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The Philadelphia Museum of Art announced today two promotions and a new appointment to key curatorial positions. Jennifer Thompson has been promoted to head the Museum’s Department of European Paintings, succeeding Joseph J. Rishel, who retired in 2015 and is now serving as Curator Emeritus. Jessica Todd Smith, currently Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, will become Curator of American Art and Manager of the Center for American Art, effective July 1, and Alexandra Kirtley, the Montgomery-Garvan Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts, has also been promoted to full curator.
Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and CEO, stated: “These appointments reflect the Museum’s dedication to supporting the growth of talented and dedicated staff who are leading their fields as well as the importance we place in engaging the very best professionals wherever they may be found across the country or beyond. In this spirit, we are delighted to promote Jennifer Thompson and Alexandra Kirtley and are exceptionally pleased to welcome Jessica Todd Smith to Philadelphia.”
Jennifer Thompson, now The Gloria and Jack Drosdick Curator of European Painting and Sculpture and Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection, joined the Museum’s Department of European Painting in 1999 as a Research Associate for the exhibition Leaves of Gold: Treasures of Manuscript Illumination from Philadelphia Collections. She has curated exhibitions on subjects such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh, and golf in 19th-century Scotland. She provided curatorial oversight for the comprehensive renovation of the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia and the reinterpretation of its collection that was completed in 2012. She was also a key member of the curatorial team that organized the exhibition Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting, on view at the Museum in 2015. Ms. Thompson received her MA degree in Art History and Medieval History in 1995 and a Ph.D. in Art History in 2001 from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
Jessica Todd Smith is currently the Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA. She has been responsible for the presentation and ongoing development of its collection of American art, which has grown significantly over the past decade. She oversaw several expansions and reinstallations of the Huntington’s galleries of American art, most recently in 2016. A specialist in American painting, she has overseen more than 40 exhibitions and has published widely on many topics, including American prints and the work of Charles Sheeler. She joined the staff at The Huntington in 2002. She received her BA degree in 1991 from Harvard University, where she majored in the History of Art and Architecture, and obtained her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2001.
Since joining the Museum staff in 2001, Alexandra Kirtley has been responsible for acquisitions including porcelains and Philadelphia furniture of the Revolutionary War era. Among the exhibitions she has organized are Colonial Philadelphia Porcelain: The Art of Bonnin & Morris, 2008, and, forthcoming in 2016, Classical Splendor: Painted Furniture for a Grand Philadelphia House, with Peggy Olley, the Museum’s Associate Conservator of Furniture and Woodwork. She serves on the Curatorial Advisory Board of the United States Senate’s Commission on Art; is a trustee of The Andalusia Foundation, which oversees the Biddle family’s Delaware River estate; and is a member of the Board of Governors of The Decorative Arts Trust. Ms. Kirtley received her A.B. degree in Art History from Hamilton College in 1993 and an MA from the University of Delaware-Winterthur Program in Early American Culture in 1999.
Like Alexandra Kirtley, Jessica Todd Smith will join the curatorial department headed by Kathleen A. Foster, the Museum’s Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Senior Curator of American Art, and Director, Center for American Art. Dr. Foster stated: “We are marshalling a wonderful team as we plan for future reinstallations of our collection and deepen our research. Alexandra Kirtley is preparing a comprehensive catalogue of our early American furniture. Jessica Todd Smith, who brings an energetic record of acquisitions, publications, and exhibitions in American art, will manage the Center for American Art and give close study to the Museum’s collection of early twentieth century American painting and sculpture.”