Modern art historian, US museum director and clergyman EA Carmean, Jr has died, age 74Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historians, art history
The Modern art historian EA Carmean, Jr, who was the founding curator of 20th-century art at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC and went on to lead the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, died on 12 October from cancer at his home in the US capital, his family confirmed. He was 74 years old.
Carmean was born in Springfield, Illinois, and received a BA in Art History, Philosophy and Theology in 1967 from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and went on to take graduate studies at the University of Illinois, where he later taught, although he did not complete an MA. He was later awarded an honourary doctorate in Fine Arts from MacMurray College in 1983.
In 1971, soon after leaving the University of Illinois, he joined the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston as a curator of 20th-century Art working under its then director Philippe de Montebello. While there, he organised an exhibition Robert Motherwell’s collages. He was then hired in 1974 by the NGA, which was preparing to open its I.M. Pei-designed East Building to house its Modernist collection, as its first curator of 20th-century art. For the expansion’s 1978 inauguration, he organised a survey of Abstract Expressionist works, American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist. During his tenure at the NGA, he curated important exhibitions on Georges Braque and David Smith, and created a series of show centred on an individual work in the museum’s collection, such as Picasso: The Saltimbanques (1980). He also acquired some important works for the NGA, including Jackson Pollock’s monumental drip painting Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist) (1950).
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