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Department of European Art Records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-03

Scope and Contents Note

The European Art Department Records contain correspondence, memos, exhibition and object research files, and dealer related materials, primarily from the tenures of Patrick J. Kelleher, Ted Coe, Roger Ward, and Ian Kennedy. Exhibitions heavily represented in the records include Impressionism: Selections from Five American Museums (1990), Durer to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Permanent Collection (1998), Manet to Matisse: Impressionist Masters from the Marion and Henry Bloch Collection (2007), and Art in the Age of Steam: Europe, America and the Railway, 1830-1960 (2008). Special projects documented in the collection are, among others, the Italian paintings and German and Netherlandish paintings catalogues, the reinstallation of the museum's west end, and deaccessioning efforts.


  • 1903-2009
  • Majority of material found within 1954-2009

Restrictions on Access

Since this collection is unprocessed, requested records must be reviewed before they can be viewed by researchers; allow a minimum of one week for review.

Conditions Governing Use Note

Notification of intent to publish, quote, or cite archival materials is required. Contact the archives via

Biographical / Historical Note

In 1954, Museum Director Laurence Sickman invited Patrick J. Kelleher, a fellow former member of the Monuments Men, and the Chief Curator of the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, to come to the museum as the new Curator of European and American Art. The goal of the new position was “to strengthen the department of Western art” and raise it to the same level and “distinction” of the museum’s collection of Asian art. During his time, Kelleher brought many important European paintings into the museum’s collection including works by artists such as Renoir, Rubens, and Jacques Louis David. Kelleher was also responsible for obtaining the painting, Virgin and Child in a Domestic Interior by Flemish painter Petrus Christus -- the most expensive piece the museum had ever purchased. Prior to Kelleher’s hire, Henry Woodbury Parsons, art agent for the museum from 1930-1953, and Director Paul Gardner (tenure: 1933-1953) had curated the European collection.

When Kelleher left for the Princeton University Art Gallery in 1959, Ralph “Ted” Coe took over the role of Curator of Painting and Sculpture until eventually becoming both the Curator of Primitive Arts and the museum’s new director in 1978. At this time, Edgar Peters Bowron came to the museum to serve simultaneously as both the new Curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art, and the Administrative Assistant to Coe in his new role as Director. When Bowron left in 1981, the position remained vacant for a brief period until Roger Ward, the Assistant Curator in the department, was named Curator of European Painting and Sculpture in 1982. Ward acquired many important works for the collection while also initiating a project to replace the frames of over 112 European paintings that he had deemed discordant with either the provenance or nature of the works. He took over curatorial responsibility for Old Master Drawings in 1983 and resigned as the Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Curator of European Art in September of 2001.

Ian Kennedy took Ward's place in August of 2002 and immediately implemented a large-scale project to refurbish and reinstall the European painting galleries. At this time, Kennedy also began to work with Decorative Arts curator, Catherine Futter, to launch the practice of integrating furniture, china, and silver pieces into the European galleries in hopes that it would provide more context to visitors regarding the various periods of the paintings and sculpture that were on display. The newly refurbished galleries opened in 2006. Kennedy resigned from his duties in 2013. The following year, the European Painting and Sculpture department, the Ancient Art department, and the Architecture, Design, and Decorative Arts department were all consolidated into the Department of European Arts and Catherine Futter was promoted to Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward Senior Curator of European Art, a post she held until January 2016 when she became Director, Curatorial Affairs.


35.25 Linear Feet (In 29 record center cartons.)

Language of Materials



This is an unprocessed collection. A general overview of each box's contents is provided in its associated scope and contents note.

Immediate Source of Acquistion Note

Transfer; accession numbers associated with this collection are 1999-05, 1999-06, 2000-17, 2002-01, 2008-04, 2009-02, 2011-07, 2011-08, 2011-09, and 2013-08.

Accruals Note

Additions to the collection are anticipated.

Related Materials Note

Department of Decorative Arts Records (RG 04), Senior Curator Records (RG 98), and Office of the Assistant Director Records (RG 99), Series II.

Finding Aid of the Department of European Art Records, RG 03
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Archives Repository

4525 Oak St.
Kansas City MO 64111 United States