Curator of Prints and Drawings
Robyn Asleson joined the National Portrait Gallery in 2016. As curator of the Prints and Drawings Department, she develops exhibitions, conducts research, and identifies new acquisitions, with a particular focus on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her current projects include “Brilliant Exiles: American Women in Paris, 1900–1939” (2021), “John Singer Sargent: Portraits in Charcoal” (2020), and “Portraits of the World,” a series of exhibitions featuring individual portraits on loan from international museums. She is also developing an exhibition of nineteenth-century American theatrical portraits.
Asleson’s projects reflect her longstanding interest in transatlantic crosscurrents in the history of American art, as well as the relationship between portraiture and the performing arts. Prior to joining the National Portrait Gallery, she served as editor and co-author of Notorious Muse: The Actress in British Art and Culture (1776–1812) (2003) and A Passion for Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists (1999). She was also curator of the exhibition “Cultivating Celebrity: Portraiture as Publicity in the Career of Sarah Siddons” at the Huntington (1999) and co-curator of “Great British Paintings from American Collections: Holbein to Hockney” at the Yale Center for British Art (2001).
In 2016, Asleson co-organized the exhibition “The Lost Symphony: Whistler and the Perfection of Art” at the Smithsonian’s Freer/Sackler Gallery. The exhibition built on Asleson’s many publications on the Aesthetic Movement in America and Britain, including a monograph on the influential English painter Albert Moore (2000).
Asleson holds BA, MA, and PhD degrees from Yale University. Her dissertation, “Classic into Modern: The Inspiration of Antiquity in English Art” (1993), examined the interconnection of archaeology, theater, and fine art in revising notions of classicism in the late nineteenth century. For almost ten years, she was a research associate at the Huntington and is author of the comprehensive collection catalogue British Paintings at the Huntington (2001). She has also served as a research associate at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, where she created content for the History of Early American Landscape Design digital resource. 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 as a research assistant in the Prints and Drawings Department at the Yale University Art Gallery.