Thursday, February 21st, 2013...1:15 pm

Eleanor Martha Garvey, 1918-2013

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Eleanor M. Garvey. Photo by Diane Asseo Griliches.

Eleanor M. Garvey, retired Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, Houghton Library, passed away February 11, 2013, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her many friends and acquaintances will miss her warmth, vivacity, generosity of spirit, and gift for friendship. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Elli Garvey attended local schools, graduated from Wellesley College, Class of 1940, and earned an M.A. from Clark University. After working as a teacher, librarian, and curator at the Worcester Art Museum, Wellesley College, and the Newark (New Jersey) Museum, she joined the staff of Houghton Library, Harvard University, in 1953, as Assistant to Philip Hofer, founder and curator of the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts. Promoted to Assistant Curator in 1961 and Associate Curator in 1968, she was named Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts in 1975. After Philip Hofer’s death in 1984, a group of his friends endowed the curator’s position in his name, and Ms. Garvey became the first Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts. She retired in 1990, but continued for many years to come to the library to work on a study of illustrated Venetian books of the 18th century. On the occasion of her retirement her friends endowed the Eleanor M. Garvey Visiting Fellowship to support visiting scholars during short terms of study in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts.

During her thirty-seven years at Houghton Library, many of them under the mentorship of Philip Hofer, Ms. Garvey contributed to or sponsored a number of significant exhibitions, projects, and publications. The 1961 exhibition, The Artist & the Book, 1860-1960, in Western Europe and the United States, planned jointly by Hofer and Garvey, and shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, was seminal in bringing livres de peintres – books including original graphic works by artists known for their achievements in other media – to the attention of the worlds of art, librarianship, and connoisseurship. The exhibition catalogue, authored by Garvey, remains a basic reference work. Subsequently she began the formation of the important collection of contemporary artists’ books which Houghton Library continues to develop. Other important exhibitions and catalogues to which she contributed were The Arts of the French Book, 1900-1965: Illustrated Books of the School of Paris (1967, with Peter A. Wick), and The Turn of a Century, 1885-1910: Art Nouveau – Jugendstil Books (1970, with Peter A. Wick and Anne B. Smith). Additional noteworthy exhibitions to which she made substantial contributions behind the scenes were H. H. Richardson and His Office: A Centennial of His Move to Boston, 1874 (1974, catalogue by James O’Gorman), and Artists of the Book in Boston, 1890-1910 (1985, catalogue by Nancy Finlay). In 1988 she organized an exhibition paying tribute to Philip Hofer’s gifts to Houghton Library, with its accompanying publication, A Catalogue of an Exhibition of the Philip Hofer Bequest in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, Harvard College Library. A generous mentor, she also saw to it that each of the three assistant curators who served under her produced significant exhibitions and publications.

During her career Ms. Garvey lectured widely, at Houghton Library, the Boston Public Library, the Society of Printers, the Grolier Club, and many other venues. She taught at Rare Books School, Columbia University, in 1991, and was a member of the faculty of the Radcliffe Seminars beginning in 1977.

A woman of broad cultural interests, Ms. Garvey participated actively in many scholarly, professional, and cultural organizations. For many years she was an enthusiastic participant in the annual tours of the International Association of Bibliophiles, and in 1976 was one of the first women to be elected to membership in the Grolier Club of New York, a distinguished organization of book collectors. She was a member of the Print Council of America, and of the Society of Printers, Boston, which elected her to honorary membership in 2010. In 1991 the American Printing History Association conferred on her its award for distinguished individual achievement and contributions to printing history. She served on a number of committees dedicated to preserving art, including the Boston Chapter of Save Venice, Inc., the Committee to Rescue Italian Art, and the Visiting Committee to the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Always a loyal supporter of Wellesley College, she was a member both of the National Committee of the Wellesley College Friends of Art and the Boston Friends of Art Steering Committee. In 1988 she received Wellesley’s Alumna Achievement Award, one of the college’s highest honors.

[Thanks to Hope Mayo, Philip Hofer Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, for contributing this post. Photo by Diane Asseo Griliches.]

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