Emily Beeny to Join the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco as Curator in Charge of European Paintings

Image credit: Photograph by Ramona Trent

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the “Museums”) today announced the appointment of Emily Beeny as Curator in Charge of European Paintings after an extensive international search. The role will oversee the Museums’ holdings of more than 800 paintings from the 14th to early 20th centuries as well as the development of original exhibition programming.

“We are delighted to announce the appointment of Emily Beeny, whose curatorial expertise aligns seamlessly with the specific strengths of our European Paintings collection,” states Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “With her impressive record of scholarship and parallel interest in development of new interpretation for our collections, she will bring fresh vision, insight and perspectives as we prepare for the Legion of Honor’s centenary in 2024 and continue to center voices that have been underrepresented historically.”

Beeny holds a PhD from Columbia University and is a specialist in French paintings and drawings of the 17th through 19th centuries. She joins the Museums from the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Recent exhibitions organized by Beeny include Manet and Modern Beauty (2019–2020), co-organized by the Getty and the Art Institute of Chicago, which was the first exhibition devoted to the final years of the artist’s life; and Poussin and the Dance (2021–2022), co-organized by the Getty and the National Gallery, London. She is a founding member of the Getty Museum’s Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion Task Force and sits on the vetting committee for 19th-century European paintings at TEFAF Maastricht.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the Fine Arts Museums, whose splendid collection and ambitious exhibitions program I have long admired,” states Emily Beeny. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues to help visitors to the Legion of Honor and the de Young connect with European paintings in many different ways: offering opportunities for critical engagement, aesthetic pleasure, historical perspective, and solace in challenging times.”

Prior to joining the Getty Museum as Associate Curator of Drawings in 2016, Beeny was Associate Curator of European Art at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (2014–2016) and Assistant Curator of European Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (2012–2014). She has published and lectured widely on French art from the 17th to the 20th centuries and is the author of a children’s book, Hector the Collector, about collecting and museums.

Her first day at the Museums is July 1, 2021. 

About the European Paintings Collection
The Museums’ rich collection of European paintings comprises more than 800 works, spanning from the 14th to the early 20th centuries. Showcased throughout the elegant Beaux-Arts architecture of the Legion of Honor’s galleries, approximately 250 paintings present a survey of artistic accomplishments by Europe’s leading artists, from Fra Angelico to Claude Monet.

The collection reflects a history of patronage by its founders, Adolph B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, whose particular collecting focus was 18th- and 19th-century French art. Additional early donors of note include Archer M. Huntington, Mildred Anna Williams, and Albert Campbell Hooper, whose generosity fashioned the collection’s early character. The Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Collection brought highlights in Dutch, Flemish, French, and British art of the 17th through 19th centuries, including works by Georges de la Tour, Thomas Gainsborough, Henry Raeburn, Joshua Reynolds, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Rembrandt van Rijn. A selection of important paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection brought with it major works by Pieter de Hooch, El Greco, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. A memorial gift from Dr. T. Edward and Tullah Hanley added paintings by Edgar Degas, Théodore Géricault, and Édouard Manet, among others. The collection continues to grow and expand through gifts and acquisitions, including paintings by Gustave Caillebotte, Laurent de la Hyre, Eugène Delacroix, William Holman Hunt, and Édouard Vuillard.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition in Golden Gate Park and was established as the Memorial Museum in 1895. It was later renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, who spearheaded its creation. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It holds the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 and, like that structure, was modeled after the neoclassical Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, in Paris. The museum, designed by George Applegarth, opened in 1924 on a bluff in Lincoln Park overlooking the Golden Gate. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Media Contact
Helena Nordstrom / hnordstrom@famsf.org / 415 465 3531