Meet the Museums' Directors

Albert Pinkham Ryder's
Albert Pinkham Ryder's "Jonah" is Elizabeth Broun's favorite. (The Renwick Gallery)
Sunday, June 25, 2006

Elizabeth Broun, director,

Smithsonian American Art Museum

BIO: Art historian, 59, born in Kansas City, Mo.; raised in Independence, Kan. Majored in French and art history at University of Kansas; got a master's at Kansas in medieval art history. Became interested in museum work through graduate seminars at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Spent three years at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Earned a doctorate in American art history at Kansas for her work on American art exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Has done extensive curatorial work on Albert Pinkham Ryder, Thomas Hart Benton, Stuart Davis, Childe Hassam, Patrick Ireland, Pat Steir and James McNeill Whistler. Came to American Art in 1983. Has been director since August 1989.

QUOTE: On the delays that kept the museum closed for six years:

"In retrospect, I have come to believe it was a blessing in disguise. It gave us time to think of ambitious things we would have never done."

IF SHE COULD TAKE HOME ONE PAINTING: Ryder's "Jonah" (1885-1895).

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Marc Pachter, director,

National Portrait Gallery

Alice Neel's
Alice Neel's "Self Portrait" is Marc Pachter's top choice.
BIO: Cultural historian, 63, grew up in Los Angeles. Graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and did graduate work in American history at Harvard. Joined the Portrait Gallery in 1974 as chief historian. Has been director since 2000. From 2001 to 2003 he also directed the National Museum of American History, making him the first person to lead two Smithsonian museums at the same time. Highlights of his tenure include raising $30 million to ensure Gilbert Stuart's "Lansdowne" portrait of George Washington would remain on permanent display. Has held a variety of jobs at the Smithsonian; chaired the institution's 150th anniversary. Books include: "Abroad in America: Visitors to the New Nation," "Champions of American Sport," "Documentary History of the Supreme Court," "Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art."

QUOTE: "A performance is a portrait as well. A biography is a portrait as well. Because they are all ways of delivering lives."

IF HE COULD TAKE HOME ONE PAINTING: Alice Neel's "Self-Portrait" (1980).

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