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Boggs, Jean Sutherland

    Image Credit: Wikipedia

    Full Name: Boggs, Jean Sutherland

    Other Names:

    • Grace Jean Sutherland Boggs

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 11 June 1922

    Date Died: 22 August 2014

    Place Born: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Place Died: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

    Home Country/ies: Canada

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period) and sculpture (visual works)


    Director of several major North American art museums and Degas scholar. Boggs was the daughter of Oliver Desmond Boggs and Humia Marguerite Sutherland (Boggs). She was raised in Canada. Boggs studied at the University of Toronto, receiving her B.A. in 1942. She continued to Radcliffe College for her A.M. in 1947. She worked briefly at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in the 1940s as well. While completing her Ph.D., she taught at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, as an assistant professor of art, 1948-1949 and then Mount Holyoke College, with the same rank, 1949-1952. Her Ph.D., from Radcliffe was granted in 1953. She taught at University of California, Riverside between 1954 and1962 as assistant professor, rising to associate professor of art. After two years as a curator in her native Toronto, (Art Gallery of Toronto), 1962-1964, she joined Washington University in St. Louis as Steinberg Professor of History of Art in 1964. The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, appointed her director in 1966, replacing the retiring Charles Comfort. She lectured as the Sterling and Francine Clark Professor at Williams College in 1970. Among her acquisitions were Bernini’s marble portrait of Maffeo Barberini, Pope Urban VIII (c. 1632), which she bought in 1974. When, after ten years ground for a new art museum was still not broken because of governmental bureaucracies, Boggs resigned in 1976 in frustration joining Harvard University as a professor of art. By 1978, however, she had been appointed director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, succeeding Evan H. Turner. The Philadelphia museum, however, was a deficit-ridden institution whose trustees were not focused on hard-core fund raising. Boggs’ interest in scholarship seem to come at the cost of rejuvenating the institution. Under her tenure at Philadelphia, she acquired Degas’ ”Red Nude,” and mounted the exhibitions ”Manifestations of Shiva,” ”Futurism and the International Avant-Garde” and the Thomas Eakins retrospective. When the Canadian government set up a public corporation for oversee the building the two museums, a new National Gallery of Canada and the National Museum of Man (modern Canadian Museum of Civilization), an anthropological museum, committing $185 million as well, Boggs returned to Ottawa and the position as director. She was succeeded at Philadelphia by Anne d’Harnoncourt. Trouble remained for the Canadia project, however. The Pierre Trudeau government had under-funded the project because a federal election was near. Boggs’ second tenure in Canada was controversial. She refused to divulge the names of architects being considered for the Museums, nor did she ask an architect of any standing to be part of the selection jury. Troubles with Museum building continued and Boggs was fired by the Brian Mulroney government in 1985, accusing the project of being too elaborate and expensive. Boggs remained in the “communication office.” In 1988, she staged a major Degas exhibition for the Museum, a collaborative effort between the Louvre, the Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. She compiled the catalog for the New Orleand Museum of Art exhibition, Degas and New Orleans: a French Impressionist in America in 1995.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Group Portraits by Degas. Radcliffe, 1953; Portraits by Degas. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1962; Drawings by Degas. St. Louis: City Art Museum of Saint Louis,1966; Picasso et la Suite Vollard/Picasso and the Vollard Suite. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1971; catalog compiled, Feigenbaum, Gail, and Benfey, Christopher. Degas and New Orleans: a French Impressionist in America. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 1999.


    Walz, Jay. “A Woman Heads the National Gallery of Canada; Jean Sutherland Boggs Who Taught on Coast Is Named Best-Looking Director.” New York Times August 7, 1966, p. 70.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Boggs, Jean Sutherland." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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