VMFA Names New Assistant Curator of European Art and the Mellon Collections


The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced the appointment of Dr. Theresa A. Cunningham as the museum’s new assistant curator of European art and the Mellon Collections.

“In collaboration with Sylvain Cordier, the museum’s Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the Department of European Art, Theresa will play a key role in the stewardship, interpretation, and future installations and exhibitions of works of art in this impressive collection," said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s director and CEO, in a press release.

The release notes that VMFA’s European art collection "comprises more than 10,000 paintings, sculptures, decorative art objects and works on paper dating from the early medieval period to the mid-20th century, as well as the Mellon collections of French Impressionist, post-Impressionist and British sporting art."

Here's more from the release about Cunningham:

While French Impressionism has been a primary area of Cunningham’s research, her recent projects have focused on still life painting and “trompe l’oeil,” or art that uses optical illusions to replicate three-dimensional realism. She has curated exhibitions and published extensively on wide range of subjects, including medieval art, seascapes, Impressionism and modern art.

Cunningham has also contributed to several peer-reviewed publications including the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide and Print Quarterly. Her essay, “Walter McEwan, Dutch Interior with Four Figures,” will appear in the forthcoming publication "American Paintings in the Palmer Museum of Art" (2023).

Cunningham comes to VMFA from the Dixon Gallery & Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, where, as assistant curator, she focused on collection research and interpretation, presenting new approaches to its permanent collection and special exhibitions such as "The Impressionist Landscape and Beyond" (2022), "Sketching in Color: Pastels in the Dixon Collection" (2022) and "Jeanne Seagle: Of This Place" (2023).

Prior to her position at the Dixon, Cunningham was a Margaret R. Mainwaring Curatorial Fellow in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs. She curated the exhibition Unexpected Surfaces (2021) during her fellowship.

Cunningham was a graduate curatorial assistant at the Palmer Museum of Art at Pennsylvania State University, the school where she received her Ph.D. in art history after defending her dissertation, "Scales of Seeing: Spatial Experience in Paris, 1849–1899" (2020). Cunningham earned her master’s degree in the history of art and archeology from the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University and her bachelor’s degree in art history from Boston College.

“I am thrilled to be joining the team at VMFA at such an exciting moment in the museum’s history,” said Cunningham. “I look forward to collaborating with VMFA colleagues to present this wonderful collection to visitors through both the upcoming reinstallation project and special exhibitions.”

For more information about the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, visit www.vmfa.museum.