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John Elderfield, an independent art historian and curator, is Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York; was the inaugural Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer at the Princeton University Art Museum; and is a senior curator at Gagosian.
Born in Yorkshire, England, Mr. Elderfield studied Fine Art at Leeds University, where he received B.A. and M.Phil. degrees (1966,1970). He was awarded a Harkness Fellowship (1970) and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (1972), before earning his Ph.D. in art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London (1975). Over thirty years, he organized more than twenty exhibitions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. These included such specialized projects as “Manet and the Execution of Maximilian” (2006) and “Henri Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17” (2010); monographs on Armando Reverón (2007) and Martin Puryear (2007); and major retrospectives devoted to, among others, Kurt Schwitters (1985), Henri Matisse (1992), Pierre Bonnard (1998), and Willem de Kooning (2011-12).
His exhibitions for Gagosian include “Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959” (New York, 2012) and “In the Studio” (New York, 2015). He was also the curator of “Cézanne. Portraits” (Musée d’Orsay, Paris; National Portrait Gallery, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2017-18); “Pittura/Panorama: Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler,1952-1992” (Museo di Palazzo Grimani, Venice, 2019); and “Cézanne: The Rock and Quarry Paintings” (Princeton University Art Museum, 2020).
In addition to his exhibition catalogues, Mr. Elderfield has published books on Hugo Ball (1974/1996), Pierre-Paul Prud’hon (1997), and Helen Frankenthaler (1989), among others; some one hundred articles on modern art and related subjects, ranging from Bob Dylan to Bridget Riley; and lectures widely. Among his affiliations and awards, he has been a Visiting Fellow at the Getty Research Institute (2001); an Associate Fellow at the American Academy in Rome (2006); was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of the Year (2005); was made Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government (2006); and awarded an honorary D. Litt. from the University of Leeds (2008). He is a member of the Art Advisory Council of the International Foundation for Art Research (IFAR); the International Association of Art Critics; the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics and Writers; and the Société Paul Cezanne.