Museum’s vast collections of costume and textiles grew from a primarily Western and “high-style” focus to include work in fabric from around the world—including Bangladesh, Peru, India, Japan, and Myanmar—and stunning expressions of folk creativity, such as the Ella King Torrey Collection of African American quilts. The collections also expanded to include cutting-edge, contemporary designs by Issey Miyake, Ralph Rucci, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Vivienne Westwood, among others.

Anne understood that collections must break with tradition to develop. She encouraged us to push boundaries (and borders). She delighted in the unexpected and unusual. Thus, the textile and costume collection has expanded to include traditional textiles and clothing from around the world, work by self taught artists such as the quilter Sarah Mary Taylor seen here, avant-garde fashion, and contemporary fiber. — Dilys Blum

View selections from the department of Costumes & Textiles >>

 

East Asian Art


Poems from the Shinkokin wakashū
Poems from the Shinkokin wakashū, Early 17th century
Hon'ami Kōetsu, Japanese
Ink, gold, and silver on paper; mounted as a handscroll
13 5/16 x 326 3/4 inches (33.8 x 830 cm) Mount: 14 1/8 x 340 3/8 inches (35.8 x 864.5 cm)
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with funds contributed by the members of the Committee on East Asian Art, 1999
1999-39-1
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The Museum’s collections of East Asian art were enriched with acquisitions such as the early seventeenth-century handscroll by Hon’ami Kōetsu, Poems from the “Shinkokin wakashū” (an imperial anthology); an imposing seventeenth-century porcelain Dragon Jar from Korea; and Frederick McBrien III’s distinctive collection of modern and contemporary Japanese craft arts such as Itaya Koji’s Tsuitate Screen with Design of Golden Fox (c. 1950s).

As a colleague and director, Anne d’Harnoncourt had an omnivorous curiosity about all art. Always inquisitive and open to learning about proposed works of art for acquisition, Anne would proudly take visitors to the Asian galleries to show off a handscroll by Hon’ami Kōetsu, or a 15th century Korean vase, or a Chinese scholar’s rock. She saw each work of art as a reflection of the diversity of cultures and societies, and as an effective means of translating the "other" into a language at once personal and collective. — Felice Fischer

View selections from the department of East Asian Art >>

 

European Decorative Arts and Sculpture


Jewelry Cabinet
Jewelry Cabinet, 1867
Charles-Guillaume Diehl, French
Dyed and inlaid woods including maple, sycamore, satinwood, and ebony; gilded bronze decoration
5 feet 3 3/8 inches x 42 1/2 x 22 inches (161 x 108 x 55.9 cm)
Purchased with funds from the gift of Mrs. William S. Lasdon and with the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, 1996
1996-65-1
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The Museum’s holdings of historical European decorative arts grew with notable acquisitions including the purchase of a Jewelry Cabinet (1867) made by Charles-Guillaume Diehl and gifts from the Howard I. and Janet H. Stein Collection of Italian Renaissance maiolica. In 1996, the Museum acquired Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Bust of Benjamin Franklin (1779), an engaging likeness of a brilliant American and Philadelphian.

A significant collection of modern and contemporary design was built through the efforts of Collab, a group of design professionals and aficionados working with Museum curators and with Anne’s enthusiastic support.

Anne presided gracefully (if sometimes nervously) over the growth of our modern and contemporary design collections from hundreds to thousands of objects; she supported our program of building on strengths, in French ceramics, for example, and filling in gaps with examples of periods and artists lacking, such as the mid-nineteenth-century monumental Diehl cabinet. — Kathy Hiesinger


View selections from the department of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture >>

View selections of modern and contemporary Decorative Arts >>

 

European Painting


Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze)
Sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus (Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze), c. 1600-1603
Hendrick Goltzius, Dutch (active Haarlem)
Ink and oil on canvas
41 3/8 x 31 1/2 inches (105.1 x 80 cm)
Purchased with the Mr. and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg Fund for Major Acquisitions, the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund in memory of Frances P. McIlhenny, bequest (by exchange) of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert C. Morris, and gift (by exchange) of Frank and Alice Osborn, 1990
1990-100-1
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The Museum’s rich collections of European art were further strengthened with the acquisition of singular masterpieces such as the paintings Without Ceres and Bacchus, Venus Would Freeze (c. 1600–1603) by Hendrick Goltzius; Mermaid (1896) by Edvard Munch; and the marble Danaid (The Source) (conceived 1886; carved before 1902) by Auguste Rodin.

As invested as she was in the arts of our own time, Anne was very alert to art of the past and the huge importance and potential of older European painting, both in terms of the Museum's rich inherited holding in this area but also the continuing possibilities of enhancing this great strength of the PMA.

