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Call No.: SC 12
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Creator: Sennett, Robert S., 1955-
Title: Papers concerning Agnes Mongan 1990-1996
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 half file box)
Abstract: The collection contains Robert Sennett's correspondence, notes, newsletters, and microcassette interviews of and regarding Agnes Mongan.
Robert Sennett is a librarian in the Fine Arts Libary at Harvard University.Art curator and the first woman director of a major art museum in the United States, Agnes Mongan was born on January 21, 1905 to Charles Edward Mongan, a well-to-do physician, and Elizabeth Teresa O'Brien Mongan in Somerville, Massachusetts. Her three siblings were Charles Edward Mongan (1903), John Anthony Mongan (1907), and Elizabeth Mongan (1909). Mongan attended the Cambridge School, and received her B.A. in 1927 from Bryn Mawr College, where she studied art history and English literature. From 1927-1928 she studied Italian art in Florence through the Smith College Year Abroad Program, and received her A.M. from Smith in 1929. In 1928, she began working at the Fogg Art Museum as a special student. From 1929-1937 she worked as a research assistant for Paul J. Sachs, creating a catalog of his collection of drawings. From 1937-1947, her title was Keeper of Drawings, and in 1947 she became Curator of Drawings. She was the first female curator at the Fogg, and kept the title through her retirement in 1975. From 1951-1964 she was also the Assistant Director of the Fogg, from 1964-1968 Associate Director, from 1968-1969 Acting Director, and from 1969-1971 Director. She was the first woman to direct a major art museum in the United States. From 1960-1975 she also held the title of Martin A. Ryerson Lecturer on the Fine Arts. After she retired from the position of Director in 1971, she stayed on as Curator of Drawings until her retirement from Harvard in 1975.Her career also included stints as Acting Director of the Timken Gallery in Balboa Park, San Diego, California, and visiting professor for various institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin. Some of her major publications include the 1940 Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, The Ingres Centennial Exhibition, 1867-1967, published in 1967, One Hundred Master Drawings, presented in honor of Paul J. Sachs in 1949, and David to Corot: French Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, 1996. Agnes Mongan was the recipient of seven honorary degrees; she was honored by Harvard University in 1994 when the Agnes Mongan Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs opened at the Fogg. According to James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the University Art Museums from 1991 to 2002, "She was, in a way, not unlike the work of the artist she most admired and for whom her scholarly work is best known, the French painter and draughtsman, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Like Ingres' work, she offered us a twist on the traditional that was, in the end, more modern than old-fashioned. She was, in her tastes, habits, and courage, in no way conventional" (Harvard University Gazette, September 19, 1991). Agnes Mongan died on September 15, 1996.
This collection contains correspondence between Robert Sennett, Agnes Mongan, and potential publishers regarding Sennett's planned biography of Mongan. Included are Sennett's research materials, a black and white photograph of Mongan, and an audio recording of an interview of Mongan by Sennett, as well as a press release and printouts of catalog records from fom Harvard's online cataloging system, HOLLIS. The biography was never published.