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Gifts to Princeton University Art Museum establish Curatorship in American Art
Karl Kusserow, the Museum’s curator of American art, has been named the inaugural Wilmerding Curator of American Art.

PRINCETON, NJ.- Gifts from three prominent Princeton-affiliated families have established the John Wilmerding Curatorship of American Art at the Princeton University Art Museum. The endowed curatorship celebrates and recognizes an esteemed teacher, scholar, curator and collector of American art, John Wilmerding, who is the Christopher B. Sarofim ’86 Professor of American Art, Emeritus, at Princeton University. Karl Kusserow, the Museum’s curator of American art, has been named the inaugural Wilmerding Curator of American Art, effective immediately.

“This endowed curatorship not only honors one of the most eminent and versatile scholars of our time, and one of the Museum’s greatest friends, John Wilmerding, but also recognizes the Princeton University Art Museum’s excellence in American art and visual culture,” said Museum Director James Steward. “The very first work of art to enter Princeton’s collection in the 1750s was, in fact, an American painting. With this endowment, our work in American art can go forward with confidence and assure Princeton’s leadership in the field of American studies.”

The gift was initiated by an anonymous donor with long-established ties to Princeton and fulfilled with contributions from the Sherrerd family, who previously established two funds in support of scholarship and programming in American art at Princeton, and from the Anschutz family, including Sarah Anschutz Hunt, Class of 1993, who studied under Professor Wilmerding at Princeton. “The honorific nature of the curatorship is among its greatest virtues, and says so much about John’s leadership, scholarship, humanity and generosity to his students,” said Steward.

"I am so pleased that Princeton already had in the Museum a curator well qualified for this endowed position. Karl is an accomplished and promising scholar, with a superb eye for looking at works of art,” said John Wilmerding. “He writes beautifully and works persuasively with alumni and potential donors, all attributes needed for this role in promoting and interpreting American art at the University and beyond."

Wilmerding, who assumed emeritus standing in 2007 and fully retired from Princeton last spring, remains a trustee of the Guggenheim Museum, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, and has been reappointed by President Obama to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. He was previously a visiting curator in the department of American art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and senior curator and deputy director of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where he later served as a trustee, retiring this year as chairman of its board of trustees. Wilmerding is the author of many books, including volumes on the work of Thomas Eakins, Robert Estes, Winslow Homer, Robert Indiana, Fitz Henry Lane, Roy Lichtenstein, John F. Peto and Tom Wesselmann, and his current projects include examinations of Frederic Church in Maine, Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Indiana’s prints and Pop still life.

“John Wilmerding is a legendary figure in the field of American art, and I am deeply honored to be associated with his distinguished legacy through this appointment,” said Kusserow.

Kusserow joined the Princeton University Art Museum in 2005, after holding positions at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He received his B.A. from Wesleyan University and his Ph.D. from Yale University. His most recent exhibition was Picturing Power: Capitalism, Democracy and American Portraiture, accompanied by a similarly titled volume, Picturing Power: Portraiture and Its Uses in the New York Chamber of Commerce (Columbia University Press, 2013). In 2010 he organized the exhibition and publication Inner Sanctum: Memory and Meaning in Princeton’s Faculty Room at Nassau Hall. The following year he served as editor for an issue of the Princeton University Art Museum Record devoted to American art. His articles and reviews have appeared in American Art, Drawing, Folk Art and The Journal of American History. Among Kusserow’s future projects are Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, a major traveling exhibition broadly reinterpreting American art through the lens of eco-criticism; a survey exhibition of American watercolors; and a research project exploring Charles Willson Peale’s iconic George Washington at the Battle of Princeton—one of the masterpieces of American art, held at Princeton—andthe work’s numerous variants.

Kusserow has overseen numerous acquisitions of American painting and sculpture for the Princeton University Art Museum, whose comprehensive American art holdings are among the finest of any academic museum. From its inception, the Museum has been committed to the field, collecting American art even when few institutions considered it worthy of attention, inspiring multiple gifts. Focused on painting and sculpture, the collection is particularly strong in landscape (including work from the Hudson River School), portraiture and folk art.

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