No example could better illustrate this than the acquisition of the Goltzius Venus, whose purchase in 1990 was pursued by Anne with great vigor. A long lost masterpiece, famous in its own time, it is a nearly unique and precious example of Dutch Mannerist painting. It turned up in the London art market and was immediately put on hold by Larry Nicholas, a young curator on staff and a Goltzius expert, who, by good chance, was in London at the time, the first person in the dealer’s door. The price was high, Larry’s articulate support of its pursuit winning, but it was Anne's full-voiced championing of this work which won the day. As time has quickly proven, it was an astute and bold act which not only added a special work to the collection but also gives on each encounter (as it did for Rudolph II’s Holy Roman Empire, the first owner) a spellbinding entry into a very magical and sexy story, illustrated with Shakespearean charm and punch. It is a work without equal in any other American museum and one of great enchantment. — Joseph Rishel

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Indian and Himalayan Art


Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion
Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, c. Third quarter of 5th century
India
Sandstone
Height: 48 1/2 inches (123.2 cm)
Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
1994-148-1
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During Anne’s tenure, her longtime colleague Stella Kramrisch, the Museum’s Curator of Indian Art, gave and bequeathed more than 800 objects from her personal collection including the elegant fifth-century sandstone sculpture Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion, one of the finest examples of art created under the powerful Gupta dynasty, which ruled much of northern India. Former Trustee Alvin O. Bellak also gave his fine collection of Indian “miniature” paintings.

Anne had an astonishing ability to perceive quality and power in works of art, no mater how unfamiliar the type. She had the equally astonishing ability to listen, weigh information, and honestly scrutinize her own perceptions and assumptions. She was impervious to fads and trends, opening the Museum’s doors to new realms, such as the modern and contemporary arts of South Asia, only after intense and thoughtful deliberation. One of the Department’s final purchases under her leadership was its first by a contemporary Indian artist (Sabari with her Birds), and one of her final achievements was negotiating to host the Museum’s first retrospective of a modern South Asian artist (Rhythms of India: The Art of Nandalal Bose), which opened less than a month after her death. — Darielle Mason

View selections from the department of Indian and Himalayan Art >>

 

Modern and Contemporary Art


The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign)
The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (Window or Wall Sign), 1967
Bruce Nauman, American
Neon
59 x 55 x 2 inches (149.9 x 139.7 x 5.1 cm)
Purchased with the generous support of The Annenberg Fund for Major Acquisitions, the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund, the bequest (by exchange) of Henrietta Meyers Miller, the gift (by exchange) of Philip L. Goodwin, and funds contributed by Edna Andrade, 2007
2007-44-1
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The Museum’s engagement with the art of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries—a relationship cultivated by Anne—continued with transforming acquisitions of works by Eva Hesse, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Sol LeWitt, Man Ray, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. In 2007, with Anne’s galvanizing enthusiasm, the Museum acquired Bruce Nauman’s iconic neon spiral The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths (1967) [link to Nauman exhibition info].

As the former Curator of Twentieth Century Art, Anne d’Harnoncourt had a great knowledge and passion for modern and contemporary art, especially the iconoclastic work and ideas of Marcel Duchamp. Despite her increasingly hectic work schedule as the Museum’s Director and CEO, she could often be found in the galleries she loved best, such as the rooms devoted to Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, Jasper Johns, and Ellsworth Kelly, whose work she had championed through numerous exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions. Her taste in art was eclectic and open-minded and had little to do with accepted canons of taste and beauty. Indeed, it was her passion and curiosity for art that enabled her to admire and support with equal measure Philadelphia artists, such as Tom Chimes and Edna Andrade, and heroes like Johns, Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg. Fiske Kimball, her illustrious predecessor as Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, liked to describe the period rooms and objects on display in them as "a walk through time." I think Anne understood the Museum in a more open and less linear fashion, conceiving it as a forum for a "conversation"between works of art that took place across centuries and involved the history of ideas. — Michael Taylor

View selections from the department of Modern and Contemporary Art >>

 

Prints, Drawings and Photographs


Christ Crucified between Two Thieves (The Three Crosses)
Christ Crucified between Two Thieves (The Three Crosses), 1653-1655
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, Dutch (active Leiden and Amsterdam)
Drypoint with engraving (fourth state of five)
Image and sheet: 15 1/16 x 17 3/4 inches (38.3 x 45.1 cm)
Acquired with the Muriel and Philip Berman Gift (by exchange) and with the gifts (by exchange) of Lisa Norris Elkins, Bryant W. Langston, Samuel S. White 3rd and Vera White, William Goldman, Herbert T. Church, R. Edward Ross, Jay Cooke, Carl Zigrosser, John Sheldon, the Charles M. Lea Collection, the William S. Pilling Collection, the Louis E. Stern Collection, the Print Club of Philadelphia Permanent Collection, and with funds contributed (by exchange) from John Howard McFadden, Jr., Thomas Skelton Harrison, the Philip and A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation and the Edgar Viguers Seeler Fund, 2003
2003-188-1
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Rembrandt van Rijn‘s drypoint with burin masterpiece Christ Crucified between Two Thieves (The Three Crosses) (1653–55) is a highlight in the vast collections of drawings, prints, and photographs acquired during Anne’s directorship, which also includes The Muriel and Philip Berman Gift of 2,500 Old Master drawings and 42,786 Old Master prints, as well as the Julien Levy Collection of 2,500 early modern and Surrealist photographs.

Anne was in the background as well as in the forefront of all of this department's greatest acquisitions: the old master European drawings and prints from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (1984 and 1985); the Stieglitz photographs and Georgia O'Keeffe drawings acquired from The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation (1997); the Julien Levy Collection of photographs(2001); and the recent acquisition of five major drawings by Ellsworth Kelly (2007). Once these acquisitions landed on Anne's radar she wouldn't let go, in spite of any apparent obstacles that lay in her path! — Innis Shoemaker

View selections from the department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs >>

 

Location

Throughout the Museum and Online. Selections can be identified by the presence of the Legacy icon.

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