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Brown, Richard

    Full Name: Brown, Richard

    Other Names:

    • Richard Fargo Brown

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1916

    Date Died: 1979

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Place Died: Fort Worth, Tarrant, TX, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States


    First director of both the Los Angeles Museum of Art and the Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth. Brown’s parents were Percy Melville Brown and Hazel Wyatte Brown. His father, an importer, took him on buying trips to South America where the younger Brown gained an appreciation for art. Brown graduated from Bucknell University in 1940, continuing for a master’s degree in art history at the Institute for Fine Art, New York University. He married for the first time in 1941. The outbreak of World War II caused Brown to enlist in the U.S. Navy. After discharge in 1946, Brown entered Harvard University, securing his M.A. in 1947. He worked as a teaching assistant while pursuing his Ph.D. and, in 1949, as a research scholar and lecturer at the Frick Collection in New York. His Ph.D., awarded in 1952 was on Camile Pissaro. Brown continued to lecture at the Frick until 1954 when, after a year as visiting professor at Harvard, he was hired as chief curator for the Los Angeles County museum of History, Science and Art in 1955. City leaders planned to split the art collection into a separate art museum. Led by business magnate and art collector Norton Simon (1907-1993), Brown and Simon developed plans for the future museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Brown also advised Simon in his person collection (today the Norton Simon Museum). The fledgling museum mounted a Renior show n 1955 and van Gogh show in 1958. Brown became the Museum’s first director in 1962.

    He hired Kenneth Donahue, then director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota, FL, to be his assistant director in 1964. He married a second time, to his secretary, Jane Hoag. Hoag subsequently contracted polio and used a wheelchair for the remainder of her life. Brown found himself disagreeing more and more with the Museum board, particularly on the choice of architects: pushing for Mies van der Rohe as a world-class designer while Board members insisted on a local architect, William Perera. Partially because of the ill-defined roles of the Board in the new museum, members continued to discount Brown’s opinion. Shortly after the 1966 opening of the Perera-designed building, Brown resigned, accepting a call from the Kimball Foundation of Fort Worth, Texas. He was succeeded at LACMA by Donahue.

    The Foundation had inherited the art collection of Kay Kimball, a Fort Worth businessman, and mandate to build a first-class art museum in Fort Worth. Brown hired the high-profile but quixotic architect Louis Kahn to design the building. The result was a building that is considered one of Kahn’s finest works and an important hallmark in museum architecture. The Kimball collection, however, consisted largely of English portraiture. Brown judiciously acquired a wide variety of works representative of western art, including Picasso’s “Man with a Pipe,” a twelfth-century Avignon wall painting, a Duccio altarpiece, and an enthroned Khmer Buddha. He was awarded an honorary degree from Bucknell in 1967. He died of a heart attack at age 63. He was succeeded at the Kimball by Edmund Pillsbury. Brown exerted influence as a founding director on two major American art museums. A man of short stature but engaging personality, Norton Simon called Brown “my first teacher in the art world,” (Glueck). As a director, he maintained a positive rapport with his staff, including the lowest level workers (Ferguson).

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Color Technique of Camille Pissarro. Harvard University, 1952;


    [transcript] Ferguson, Cecil. African-American Artists of Los Angeles: Cecil Fergerson.Los Angeles: Department of Special Collections University of California, Los Angeles, pp. 103, 127; Muchnic, Suzanne. Odd Man In: Norton Simon and the Pursuit of Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998; [obituary:] Glueck, Grace. “Richard Fargo Brown Dead at 63, Led Ft. Worth’s Kimbell Museum.” New York Times November 7, 1979, p. B7.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Brown, Richard." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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