The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has appointed Robyn Asleson as assistant curator in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Media Arts. Asleson will be responsible for conducting research, building the museum’s collection through new acquisitions, curating exhibitions, participating in public programs, and contributing to cataloguing and collections care.
“Robyn Asleson brings a ‘twist’ on portraiture as performance that has enormous resonance with the Portrait Gallery,” said Kim Sajet, director of the museum. “Particularly important is her observance of celebrity culture and how social cache is elevated and/or denigrated through art and popular culture over time. I believe her insights will enhance the museum’s ability to research and tell the full American story.”
Asleson holds B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University and has worked extensively with 18th and 19th century prints, drawings and paintings. She has a particular interest in transatlantic crosscurrents in the history of American and British art, which she has explored in several publications as well as the exhibition “Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney,” co-curated with Malcolm Warner (Yale Center for British Art, 2001).
Most recently, Asleson has been a research associate at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, where she investigated the importance of nature as a source of personal and national identity in 18th- and 19th-century America while researching and writing content for the online relational database and archive, the History of Early American Landscape Design.
Her most recent curatorial project, co-organized with Linda Merrill, is “The Lost Symphony: Whistler and the Perfection of Art,” which opened at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in January 2016. The exhibition builds on Asleson’s many publications on the Aesthetic Movement in America and Britain, including a monograph on the influential English painter Albert Moore (Phaidon Press, 2000).
As art historian and museum consultant, Asleson has worked in various positions, both academic and curatorial. She has developed art historical curricula and teaching tools for the National Gallery of Art and Oxford Art Online, worked as a docent education coordinator at the Yale Center for British Art, and also as a research assistant in the Prints and Drawings Department at the Yale University Art Gallery. At the beginning of her professional career, Asleson was a research assistant at the Corcoran Gallery of Art for two years.
For almost 10 years, she served as a research associate at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, CA, where she researched and wrote its catalog of British paintings and curated the 1999 exhibition “Cultivating Celebrity: Portraiture as Publicity in the Career of Sarah Siddons.”
Asleson has written several books and articles on portraiture, often focusing on the influence of the performing arts. Her publications include editor and co-author of Notorious Muse: The Actress in British Art and Culture, 1776–1812 (Yale University Press, 2003); British Paintings at The Huntington, gen. ed. Shelley M. Bennett (Yale University Press, 2001); and editor and co-author, A Passion for Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists (Getty Publications, 1999).
National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of America through the individuals who have shaped its culture. Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.
The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American
Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian
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