Donald Roberts McClelland, 74, a retired Smithsonian Institution museum curator who viewed art as a cultural connector between countries, died Sept. 25 of cancer at his farm in Upper Fairmount, Md. He had lived in Washington.
During his 35-year career, Mr. McClelland organized exhibitions as diverse as drawings from Sri Lanka to major artworks from Russia and the Vatican. From 1980 to 1996, he worked for Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services.
One of his first large international showings was the American Impressionism exhibition that opened in Paris at the Musee du Petit Palais and traveled through the former Eastern Bloc countries, ending in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1982. This display brought the first major showing of such art to France and exposed Eastern Bloc countries to American art and culture.
In the mid-1980s, with the memory of the U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympics still lingering, Mr. McClelland oversaw the first bilateral cultural exchange between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was designed to demonstrate what the two countries had in common in the late 19th century.
The exhibitions -- "New Horizons: American Painting 1850-1920" and "Russia: The Land, the People -- Russian Painting 1850-1910" -- sought to develop a mutual understanding between the Soviets and the Americans. Raisa Gorbachev opened the New Horizons exhibition in November 1987 at the Tretyakov Museum in Moscow.
Mr. McClelland also helped select art from museums in Moscow for the 1990 show "Moscow: Treasures & Traditions," said to be one of the most comprehensive art exhibits to come to the United States from the Soviet Union. The exhibit was part of the 1990 Goodwill Games in Seattle and later traveled to Washington.
It had 200 icons, porcelain teacups, embroidered costumes, folk art, maps, 16th-century armor and portraits.
Mr. McClelland wrote in the exhibition catalogue about Moscow's art traditions and new influences on them: "Certainly as we stand on the brink of this era of 'glasnost,' Moscow will once again preserve the glories of its past as well as shape the challenges of its future."
Among Mr. McClelland's other exhibits was "Views of Rome From the Thomas Ashby Collection of the Vatican Library," which opened in Rome in 1988. Other exhibitions included major artworks from Austria, Germany, Ireland and Mexico.
His last exhibition was "Voyages and Visions: 19th Century European Images of the Middle East From the Victoria and Albert Museum."
Mr. McClelland was a native of Hinsdale, Ill., and served in Army intelligence after the Korean War.
His interest in the museum field began after he joined a University of Michigan/Princeton University archaeological expedition to St. Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai, Egypt, in 1956. There, he worked with the monastery's monks to restore the chapel of St. Catherine.
He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in art history from the University of Michigan and in the early 1960s was a research assistant at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
In 1963, he moved to Washington to work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Later that year, he took a position at what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum. His responsibilities included overseeing the lending of paintings and decorative arts to the White House during the administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. McClelland once commented about an international exhibition he organized: "As audiences view a body of work that challenged the established conventions of its own time, they will find themselves students not only of art, but of social history, politics and psychology, as well."
Survivors include his wife of 37 years, Janet Legendre McClelland of Washington, and two daughters, Sylvia Marina McClelland of Washington and Janet Newbold McClelland of San Francisco.