Biographical / Historical
Nan Rosenthal (1927-2014) was a curator and art historian in New York City and Washington, D.C. who specialized in twentieth-century modern and contemporary art. Born in New York, Rosenthal attended Smith College before earning her bachelor's degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1959. After college, she worked as a journalist for a number of publications including Art in America and the New York Post.
Rosenthal received her PhD from Harvard University in 1976, completing her dissertation titled, "The Blue World of Yves Klein." After her graduate studies, Rosenthal taught at Princeton University, New York University, and University of California, Santa Cruz.
In 1985, Rosenthal became the curator of twentieth-century art at the National Gallery of Art. She organized several important exhibitions including The Drawings of Jasper Johns (1990), acquired works by Alberto Giacometti and Barnett Newman, and began the lecture series "Conversations with Artists."
Rosenthal then joined the staff of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1993 as senior consultant of modern and contemporary art, where she organized a number of other important exhibitions including Anselm Kiefer: Works on Paper 1969-1993 (1998), Robert Rauschenberg: Combines (2005), Jasper Johns: Gray (2008), and others featuring Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollack, and Judith Rothschild. She retired from the Metropolitan Museum in 2008.
In addition to her curatorial activities, Rosenthal authored several books and catalogs including George Rickey (1977), Robert Rauschenberg (1990), and Terry Winters: Printed Works (2001).
Rosenthal was married to the German artist Otto Piene from 1965-1973 and went by Nan R. Piene or Nan Rosenthal Piene. She remarried in 1990 to her second husband, Henry Benning Cortesi.