Art historian, exhibition curator and museum director Professor Ann Sumner has been honoured as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
Professor Ann Sumner serves as an external consultant on the University’s School of Art Museum and Gallery Advisory Board.
She was Head of Fine Art for Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales from 2000-2007, and Director and Professor of Fine Arts and Curatorial Practice at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham from 2007-12, before being appointed Head of Cultural Engagement at the University of Leeds.
Educated at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, she undertook her PhD at Newnham College, Cambridge.
She began her career at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and held curatorial positions at the Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Harewood House Trust and the Holburne Museum, University of Bath. She was recently appointed Chair of the Methodist Modern Art Collection.
Professor Ann Sumner was presented by Professor Robert Meyrick, Head of the School of Art and Keeper of Art on Tuesday 17 July 2018. The full conferral presentation is available below, in the language in which it was delivered.
Presentation of Professor Ann Sumner by Professor Robert Meyrick:
Canghellor, Is-Ganghellor, darpar raddedigion, gyfeillion. Pleser o’r mwyaf yw cyflwyno Ann Sumner yn Gymrawd Prifysgol Aberystwyth.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, prospective graduates and supporters. It is an honour and a privilege to present Ann Sumner as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
As an art historian, exhibition curator and museum director, Ann has been associated with many of the UK’s leading cultural institutions. As an early career researcher she worked at the National Portrait Gallery in London and Dulwich Picture Gallery where she began as a specialist of seventeenth-century British painting and miniature painting.
There followed periods at the Holburne Museum in Bath and Manchester University’s Whitworth Art Gallery before her appointment as Head of Fine Art at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. She served the Museum for eight years before becoming first female Director of the internationally-renowned Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham. Since her tenure as Barber Professor of Fine Art and Curatorial Practice, Ann has been Director of the Birmingham Museums Trust, Executive Director of the Brontë Society, and Head of Cultural Engagement at the University of Leeds.
In an advisory capacity, Ann is Historic Collections Adviser to the Harewood House Trust and sits on the Steering Committee for the Tercentenary of furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale. She is also part of the Steering Group marking the Centenary of Mitzi Cunliffe, an American sculptor in Manchester. As well as advising Derby Museums Trust on their Joseph Wright of Derby displays, she is newly appointed Chair of the Methodist Modern Art Collection. Importantly for Aberystwyth University, Ann serves as external consultant on the School of Art Museum and Gallery Advisory Board.
Ann studied History of Art at the University of London’s Courtauld Institute and gained a PhD in History from Newnham College, Cambridge. Her research raises awareness of once influential now forgotten or marginalised artists and collectors, and enriches our understanding and appreciation of European art history.
Ann’s first major exhibition for the Holburne at Bath marked the bicentenary of Thomas Gainsborough. One of her most significant research projects was for the National Museum of Wales exploring the work of pioneering eighteenth-century Welsh landscape painter Thomas Jones. Thomas Jones: An Artist Re-discoveredtoured to the Whitworth in Manchester and the National Gallery in London and was accompanied by a scholarly monograph published by Yale University Press.
At Cardiff, Ann made an important contribution to the history of art and art collecting in Wales. In 2007, she was co-curator of the Museum’s centenary exhibition Industry to Impressionismwhere she focused on the Davies Sisters of Gregynog as collectors of Impressionist paintings. With the National Gallery, London, she curated an exhibition and researched a monograph on French Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley and his time in England and Wales. A similar project followed on John Brett, A Pre-Raphaelite on the Shores of Wales. She is currently working on now little-known Welsh landscape painter Penry Williams.
Anyone who knows Ann, will know that aside from art history her great passion is lawn tennis. There have been times when the twain have met. In 2011, she curated for the Barber Institute a hugely successful exhibition Court on Canvas: Tennis in Artand just recently has completed for Routledge a chapter on International Tennis Art.
Through uncovering forgotten or marginalised artists and artworks, Ann offers a new appreciation of important figures, historical practices and artefacts and advances our understanding of the personal, professional and institutional forces that shape and maintain our artistic heritage. Rediscovering and re-evaluating, uncovering the past, piecing together a trail of clues, makes accessible work hitherto excluded from the canon due simply to a paucity of information or lack of exposure to the artists and collectors and their practices.
Today we celebrate Ann’s many and varied achievements as one of our foremost art historians and exhibition curators, and in particular mark her contribution to the history of Wales’ visual culture.
Canghellor, Is-Ganghellor mae’n bleser gen i gyflwyno Ann Sumner i chi yn Gymrawd.
Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, it is my absolute pleasure to present Ann Sumner to you as a Fellow of Aberystwyth University.
Photo: Aberystwyth University Chancellor The Rt Hon. Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd with Honorary Fellow Professor Ann Sumner
Graduation 2018 – https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/graduation/