Henri Gabriel Marceau Director Records
Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646
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Henri Gabriel Marceau was an internationally known scholar, art historian, and architect, and served as Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art from 1955 to 1964. R. Sturgess Ingersoll, President of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, made the following comments upon Marceau’s retirement from the post of Director: “Mr. Marceau has been a tower of strength through the period of the development of the Philadelphia Museum of Art…His authoritative publications on Thomas Eakins, Cezanne, William Rush, Benjamin West, Flemish paintings and Corot represent an amazing range of scholarship. He has always been particularly interested in sculpture, and the three international exhibitions of sculpture, - held in 1933, 1940 and 1949 in the courtyard of the Museum, - did much to bring about the present refreshing interest in sculptors and sculpture. He has probably had closer relations with contemporary artists than any twentieth century museum director” (Box 103, folder 4).
Marceau was born in Richmond, Virginia on June 21, 1896. He attended St. Ann’s Academy for both his primary and secondary education, graduating in June 1914. The following September he entered the Columbia University School of Architecture and received a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1921. His studies at Columbia were interrupted by World War I, when Marceau enlisted in the artillery. He served as a cadet and, subsequently, as a commissioned officer at Camp Zachary Taylor, near Louisville, Kentucky.
While a student, Marceau worked at the Avery Architectural Library at Columbia University, as well as being appointed to the position of assistant instructor in architecture during his senior year. He spent several summers, and a short period after graduation, at the architectural firm of Boring and Tilton in New York City. In summer of 1921 he traveled to Verdun, France, where he was in charge of the American Students Reconstruction Association, tasked with rebuilding communal buildings in the front line areas. In 1922 he was awarded the Fellowship in Architecture of the American Academy in Rome, which provided for three years of study in Italy. Upon his return to the United States, Henri Marceau married Rebecca Alvord; in 1930 they had a daughter, Elizabeth.
In 1926, Marceau accepted a position as Assistant Professor of architectural design at the School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania, a position he held until 1929. Additionally, in 1926 he was appointed assistant curator of the John G. Johnson Collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He left the School of Fine Arts in 1929 to become the Curator of Fine Arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 1933 his title became Curator of Paintings and in 1937 the title changed to Chief, Department of Paintings and Sculpture. At that time Marceau also became Associate Director of the Museum, where he worked closely with Fiske Kimball, handling the Director’s work while Kimball took extended trips away from the Museum. When Kimball retired in 1955, Marceau became the Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He retired as Director in 1964; throughout his various appointments and up until his death in 1969, he maintained his role as Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and remained involved with the Museum’s Department of Conservation and Restoration as well.
During Marceau’s tenure as Director, the Museum underwent many physical improvements, and collections and programs grew significantly. In the spring of 1955 the Department of Conservation and Restoration was expanded and the formal position of Conservator was established. Theodor Siegl was hired as the Department’s first Conservator. During this time the Japanese Tea House opened, the Charles Patterson Van Pelt Auditorium was constructed, the Great Stair Hall was renovated, and the Constantine tapestries, purchased through the Samuel Kress Foundation, were installed. A new facility was built for the Costume and Textile Library and the Hall of Armor was installed for the Kienbush collection. The Grace Kelly wedding dress was acquired in 1956, with much fanfare, and by the end of the 1950s all of the works previously located at Memorial Hall in Fairmount Park were transferred to the Museum. In addition, several exceptional collections came to the Museum: The Mr. and Mrs. Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. Collection and the Louis Stern Collection were both acquired in 1963. Soon after, in 1964, the Museum acquired the Meyer P. and Vivian O. Potamkin Collection.
Along with his career at the Museum, Marceau was also a member of the Philadelphia Art Commission, a member and curator of the American Philosophical Society, vice-president of the Fairmount Park Art Association, and, for over twenty years, he acted as Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, Maryland. Marceau was also made a Chevalier of the Belgian Order of the Crown and a Chevalier of the French National Order of the Legion of Honor.
Dr. Evan H. Turner, who succeeded Marceau as the Museum’s Director, said “it is impossible to over-estimate the distinguished contribution which Mr. Marceau made to the Museum throughout his devoted years.”
The Henri Gabriel Marceau Director Records, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives.
Marceau obituary. Bulletin of the American Group . International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1960-1972 (Vols. 1-12)
The Henri Gabriel Marceau Director records contain the records of the Director’s office during Henri Gabriel Marceau’s term as Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Additional records pertaining to Henri Marceau’s curatorial work at the Museum may be found in the Henri Gabriel Marceau Curatorial records and in the Johnson Collection Curatorial records. Additional resources about his conservation work at the Museum will be found in the Conservation and Technical Research Collection. The Marceau Director records date from 1933 to 1980, the bulk of which span the years 1955 to 1964, and they represent both major developments and events at the Museum, as well as daily administrative activities during that period. Many significant capital improvements took place during Marceau’s directorship, including the construction of the Van Pelt Auditorium and the renovation of the Great Stair Hall, an increase in programs and events sponsored by the Museum, including an expanded Division of Education and an ambitious Tours program. This was also a period when the Museum’s collections were enriched by the addition of a number of significant private collections. These records reflect this period of steady growth and focused development, while also containing evidence of the smaller decisions and actions that supported the Museum’s daily functions.
