Andrew Carnduff Ritchie (1907-1978)
Museum director and curator, Andrew Carnduff Ritchie was born in Bellshill, Scotland in 1907. When he was fifteen years old, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While he dreamed of attending college in America, he knew his family would never be able to afford it. At the young age of seventeen, he began working at Westinghouse Electric eventually saving enough money to pay for his own tuition at the University of Pittsburgh. There, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1927 and a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies in 1933.
Ritchie’s natural talent and self-determination earned him a fellowship to study at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, where he completed a Ph.D. in English Medieval Art in 1935. Upon his return to the United States, he began work as a research assistant and lecturer at the Frick Collection in New York. He also gave lectures at New York University and Johns Hopkins University. In 1942 he was appointed Director of the Albright Art Gallery (today, the Albright-Knox Gallery) in Buffalo, New York.
In mid-1945 Ritchie was selected by the Roberts Commission to assist the MFAA with restitution of objects looted from Austria. Taking a leave of absence from the Albright Gallery, he travelled to Vienna, where he served at Headquarters of United States Forces in Austria (USFA) alongside Monuments Men Lt. Col. Ernest T. DeWald, Lt. Cdr. Perry Cott, and Lt. Frederick Hartt. In November he was selected as the successor to Monuments Man Maj. L. Bancel LaFarge as Chief of the MFAA Section for the United States Forces, European Theater (USFET) in Austria. As the representative of the USFA at the Munich Central Collecting Point, some of his most memorable accomplishments include personally escorting Jan Vermeer’s The Artist’s Studio (“the Czernin Vermeer”) to Vienna in a private railroad car, and accompanying the Holy Roman regalia from Nuremberg to Vienna on board a C-47 transport plane.
In the years following his return to the United States, Ritchie served in influential positions at some of America’s most prominent cultural institutions. After departing the Albright Gallery in 1949, he became Director of the Painting and Sculpture Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1957 he succeeded former Monuments Man Lamont Moore as Director of the Yale University Art Gallery. His most notable acquisition was that of Paul Mellon’s impressive collection of British art, which he used as the basis for a new museum, the Yale Center for British Studies (today, the Yale Center for British Art). In addition to commissioning famed architect Louis Kahn for the museum’s innovative building, Ritchie continued to expand the collection. In 1970 he was the first American citizen given an honorary Ph.D. from the Royal College of Arts in London. Following his retirement from Yale in 1971, he spent one year as Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History at Williams College in Massachusetts.
Andrew Ritchie died in Sharon, Connecticut on August 12, 1978. To this day, the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery jointly sponsor the annual Andrew C. Ritchie Lecture in tribute to his transformative contributions.