Frank Zuccari, age 70, longtime head of art conservation for the Art Institute of Chicago, died peacefully in his Chicago home on Wednesday, August 26, after a seven-month illness. He was accomplished, kind, informed, generous, modest, a scholar and leader in his field, and an artist/craftsman of the highest order. He loved family dinners, golfing with friends, antiquing and restoring old houses, Cape Cod vacations with his sisters, looking at art with colleagues and friends around the world and lazy weekends on the sofa while his son played piano.
Frank led the Department of Conservation for the Art Institute for 25 years, retiring in early 2018. He came from a family of art restorers and went on to enroll in one of the first graduate art conservation programs in the U.S., in Cooperstown, NY. Frank's career before joining the Art Institute in 1987 included stints at some of the nation's great museums: the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
While at the Art Institute, Frank oversaw the expansion of the Conservation Department and the development of the Conservation Science program. He had a key role in the planning and installation of the museum's Modern Wing. He was revered for training and mentoring dozens of young conservators who went on to illustrious careers at leading museums. And his work involved the restoration of numerous masterpieces in the collection. Frank spent the last year of his career focusing on one of the greatest paintings in the Art Institute's collection: El Greco's "The Assumption of the Virgin," the centerpiece of the museum's current El Greco exhibition.
He was born in Rome, Italy, to Bianca (Moro) and Nello Zuccari. He is survived by his longtime companion Maureen King and her son Alex King, who Frank helped raise as his son; by his sisters Christina Zuccari (Richard) and Paula Zuccari-Correlli (Dennis); and his nieces Gianna and Isabella Correlli.
A memorial service will be planned when it is safe to gather. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be directed to support education and travel for young conservators: Conservation and Science Department of the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago IL 60603.
Published in Chicago Tribune on Aug. 30, 2020.