Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Office of the Director. Montebello Subject Files, 1969-1974
Biographical or Historical Note
Philippe de Montebello, the MFAH´s fifth director, served from September of 1969 through January of 1974. Prior to the MFAH directorship, that he began at the age of thirty-three, he had been part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art´s curatorial staff since 1963. De Montebello is a naturalized U.S. citizen who moved from France with his family in 1951. From 1956 — 1958, he served in the U.S. Army as a 2nd Artillery Officer. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard with a B.A.
in the history of art in 1961. Before accepting his first position at the Met, he worked toward his Masters at New York University´s Institute of Fine Arts.
During his tenure as MFAH director, de Montebello oversaw the construction of the Brown Pavilion. He expanded the professional curatorial staff from one to six and created two new departments: the Department of Twentieth Century Art and the Education Department. He successfully launched and
concluded what at the time was the largest capital campaign in MFAH history, the fifteen million dollar drive to raise funds for the Brown Pavilion, the renovation of Bayou Bend, and the construction of a building to house the museum school. The campaign was also to raise funds for an acquisitions endowment and for overall operations. Under his leadership, the operating endowment quintupled, and a two million dollar acquisitions fund, the Agnes Cullen Arnold Endowment Fund, was established. As director, de Montebello added significant Baroque pieces to the collection of the museum.
He hired a professional publicist as Publications Editor, and introduced the monthly publication of bulletins. In programming, de Montebello accelerated the film and lecture series, and hosted the first colloquia. He also recognized the importance of the library, obtaining special funding for it.
In February of 1974, de Montebello returned to the Metropolitan Museum as Vice Director of Curatorial Affairs. He became the Met´s Acting Director in June of 1977, and in May of 1978 he became Director.