Nan Rosenthal, 1937-2014


Curator Nan Rosenthal, 76, died Apr. 26th of heart failure in New York. Rosenthal is credited with making 20th-century art the subject of increased focus at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in New York in 1937, Rosenthal attended Sarah Lawrence College. She worked as a reporter for the New York Post, the London Evening Standard and the International Herald Tribune, and wrote for A.i.A. in the mid-1960s, before beginning graduate studies in art history. Specializing in post-WWII art, she earned a PhD from Harvard in 1976, and later served on the faculty of several institutions including Princeton University, New York University and the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In 1985, she became curator of 20th-century art at the National Gallery. During her eight years there, she organized critically acclaimed exhibitions such as “The Drawings of Jasper Johns” (1990), initiated the contemporary art lecture series “Conversations with Artists” and acquired works by figures such as Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt.

Rosenthal left the National Gallery in 1993 for the Met. As senior consultant of modern and contemporary art, she helped the museum acquire its first work by Johns. Over the course of her 15-year tenure there, she organized numerous exhibitions including “Willem de Kooning: Paintings” (1994); “Jackson Pollock: Early Sketchbooks and Drawings” (1997-98); “The Paintings of Judith Rothschild: An Artist’s Search” (1998); and “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” (2005-2006), retiring in 2008.