THE DEATH of Anne d'Harnoncourt is a shock to the city and to the world. It strikes us that if death wasn't intimidated by someone as formidable as d'Harnoncourt, the rest of us have become just a little more mortal.
She leaves behind an astounding legacy that has shaped the city and the art world forever. And though she was a towering physical and civic presence, much of her legacy is shaped by qualities that were the opposite of formidable: She was warm, welcoming and a passioniate champion of art, of the museum and of the city - and had a unique ability to see that the three connected.
Following the resignation in 1996 of Robert Montgomery Scott, with whom she shared leadership, d'Harnoncourt became CEO and director - and the only woman in America heading a major museum. And she made the museum even more major. Her historic successes include the Cezanne exhibit, which attracted nearly a million people; more recently, she helped save the Eakins painting "The Gross Clinic" from leaving the city; worked hard to ensure that the Barnes collection will be housed; opened the new Perelman annex; and embarked on a $590 million expansion.
She was a world-class person who brought the museum to that level. Those remembering her yesterday also spoke of her warmth and her passion, and described her as gracious and lovely. As one put it, "she was like the queen."