These records document the work of the Department and its curators in the late 1960s and in the 1970s, with some material dated as early as 1961. The files include correspondence concerning proposed and rejected works of art, some administrative actions, and the Department's relationship with other museums. The majority of the records concern major exhibitions mounted by the Department during the period, including Made in Chicago, Robert Rauschenberg, and America as Art. Also included are files of Breeskin and Hopps, their correspondence, speeches, and travel. The bulk of the materials date to when the museum was known at the National Collection of Fine Arts.
The Department of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture maintains works of artists born after 1880 or who were working by 1900. However, there is still some overlap with the artwork maintained by the National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA), Department of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Painting and Sculpture.
The administrative history of the Department dates back to 1964 when Adelyn Dohme Breeskin, a specialist in contemporary art, became Special Consultant to NCFA. Breeskin became Acting Curator of the newly created Department of Contemporary Art in 1967 and Curator of the Department in 1968. The Department's name was changed to Contemporary Painting and Sculpture in 1970 and in 1974 it was changed to its present title. Walter Hopps was appointed Curator of the Department in 1974 and Breeskin became a consultant within the Department.
Walter Hopps remained as Curator from 1974 to 1977 and then served as Adjunct Curator until his departure later that year. Harry Rand joined the staff in 1977 as Associate Curator, with the additional title of Chairman in 1978. Rand was named Curator in 1979. The staff included Virginia M. Mecklenburg, Associate Curator, and Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Assistant Curator. Adelyn Dohme Breeskin remained as Consultant to the Department.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 458, National Museum of American Art. Department of Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture, Records
Smithsonian Institution Archives
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