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July 1st, 2002
Museum Announces Retirement of Eminent Curator Darrel Sewell and Appointment of Kathleen Adair Foster as Robert L. Mcneil, Jr. Curator of American Art

Philadelphia, PA (July 1, 2002) --Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, today announced that Darrel Sewell, the Museum’s eminent Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art, will retire on October 1, 2002, after a tenure of almost 30 years. Kathleen Adair Foster, currently the Curator of Western Art after 1800 at Indiana University Art Museum, will succeed him.

"Darrel Sewell has overseen a remarkable era of growth in the presence of American art at the Museum," Ms. d’Harnoncourt said. "He arrived in 1973, the year when the Department of American Art was founded, to become its first curator. His contributions to the entire field have ranged from Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, the astonishing, encyclopedic exhibition that he organized in 1976 in celebration of the Bicentennial and the reinstallation of the American Wing in 1977, to the remarkable Henry Ossawa Tanner exhibition in 1991. Most recently he has masterminded the formidable retrospective Thomas Eakins: American Realist that opened at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last fall, traveled to the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, and is currently on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He has made many stellar acquisitions, including major works by Washington Allston, William Rush and John Singleton Copley, the Cadwalader Collection of paintings by Charles Willson Peale, a rare complete interior by Wharton Esherick from the music room of the Curtis Bok House and a fine group of 20th century American crafts.

"The Museum has found in Kathleen Foster the ideal candidate to succeed Darrel. She is a superb curator, scholar, teacher and author, also deeply grounded in Philadelphia, and wonderfully suited to carry forward the goals of the department in the years ahead. Kathy was an outstanding contributor to the Eakins project, and we are absolutely thrilled to welcome her as the next Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Curator of American Art."

Dr. Foster, who will begin her position at the Museum in October 2002, stated: "I am deeply honored to accept the McNeil Curatorship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the opportunity it offers to work with the Museum’s vast and rich collections and with colleagues both inside the Museum and beyond its walls. In many ways it is a homecoming for me, because of my earlier work preparing the catalogue for the Museum’s great Bicentennial show – one of Darrel Sewell’s enduring contributions to the Museum’s history -- and my earlier involvement with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The Philadelphia Museum of Art holds one of the finest collections of American art in this country, and it is an honor to join the staff of such a great museum. The coming years promise to be even more eventful than ever for American art, and I am delighted that Darrel will have an ongoing affiliation with the Museum, assisting in the many projects that are to come."

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a B.A. in the History of Art from Wellesley College in 1970, Dr. Foster served as a curatorial assistant and teaching assistant at the Yale University Art Gallery from 1970-73. She pursued graduate studies in American Art at Yale, where in 1982 she received her Ph.D. Between 1979 and 1989, she held a number of curatorial positions at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she was co-organizer of major exhibitions. In addition to contributing two essays to the catalogue for the Eakins retrospective, her publications include the books Thomas Eakins Rediscovered (Yale University Press, 1997), Captain Watson’s Travels in America: The Sketchbooks and Diary of Joshua Rowley Watson, 1772-1818 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), Writing About Eakins, co-authored by Cheryl Leibold, (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), and Daniel Garber (Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1980). Dr. Foster is a member of the adjunct faculty of Indiana University, and has lectured at a number of academic institutions, including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Yale University.

"I can’t imagine a more rewarding place to be a curator than the Philadelphia Museum of Art," said Darrel Sewell. "Having been so fortunate as to explore in depth one of the great American collections and to work with my extraordinarily talented colleagues in this Museum has been a matchless experience. I am absolutely delighted that Kathleen Foster, who has been a good friend of our Department of American Art for many years, will be my successor."

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