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Byrnes, James B.

    Full Name: Byrnes, James B.

    Other Names:

    • James Bernard Byrnes

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 19 February 1917

    Date Died: 28 August 2011

    Place Born: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): curators


    First curator of modern art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1946-1952. Byrnes studied to be an artist at various New York city schools including the National Academy of Design, 1936-1938, the American Artists School, 1938-1940 and the Art Students League, 1941-1942. After World War II he was hired at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to be its first Curator of Modern and Contemporary art in 1946. He taught as a visiting professor at the University of Southern California before attending the University of Perugia and Istituto Meschini, Rome, the latter, 1951-1952. In 1954 he relinquished his position at Los Angeles to become the Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. He was appointed associate director of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, under Wilhelm Rheinhold Otto Valentiner. At Valentiner’s death in 1958 he became director. In 1960 Byrnes was named director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. In 1972 he returned to California to direct the Newport Harbor Museum in Newport Beach, CA. He concluded his tenure there in 1975 and in 1978 founded an art consulting firm. He was named an emeritus director of the New Orleans Museum in 1989. In 2003 Byrnes was featured on a panel sponsored by the Getty Research Institute on art of the 1940s in Los Angeles.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Wescher, Paul. Tobacco and Smoking in Art: an Exhibition. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Museum of Art, 1960; The Artist as Collector: Selections from Four California Collections of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, the Amerindians and the Santeros of New Mexico . Newport Harbor, CA: Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1975; and Benfey, Christopher E. G., and Boggs, Jean Sutherland. Degas and New Orleans: a French Impressionist in America. New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art/Copenhagen: Ordrupgaard, 1999.


    Who’s Who in American Art. 23rd edition, 1999-2000. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who’s Who, 1999, p. 174; [interview] James B. Byrnes: Oral History Transcript. Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles Oral History Program, 1977; Modern Art in Los Angeles: James Byrnes Oral History. Getty Center (video recording), 2003; personal correspondence, Susan Byrnes Lucky, September 2011.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Byrnes, James B.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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