Jean Sutherland Boggs, 92, a Degas scholar and the first female director of the National Gallery of Canada and also at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, died Friday, Aug. 22, in Ottawa, Ontario, where she lived.
Dr. Boggs, who received her doctorate in art history from Harvard University, served as director of the Philadelphia museum from 1978 to 1982, a difficult time for the institution. She followed Evan Turner, who had departed as director in 1977 after losing a bruising battle with trustees.
More than a year later, Dr. Boggs' appointment was announced with great fanfare. She had spent a decade as director of the National Gallery of Canada, from 1966 to 1976, and was teaching at Harvard when the Art Museum's search committee coaxed her back into museum management.
Scholarly and invariably polite, she took over a badly listing ship.
For some time before her arrival, trustees had been authorizing use of the museum's minuscule endowment to cover chronic operating deficits. The federal government then began cutting funds for the arts, hitting museum programs badly.
Friction between museum guards, who at the time were city employees, and the museum administration, which was dependent on city subsidies, led to closed galleries. Staff members were laid off. The museum went dark two days a week.
Some trustees questioned Dr. Boggs' fund-raising ability.
Despite the woes, she said she was "not discouraged by the inevitable limitations of money from the city. I have the greatest expectations for the future of the museum."
She even managed to acquire a major painting by Degas, After the Bath.
"A lot of great exhibitions happened on her watch," said current Art Museum director Timothy Rub, citing the widely praised 1981 "Manifestations of Shiva," a challenging presentation of Indian art. "She had a real commitment to scholarship."
Dr. Boggs was born in Peru, where her father was a petroleum geologist, and grew up in Canada.
In 1966, she became the first woman to lead the National Gallery in Ottawa, serving for a decade. After leaving Philadelphia, she returned to Canada to head the Canada Museums Construction Corp., which oversaw design and construction of a new National Gallery building and what became the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
Marc Mayer, current head of the National Gallery, called Dr. Boggs "a key personality" in that institution's history, adding that "she is among my heroes."
Dr. Boggs is survived by a sister.