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Museum's chief curator to retire after 15 years

STANFORD -- Carol Osborne, who has played a key role in operation and development of the Stanford Museum of Art for the past 15 years, is retiring at the end of February.

As the museum's associate director and chief curator, Osborne's "years of experience at Stanford will be impossible to replace," said Thomas Seligman, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Museum.

The museum is joining with the Department of Art and the volunteer Committee for Art at Stanford to sponsor a lecture Feb. 22 in Osborne's honor. (See adjacent story.)

Seligman said that in his 18 months as director, "I have come to appreciate Carol's sound curatorial judgments, her unabiding commitment to the furtherance of the Stanford Museum and her subtle wit."

While retirement "undoubtedly is welcome to Carol, it will be a significant loss for the museum," Seligman said.

Osborne, 63, said she is looking forward to writing and traveling in Europe. With friends, she owns an 18th-century farmhouse at the edge of the Dordogne in France.

"It's not as much fun with the museum closed and the art collection packed away," Osborne said, comparing her work situation to that of "a chef without a dining room or a teacher without a classroom."

Since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake forced closure of the century-old museum, curators have been able to use only the small Art Gallery exhibition space opposite History Corner. More than $12 million has been pledged toward eventual reconstruction of the museum.

A self-described "late bloomer," Osborne entered Stanford as a doctoral student in art history in 1975. Three years later, museum director and art history Professor Lorenz Eitner hired Osborne as the museum's assistant director. She earned her doctorate in 1979 under Eitner, specializing in 18th-century French art. She was promoted to associate director in 1983.

Osborne's first post-retirement project will be to complete a book about American painters in Spain. The first part has been published as an essay, "Yankee Painters at the Prado," in the exhibition catalog on foreign painters in Spain during the 19th century sponsored by the Spanish Institute in New York City. She started the project last year with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has recently completed a scholarly, fully illustrated work titled Stanford University Museum: The Drawing Collection, which she co-authored with Eitner and curator Betsy Fryberger. The book, also supported by the National Endowment, documents drawings from the 16th century to the present.

Osborne has curated more than 20 exhibitions during her Stanford career. One of her favorites, she said, was "Frank Duveneck and Lizzie Boott," later adapted as a chapter, "Lizzie Boott at Bellosguardo," in the book Italian Presence in American Art, 1860- 1920 by Fordham University Press.

Another favorite was "The Stanfords in Paris: French Art of the 1880s." This reflected her special interest in preserving the Stanford family collections, which formed the basis of the museum Jane Stanford organized and built as a memorial to her son in 1891.

Along those lines, Osborne also was principal author of the 1986 book Museum Builders in the West: The Stanfords as Collectors and Patrons of Art 1870-1906, and she worked on a documentary video about the museum's history and collectors. Osborne also was general editor of the 1991 Stanford Museum Centennial Handbook.

Osborne's final exhibition at Stanford is "True to Nature: The Art of William Trost Richards." On display at the Art Gallery through March 28, it includes selections from 250 drawings, watercolors and small oil panels given to the museum in 1992 by M.J. and A.E. van Loeben Sels.



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