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Joseph J. Rishel Papers

Identifier: RIS


This collection contains personal papers, documents, photographs, and ephemera kept by Joseph J. Rishel from 1978-2014.


  • 1978-2014


Language of Materials

Materials predominately in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research except for institutional records less than 10 years or those that are unprocessed, which can be made available at the discretion of the Archivist.

Conditions Governing Use

The Joseph J. Rishel Papers are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

Joseph John Rishel was born on May 15, 1940, in Clifton Springs, New York, a small town near Lake Geneva. In 1962 he graduated with honors from Hobart College and in 1968 received an MA at the University of Chicago. Joe began his curatorial career at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met his future wife, the late Anne d’Harnoncourt. He joined the curatorial staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1971, and Anne a year later. Joe would go on to lead our Department of European Painting and Sculpture before 1900; Anne became director of the museum in 1982.

Joe’s accomplishments were legion. He played an instrumental role, for example, in the comprehensive reinstallation of the museum’s renowned holdings of European art in the 1990s and in encouraging the gift of works of art to the collection, thus ensuring its ongoing development during a time when purchase funds were limited.

Joe was perhaps best known for the many major exhibitions he organized, among them The Second Empire 1852–1870: Art in France under Napoleon III (1978) and Tesoros/Treasures/Tesouros: The Arts of Latin America, 1492–1820 (2006). He organized several shows on the work of Paul Cézanne, including Cézanne in 1996—which was seen by nearly 550,000 visitors, shattering all previous attendance records—and Cézanne and Beyond in 2009.

As Curator Emeritus, Joseph J. Rishel retired in November 2015 after a long and distinguished career at the museum. He passed away in his sleep on November 5, 2020. He was the former Gisela and Dennis Alter Senior Curator of European Painting before 1900, and Senior Curator of the John G. Johnson Collection and the Rodin Museum.


0.75 linear feet (3 boxes)


Guide to the Joseph J. Rishel Papers
Cassandra Shiflet
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States