The collection is arranged into two series: “I. Correspondence” and “II. Object files.”
Series “I. Correspondence” dates from 1947 to 1966 and is arranged chronologically by fiscal year, with each year’s folders organized alphabetically. There are files for alphabetic sequences, such as “An–Ar”, as well as individual files for specific entities, such as “Annenberg, Walter” or “Art Directors Club of Philadelphia.” General alphabetic files may also contain materials that are pertinent to records represented by specific folder names; as such, both should be explored. The general alphabetic folders often contain brief correspondences about authentication or acquisition of works, or letters of inquiry or complaint. More specifically titled folders often contain a sustained correspondence, a recurring commitment (such as professional memberships), or records related to an ongoing project.
The bulk of materials relating to the Museum’s administrative functions are filed under “Philadelphia Museum of Art.” For example: “Philadelphia Museum of Art: Admissions” or “Philadelphia Museum of Art: Annual Report, Report of the Director.” Exhibitions and curatorial correspondence are not usually found in this format, but instead are filed under the specific exhibition, department or staff name that is appropriate. Both situations should be explored, as occasionally files exist in both places, such as “Philadelphia Museum of Art: Zeiget, Julius (Secretary and Treasurer)” and independently as “Zeiget, Julius.” Curator’s files, such as “Kramrisch, Stella” may contain wide ranging general correspondence, correspondence relating to a specific exhibition, or a mixture of both.
Folders containing records from other museums are generally arranged as a subset of “Museums,” with exceptions--it is best to check both the “Museums” section as well as the pertinent alphabetical run for a specific institution. This is true for university records as well: they may be found as a subset of “Universities” or they may sometimes be found filed by the institution’s name.
In general, series “ I. Correspondence” contains relatively few letters written by Henri Marceau. Instead, it tracks the overall operation of the museum through the records produced by many different individuals and departments.
Series “II. Object files” dates from 1933 to 1980, and is considerably smaller than “I. Correspondence;” however, it contains rich information about items from the collection, including possible acquisitions, gifts, bequests, loans, and repairs. These files include correspondence, press clippings, exhibition lists, loan acknowledgements, research materials and publications relating to specific works of art or sometimes to entire collections. Several files contain blueprints or design documents, and photographs are found throughout. Many of these files contain the correspondence of Marceau, as well as other Museum employees, and there are some letters of Evan H. Turner (Marceau’s successor as the Museum’s Director). The object files are organized alphabetically: variably by artist’s name (“Eakins, Thomas”), by object name (“Barberini tapestry”) or sometimes by donor name (“Stern, Louis E. Collection”).
While all of the object files may contain content relevant to specific research interests, several contain particularly notable records. This includes correspondence between David DuBon, Henry McIlhenny, and the Vicomte de Noailles, correspondence concerning the Barberini tapestry, research and press clippings for the Constantine tapestries, as well as the files documenting the C. “Otto” von Kienbusch armor collection and the Louis E. Stern Collection. The Kienbusch records include correspondence, a copy of Mr. Kienbusch’s will, blueprints and specifications for the gallery; spanning 1955 to 1964, these records tell a complete story from initial contact through the formal gift and the design and construction of the gallery to house the collection. The Stern files represent a particularly thorough documentation of the Stern Collection, including photographic documentation of the artwork as it was installed in Stern’s apartment, and correspondence from 1961 that outlines the delicate early negotiations between Stern and the Museum President, R. Sturgess Ingersoll, with John Canaday (Art editor, New York Times ) acting as an intermediary. Along with the other files, this provides a comprehensive documentation of the acquisition of that collection.
Researchers interested in the architecture of the museum, or the installation of architectural elements such as the Japanese Teahouse, will find this group of records very interesting, since many physical changes were made to the Museum and its galleries during this period. The files concerning the acquisition of private collections provide a wealth of information on donor relations and on collecting in the mid-twentieth century.
There are many idiosyncrasies in this legacy filing system. These records have been processed in several stages and some overlap exists between the two series: information about objects may also be found in Series “I. Correspondence.” In both series, records regarding works of art or collections may be found filed in a number of different ways: by the donor’s name, or by the name of the artist, object or collection. For example, records relating to tapestries acquired in 1959 may be filed as the “Constantine tapestries,” the “Kress-Barberini tapestries,” the “Barberini tapestries” or under the donor’s name as either “Kress, Samuel H. Foundation” or “Samuel H. Kress Foundation.” Researchers are advised to perform a keyword search when looking for specific names or topics.
Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Carey Hedlund and Alina Josan in 2014. The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Finding aid prepared by Carey Hedlund and Alina Josan
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 January
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.