Expert on Imperial Russian Art, Dies

State Hermitage Museum Director, Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, with Peter Schaffer, Anne Odom, and Chauncie Rodzianko

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Anne C. Odom, 75, an expert on Russian imperial art who was a curator emerita at Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington, died Aug. 25 at a hospital in Burlington, Vt.

Mrs. Odom, a District resident who had a summer home in Lincoln, Vt., had complications from injuries suffered Aug. 10 when she was struck by a bus in Middlebury, Vt.

Thomas Hanley, chief of police in Middlebury, said the accident remains under investigation.

Mrs. Odom’s interest in Russian art began in the early 1970s when her husband, Army Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, was posted to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as a military attache. He later served as director of the National Security Agency under President Ronald Reagan.

Mrs. Odom joined Hillwood as a guide in 1978, a year after the estate of the late cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post opened to the public. Post maintained the largest private collection of Russian artwork outside of Russia.

After joining Hillwood, Mrs. Odom conducted research at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and wrote books about Post’s collection.

Hillwood houses thousands of precious objects, most from the 18th and 19th centuries. It has more than 80 pieces from the Faberge design house as well as silver, porcelain and portraits from the czarist era.

“What’s interesting about Russian art is that it was at the periphery of the art culture and art elitism that was centered in Paris,” Mrs. Odom told the Washington Times in 2006.

Mrs. Odom became chief curator in 1991 and served simultaneously as chief curator and deputy director of collections from 1997 to 2001, when she became a curator emerita. As an authority on Russian art, Mrs. Odom contributed to academic studies at the Smithsonian Institution and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Anne Weld Curtis was born Dec. 13, 1935, in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and grew up in Verona, N.J.

She was a 1958 American history graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont. She received a master’s degree in history from Columbia University, where she met her husband in a class taught by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was later national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter.

William Odom died in 2008 after 45 years of marriage. Survivors include a son, Army Col. Mark Odom of Fort Benning, Ga.; a sister; a brother; and a granddaughter.

Mrs. Odom once said the person she would most liked to have met was Post, who died at Hillwood in 1973.

Post built much of her collection during the late 1930s, when her husband Joseph Davies was ambassador to the Soviet Union. At the time, artifacts from the imperial era were viewed by Joseph Stalin and his loyalists as relics of a despised and decadent period.

“For a while, the Russian attitude toward Hillwood was that the country had been ripped off, that it all belonged back in Moscow,” Mrs. Odom told the Washington Times in 1995.

“But there have been articles in the Russian press explaining that in the 1930s . . . the state was melting down chalices and selling off valuables. . . . Now the Russians come here and say, ‘Thank God she saved these things.’ ”

Source & Copyright: The Washington Post
30 August, 2011

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs Odom many years ago while visiting Washington, DC. During my visit, she took the time out of her busy schedule to provide me with a private tour of the Romanov treasures at Hillwood, while sharing her vast knowledge of the museum's magnificent Russian collection. She was highly respected around the world, and leaves behind a valuable legacy.

I wish to extend my sincere condolences to her family and friends.

Founder and Web Site Administrator,
Royal Russia