Emily Rauh Pulitzer, wife of the late Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., has led a life devoted to the arts—and to the Harvard Art Museums. As the opening of the Harvard Art Museums draws near, we took the opportunity to interview one of the museums’ greatest advocates and supporters.
Pulitzer’s formal involvement with the museums began in 1957 when she served as the Fogg Museum’s assistant curator of drawings, working under the legendary curator Agnes Mongan.
“In those days, a great many of the drawings were framed in the drawing study room, which overlooked Quincy Street and the Harvard Yard,” she recalled. “People could come in at any time and ask to see the drawings. So it really was the source of the current thinking for the Art Study Center in the new Harvard Art Museums.”
Her personal connection, Pulitzer said, is what makes the opening of the new museums all the more exciting. For the first time, all three museums—the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler—will be united at 32 Quincy Street, where her career in art at Harvard began. Pulitzer earned a master’s degree in 1963 while still working at the Fogg.
“I have been fortunate enough to tour the building at various stages. Tom Lentz has done an extraordinary job of redefining the mission of the institution,” she said. “It’s always been a teaching institution, but it’s now much more focused in that direction. He then restructured the staff and the building to serve those ends. The Calderwood Courtyard has been preserved and enhanced and much has been added to the original building to make a superb 21st-century museum.”
Today, Pulitzer is one of the most ardent supporters of the museums; she has generously donated funds as well as works of art and she chairs the Visiting Committee. She channels her love of art across multiple platforms, always exploring new ways to establish connections between artists, scholars, and members of the community. This year she was awarded a Harvard Alumni Association medal for her support of the arts and museums program at Harvard, and she received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2012. She is the founder and chair of the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis.
“Art has certainly enriched my life,” she said. “I have met so many remarkable people at Harvard. In more recent years, serving on the Board of Overseers has brought me into closer contact with the university, which has been stimulating.”