Historical Note


In 1931 the Museum appointed W. Norman Brown (1892-1975) as its first curator of Indian art. Brown, who would establish the first academic department of South Asian Studies in the United States in 1947, was at this time also serving as chair of Sanskrit at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time of his curatorial appointment, the Indian Art office was part of the Division of Eastern Art. In 1954, Museum Director Fiske Kimball persuaded Dr. Stella Kramrisch (1896-1993) to join the Museum and assume the curatorial position. Like her predecessor, Kramrisch was a faculty member of South Asian Studies at Penn. Both scholars also lived and taught in India before assuming their stateside academic and curatorial positions. Kramrisch greatly expanded the Museum's holdings in Indian and Himalayan art. In addition to her many scholarly writings, she also curated some of the most significant exhibitions in her field, such as the 1968 "Unknown India," which was the first scholarly survey of Indian folk and tribal art to be presented in the western world. During Kramrisch's tenure, the formal designation of her department was also modified. In 1956 the Museum renamed the division "Oriental Art," with curators in Indian and Far Eastern art. In 1972, it dropped the divisional title, and separately recognized the two curatorial offices. The following year, Kramrisch, who by then was also teaching at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, became Curator Emeritus and Research Fellow at the Museum. She continued to serve solely as Curator Emeritus from 1978 until her death in 1993. In addition to bequesting her personal art collection to the Museum, Kramrisch also endowed the curatorial chair of the department to which she had devoted nearly 40 years of scholarship and service. In the Museum's 1995 annual report, the department was listed for the first time as Indian and Himalayan Art, which remains its current title, and Kramrisch's former position became the Stella Kramrisch Curator. Darielle Mason was the first to receive that appointment in 1997 and continues to serve as curator.

Works Consulted

"Dr. Stella Kramrisch." Annual Report (Philadelphia Museum of Art) (1994):5.

Guide to the W. Norman (William Norman) Brown, 1892-1975, Papers, 1912-1975. University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania, Sept. 1992. University of Pennsylvania Archives. 10 May 2007.