Newest museum director has an international perspective

Thomas Padon will be the new director of the Brandywine River Museum on Sept. 4.

CHADDS FORD – Come Sept. 4, Thomas Padon will be the new director of the Brandywine River Museum, its third since the museum began in 1971.

The 54-year-old Padon comes to the museum from the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of the largest museums in Canada, where he was assistant director and director of international partnerships.

Commented Virginia A. Logan, executive director of the Brandywine Conservancy, under whose umbrella the museum functions, “Tom brings the ideal mix of museum management experience, leadership style and enthusiasm for our collection and mission.”

Logan, who joined the museum Jan. 1, served as interim museum director until a new person could be found. Longtime museum director Jim Duff retired late last year.

Reached on vacation in Maine, Padon expressed great excitement about his new position and the prospect of moving to Philadelphia from New York City, where he now resides.

“This is a great time to come to the museum, especially with the recent opening of the Andrew Wyeth studio,” he said. “The studio really brings the man and his art to life.”

Along with Logan and the museum board, Padon wants to make its collections and activities better known to an international audience.

“I’ve worked before on collections that traveled all over the world,” he said. “There is lots of interest in our collections from Asia and Europe.”

The museum owns a veritable treasure trove of paintings and sketches from three generations of the Wyeth family, beginning with patriarch and painter/illustrator N.C. Wyeth and continuing with son Andrew, who died in January 2009, plus Andy’s younger son Jamie Wyeth, a noted painter and illustrator who still lives in the area.

Padon is no stranger to working internationally. While at the Vancouver museum, he initiated collaborations with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Musée d´Orsay, Paris, and helped organize Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore.

“The land around the Brandywine museum is outrageously beautiful,” Padon, a native of Houston, noted. “No wonder artists were drawn to this place.”

The 100th anniversary of Wyeth’s birth occurs in 2017, and Padon hopes to commandeer a large retrospective of his work to mark the occasion. “We hope to bring a new generation of scholarship to Wyeth’s work,” he said. “We’ll organize a symposium and that may very well lead to new areas of research.”

The much-anticipated opening of the Barnes Museum in Philadelphia, as well as the re-opening of the Rodin Museum, refocus attention on the flourishing arts scene in and around the city, Padon said.

He earned his undergraduate degree in art history from the University of Colorado and his master’s in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. From there, he went to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as an intern, a temporary slot that led to a permanent position on the curatorial staff. While there, he was involved in organizing major exhibitions of the work of Josef Albers, Georges Braque, Mario Merz and Joan Miró.

Padon considers early European modernism his specialty. He has also organized exhibits as varied as Egyptian art from the British Museum, Degas and the Dance, a collaboration with Joseph Rishel (the Gisela and Dennis Alter senior curator of European painting before 1900) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Maxfield Parrish with the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

“The museum’s collection tells a remarkable story – essentially personal experiences of a very special place,” he said. “And the setting alone (on the banks of the Brandywine River in a converted grist mill) is astonishing.”

To contact correspondent Sarah E. Moran, send an e-mail to semoran219@gmail.com.

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