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Rose, Bernice

    Full Name: Rose, Bernice

    Other Names:

    • Bernice Rose
    • Bernice Berend
    • Bernice Berend Rose
    • Bunny
    • Bernice Harriet Berend Rose

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 07 October 1935

    Date Died: 14 April 2023

    Place Born: Miami, Miami-Dade, FL, USA

    Place Died: New York, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): Abstract Expressionist and Modern (style or period)

    Career(s): art historians and curators

    Institution(s): Menil Collection and Museum of Modern Art


    Museum curator and gallerist who brought the study of drawing to the fore of study. Rose was born as Bernice Berend to Rose and Bert Berend. Her mother was a homemaker and her father sold electrical fixtures in Miami Beach. The family relocated to Brooklyn, New York, in 1941 when she was about six. In 1956, she married Herbert Bernard Rose (1929–2010), a lawyer to many prominent American charitable organizations.  Rose received a B.A. from Hunter College, City of New York, where she studied painting with Robert Motherwell and William Baziotes, two artists at the forefront of modern art. In 1965 she joined the Museum of Modern Art, New York, as a secretary in the department of painting and sculpture. Moving rapidly, she was given curatorial options.  Her first exhibition was “Jackson Pollock, Works on Paper,” 1969.  By 1971 she was named associate curator of the Museum’s newly created Drawings Department. She served under the tutelage of MOMA’s chief curator, William Lieberman, a curator known for his encyclopedic visual memory.  Through Lieberman she, too, developed an acute eye (Glueck).   As curator in the museum’s drawing department, Rose organized numerous exhibitions, including her 1976 landmark show, “Drawing Now: 1955-1975” featuring drawings by artists not known for that medium. In that show, Rose highlighted the way in which these artists were transforming drawing. Together with Jean Leymarie (1919-2006) director of the French Academy in Rome and French museum curator Geneviève Monnier (b. 1939), she published Drawing: History of an Art, the first major history of drawing, in 1979.  Another monumental show, “Cezanne Treasure: The Basel Sketchbooks” was launched in 1988.  In 1993 she transitioned to the gallery world, joining PaceWildenstein, where she led a department strictly devoted to drawings. There she was responsible for the 1995 “Picasso and Drawing,” featuring  a number of rarely seen works lent from private collections. By then she and her husband were living in Kips Bay Plaza, an early work of I. M. Pei in New York. When the Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center was founded, Rose was hired as its first Chief Curator in 2007.  She oversaw the foundation’s more that 1,200 works on paper as well as developing the study center’s mission.  She retired from the Menil in 2018.  Shortly after completing the six-volume Jasper Johns Catalogue Raisonné of Drawing in 2023, she died of pancreatic cancer at her home in Manhattan.   She is not related to the art historian Barbara Rose though the two knew each another.


    Rose was one of the first curators to recognize that younger artists were creating drawings as a separate artistic form. She argued that contemporary drawing was as significant as the other media artists created, countering consensus in the 1960s and 1970s that it was of interest only as a study for a completed art work (Costello).

    Selected Bibliography

    • and Geneviève Monnier. Drawing: History of an Art. New York: Rizzoli, 1979;
    • Jasper Johns: Catalogue Raisonné of Drawing. 6 vols. Houston: The Menil Collection, 2018-2023.


    Contributors: Eileen Costello


    Eileen Costello. "Rose, Bernice." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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