Brown, J. Carter (John Carter), 1934-2002

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John Carter Brown (known as J. Carter) was born to John Nicholas Brown and Anne S. (Kinsolving) Brown on October 8, 1934, in Providence, R.I. Along with brother, Nicholas, and sister, Angela, Brown grew up in a house filled with art, antiques, classical music, and the history of a prominent Rhode Island family.

In his early childhood years, Brown attended St. Michael's School in Newport, R.I. During World War II, Brown and his brother, Nicholas, attended the Arizona Desert School. Both went on to attend the Groton School for both middle and high school. After graduating from the Groton School at sixteen, Brown's parents felt that spending a year at the Stowe School before attending college would be beneficial due to his young age. Brown went on to attend Harvard University, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in history and literature in 1956.

Brown then made an unusual decision for someone in the arts, he decided to pursue a Master's in Business Administration at Harvard Business School, from which he graduated in 1958. Following his graduation, Brown spent several months studying under Bernard Berenson in Florence, Italy. Between 1958 and 1960, Brown also studied at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris and the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in the Netherlands. Brown went on to attend the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, where he received a Master's of Arts in Art History in 1961.

Following his graduation from NYU, Brown accepted a position in the office of National Gallery Director, John Walker. Three years later, in 1964, Brown became Assistant Director of the National Gallery of Art at the age of thirty. In 1969, Brown took over as the Director of the National Gallery of Art - a position he would hold for twenty-three years. As Director, Brown has been credited with helping to create the modern blockbuster exhibition with events such as King Tut, "Treasure Houses of Britain," Andrew Wyeth's "Helga" nudes, and "Circa 1492." During his tenure as director, the gallery also opened the East Building in 1978, introducing architect, I. M. Pei to the broader American public.

While serving at the National Gallery of Art and following his retirement in 1992, Brown was involved in numerous projects and organizations. Brown became the Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts in 1971 and of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury in 1979. In 1993, Brown became the Chairman of Ovation, an arts cable network - an organization that continues to this day. For the 1996 Centennial of the Olympic Games, Brown became the Guest Director of an international exhibition entitled, "Rings: Five Passions in World Art." Brown was also the main author of a book with the same title. The exhibition became a $4.2 million blockbuster of objects from 44 countries, which included Munch's "Scream," Rodin's "Kiss," and Matisse's "Dance."

Brown served on over thirty boards and committees, and held office in over fifteen of these organizations including, the World Monuments Fund, the National Geographic Society, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Storm King Art Center, the John Carter Brown Library, the John Nicholas Brown Center, and the Brown University Corporation. He was also a fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the National Academy of Design.

In 1971, Brown married Constance Mellon Byers. They divorced two years later. Brown went on to marry Pamela Braga Drexel, with whom he had two children: John Carter Brown 4th and Elissa Lucinda Rionda Brown. The couple divorced in 1991. At the time of his death, Brown was engaged to Anne Hawley.

Brown was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a terminal blood cancer, in the early part of the 21st century. During this time, he was at work on a book about himself and his father, though he never completed the manuscript. In June 2002, Brown died as a result of pulmonary failure in Boston.

From the guide to the J. Carter Brown papers, Brown (J. Carter) papers, 1937-2002, (bulk 1990-2002), (John Hay Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Bowman, Ruth, 1923-. WNYC Views on Art radio program interviews, 1967-1973. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf J. Carter Brown papers, Brown (J. Carter) papers, 1937-2002, (bulk 1990-2002) John Hay Library
referencedIn Pei, I. M., 1917-,. Oral history interview with I.M. Pei, 1993 February 22. National Gallery of Art Library
referencedIn Bales, Richard, 1915-1998,. Oral history interview with Richard Bales, 1989 January 11. National Gallery of Art Library
referencedIn Papers, 1853-2005 (inclusive), 1939-2003 (bulk). Houghton Library.
referencedIn Homsey Architects, Inc. Records, 1935-1992. Hagley Museum & Library
referencedIn Thomas, Thelma, 1902-1994. Papers, 1941-1972. National Gallery of Art Library
referencedIn Murphy, Franklin D. (Franklin David) 1916-,. Oral history interview with Franklin Murphy, 1990 January 24 and May 5. National Gallery of Art Library
referencedIn Peiperl, Adam, 1935-. Adam Peiperl papers, 1968-2007. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Brown, J. Carter. [J. Carter Brown] : artist file John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library, Ringling Museum Library
creatorOf BROWN, J. CARTER. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Barbaralee. Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel collection, 1976-1999. Duke University Libraries, Duke University Library; Perkins Library
creatorOf Finley, David E. (David Edward). Papers, 1915-1977. National Gallery of Art Library
creatorOf College of William and Mary. College of William and Mary Charter Day remarks 1984 [manuscript]; 1984. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Foy, Elizabeth,. Oral history interview with Elizabeth Foy, 1989 15 and 16 May. National Gallery of Art Library
creatorOf Brown, J. Carter. Brown, J. Carter: Art World Personality Files. Whitney Museum of American Art, Library
referencedIn John Mason Brown papers, 1922-1967. Houghton Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Bales, Richard, 1915-1998, person
associatedWith Bowman, Ruth, 1923- person
associatedWith Brown, Anne S. Kinsolving person
correspondedWith Brown, John Mason, 1900-1969 person
associatedWith Brown, Nicholas, 1933- person
associatedWith College of William and Mary. corporateBody
associatedWith Diamonstein-Spielvogel, Barbaralee. person
associatedWith Eccles, Mary Hyde. person
associatedWith Finley, David E. (David Edward) person
associatedWith Fischer, Angela Brown person
associatedWith Foy, Elizabeth, person
associatedWith Homsey Architects, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith J. Carter Brown, person
associatedWith Murphy, Franklin D. (Franklin David) 1916-, person
associatedWith National Gallery of Art (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Pei, I. M., 1917-, person
associatedWith Peiperl, Adam, 1935- person
associatedWith The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Thomas, Thelma, 1902-1994. person
associatedWith Whitney Museum of American Art. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1934-10-08

Death 2002-06-17




Ark ID: w6mk6ksw

SNAC ID: 11577333