The art world and the Courtauld community suffered a devastating blow yesterday with the death of the great Anne d’Harnoncourt, 64, a scholar of modern painting and the much-loved Director and CEO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the past 26 years. The daughter of renowned Museum of Modern Art director Rene d’Harnoncourt, she took an MA at the Courtauld in 1967. As a former intern at that museum, I can attest to the degree to which she was loved by the staff. She presided over a period of scholarly rigor, fiscal success, and expansion of facilities during which the museum’s standing and collections grew. I had hoped that she would be considered for the vacant directorship of the Metropolitan Museum of Art because she, like Philippe de Montebello, had a record of navigating the increasingly treacherous waters of museum administration, between scholarship and fundraising. This comes as a second major blow to American museums in 2008: the two last great scholar-directors are no longer atop their institutions. Very sad news.
Update: The cause of death has finally been released: cardiac arrest. There has been some mention of a recent mastectomy but that seems to be unrelated. The Philadelphia Inquirer's obituary can be found at this link.