Milo Merle Naev of Kennett Square

Milo Merle Naeve, 77, of Kennett Square, an American art historian, curator, and museum director, died on Aug. 10 after a recent diagnosis of carcinoma of the lung.

The youngest of three sons of Bernhardt and Fern Naeve, he was born October 9, 1931, on a ranch near Arnold, Kansas.  Mr. Naeve graduated from high school in Loveland, Colo. in 1949 and received his BFA from the University of Colorado in 1953.  He was a member of Delta Phi Delta, Phi Epsilon Phi, Tau Delta and Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.  He was selected a member of the second class of Winterthur Fellows receiving a MFA in 1955 from the Winterthur Program in American Studies jointly sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum.

Following two years of service in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, he held curatorial and administrative positions at Winterthur Museum for the next 10 years.  As Secretary of the museum from 1959-1963, he catalogued and administered Mr. duPont’s gifts of his collection to the museum.  He was the founding editor of the Winterthur Portfolio and was responsible for the first three volumes.

Mr. Naeve was Curator of Colonial Williamsburg and Director of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center before being recruited to be the first curator for the newly founded American Arts Department of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1975.  He was responsible for American decorative arts from the 17th c. to the present and American painting and sculpture to 1901.  In 1984, he was named the Field-McCormick Curator of American Arts.  Funded by Marshall Field V, President of the Board of Trustees of the Art Institute of Chicago and Brooks McCormick, Chairman of the American Arts Committee, it was the first curatorial position endowed at the Art Institute.  Mr. Naeve was responsible for the concept, planning, and installation of the acclaimed Field-McCormick Galleries of American Arts, which opened in 1988 in the Daniel and Ada Rice Building, an addition to the Art Institute.  At the time of his retirement in 1991, Mr. Field noted “purchases and gifts during the past 17 years have more than doubled the departmental collections and masterpieces in furniture and painting of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries have brought national stature to those collections and pre-eminence in surveys of silver, 20th c. decorative arts and 19th c. sculpture”.  His service was recognized by the honorary title of Field-McCormick Curator Emeritus of American Arts.  He is cited as a thorough scholar, a fine judge of aesthetic quality in a work of art, a curator’s curator.

In 1991, Mr. Naeve received the first Life Time Achievement Award granted by the Illinois Academy of Fine Arts for his contributions to the Arts in Illinois.  In 1996, he was the recipient of the Decorative Arts Society Robert C. Smith Award for the most influential article in the decorative arts for 1996.  Subsequently, he has served as Chairman of the award selection committee.

He was the author of The Classical Presence in American Art, published by the Art Institute of Chicago; John Lewis Krimmel: An Artist in Federal America, University of Delaware Press and three editions of Identifying American Furniture: Colonial to Contemporary.  He was researching and writing the Landscape Garden in America.  He wrote numerous articles and reviews.  Especially commended among the essays and frequently reprinted is one about the rarely discussed subject of connoisseurship entitled, “The A, B, C, D’s of Collecting”.   He lectured widely in the United States and England.

Mr. Naeve served on the boards of The Library Company of Philadelphia, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and the Sewell Biggs Museum of American Art.  He was a member of the editorial board for The American Art Journal and an advisor for The Art and Architecture Thesaurus of the Getty Foundation.  He was a member of the Grolier Club and the Century Association in New York and of their exhibition committees.

His memberships included the American Association of Museums, Museums Association of Great Britain, The Royal Oak Foundation, The College Art Association, The Society of Architectural Historians and he was a Life Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, England.  Mr. Naeve was a communicant of Christ Church Christiana Hundred.  He was a member of Greenville Country Club.

Mr. Naeve is survived by his wife of 55 years, the former Nancy Jammer, whom he married July 18, 1954, at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boulder, Colo.  He is also survived by his former sister-in-law, three nieces and one nephew.  He was predeceased by his parents and his two brothers, Clifford Lewis Naeve and Bartley Allen Naeve.

A funeral service will be held Friday, August 14, 2009 at 11:00 a.m. at Christ Church, 501 East Buck Road, Greenville, Delaware.  Burial will be in Mountain View Cemetery, Boulder, Colorado.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Christ Church Christiana Hundred, P.O. Box 3510, Greenville, Delaware 19807-0510 or to Fox Chase Cancer Center, Dr. Michael Unger, 333 Cottman Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19111-2497.
Arrangements are being handled by Kuzo & Grieco Funeral Home (610-444-4116) of Kennett Square, PA.  To send an online condolence, please visit

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