Philip Conisbee received his education in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London University. His dissertation on the 18th-century landscape and marine painter Joseph Vernet led to the reassessment of this important artist in the exhibition devoted to him in London and Paris in 1976. A specialist in French art of the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries, he has published two books—Painting in 18th–Century France (1981) and Chardin (1985)--and many articles, catalogue essays, and reviews.
After a career as a university professor in his native Britain, where he taught at the universities of Reading, London, Cambridge, and Leicester, he moved to the United States in 1986, as curator of French paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. From 1988 to 1993 he was curator of European painting and sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has been at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. since 1993, where he is senior curator of European paintings. He became a United States citizen in 1994.
He has been curator and co-curator of a wide range of exhibitions since coming to the United States, from Van Gogh and Millet (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 1988) to Monet to Matisse: French Art in Southern Californian Collections (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991), and The Golden Age of Danish Painting (Los Angeles County Museum of Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1993). He was the Washington organizer of the highly acclaimed exhibition In the Light of Italy: Corot and Early Open-air Painting (National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the St. Louis Museum of Art, 1996-1997, and of Adolf Menzel: Between Romanticism and Impressionism (Musée d'Orsay, Paris; the National Gallery of Art, Washington; and the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, 1996-1997). He was also responsible for the exhibition Georges de La Tour and His World (National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1996-1997). He is the Gallery's curator of Degas at the Races; Manet, Monet, and the Gare Saint-Lazare; Van Gogh's Van Goghs in 1998; Portraits by Ingres: Image of an Epoch in 1999, and The Age of Watteau, Chardin, and Fragonard: Masterpieces of French Genre Painting and Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg (1783-1853) in 2003. Also in 2003, Mr. Conisbee was awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French Government for his services in the promotion of French culture.
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