Observation & Imagination
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Clifford S. Ackley
Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Curator of Prints and Drawings
Clifford S. Ackley grew up in a small town on the coast of Oregon with a desire to be an artist. He pursued this goal at the University of Oregon but drifted into art history, a field that combined many of his interests. While at the University of Oregon he took a lithography course which gave him a positive insight into printmaking as a creative medium. An advisor there steered him to graduate study at Harvard. Before graduate school he went to Holland on a Fulbright Fellowship. At Harvard he majored in seventeenth century Dutch art under Seymour Slive. After four years of graduate school he returned to Holland for two years of research into Dutch printmaking that became the 1980-81 the exhibition Printmaking in the Age of Rembrandt.
Clifford S. Ackley joined the Museum of Fine Arts staff in 1966. Hired primarily to work with Old Master prints, he brought with him a strong interest on Modern and Contemporary Art and Photography. His activity in the acquisition of photographs resulted in the addition of Photography to the Department’s name. From 1984-2014 he served as Chair of the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. He continued to pursue his interest in Dutch graphic art in the exhibition Rembrandt’s Journey (2004) and the publication on later Dutch prints and drawings, Holland on Paper in the Age of Art Nouveau (2014). During these years he also actively pursued the acquisition of contemporary prints, documented in a series of loan exhibitions such as PhotoImage: Printmaking 60s to 90s (1998). He is currently the Museum’s Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Curator of Prints and Drawings. He is working on a Highlights book on the collection of prints and drawings.