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Michael K. Brown

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Michael K. Brown of Houston, Texas (formerly of Lowville) died on September 8, 2013 of organ failure, ten days after undergoing a heart transplant. Michael was the curator of Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH). He was 60 years of age.

Michael was born in Lowville, NY, third son of Arel J. and Eleanor B. Brown on January 27, 1953. He graduated from Lowville Academy in 1971 and received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Oswego, where he pursued his interests in American Studies and History. Michael then earned his Master’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Delaware in the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture.

Michael began his career at the Boston Museum of fine Arts in the late 1970’s as an assistant curator. In 1980, Michael joined the curatorial team at Bayou Bend, the MFAH’s house museum for American decorative arts and painting. He was a leading scholar in the field of decorative arts, an authority on American Silver, and a specialist in the work of 19th century New York Cabinet Maker Duncan Phyfe. “Michael was an exemplary curator, known for his passion and keen connoisseurship, and a remarkable individual whose grace and gentility touched everyone he encountered,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Michael’s professional life was dedicated to Bayou Bend and, among his many accomplishments, he co-authored and co-curated the exhibition Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinet Maker in New York, shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2012. Michael also published dozens of books and articles on American decorative arts, architecture and history. Most recently, he was the author of America’s Treasures at Bayou Bend: Celebrating Fifty Years (2007). He was a popular speaker throughout the country at decorative arts forums and symposia. Michael was committed to community service in the Houston area, serving several civic and historical associations including Houston’s Heritage Society, Preservation Houston and the Victorian Society in America based in Philadelphia.

Michael was always proud of his Lowville, New York family background and helped to discover, identify and assemble collections of related art and objects for the Lewis County Historical Society. Michael made it a point to visit his hometown of Lowville several times a year to visit family and friends, as well as to research local decorative arts treasures.

Surviving Michael are his partner and companion, Bart Truxillo of Houston, TX, three brothers, Arel B and Barbara R. Brown of Lowville, Leon W. and Barbara M. Brown of Oneonta, NY and Patrick H. Brown of Upper Chase Lake, Glenfield, NY; a nephew, Dr. Matthew L. Brown of Winston-Salem, NC, two nieces, Alia Brown Gervasi of Pittsford, NY and Elizabeth E. White of Blacksburg, VA. Also surviving is a grand nephew, Graydon Gervasi and step-niece and nephew, Karla and Nick Searl.

Michael was “knowledgeable, generous, sympathetic, and possessed a wonderful, twinkling sense of humor. Michael was himself one-of-a-kind, with no imitation possible or copies extant,” (Martha Fleishman of the NY Times). He will be missed by his family and friends as well as legions of colleagues across the country, who now mourn his untimely death.

Memorial services are being planned both in Lowville and in Houston at a later date. Burial will be in the Lowville Rural Cemetery at the convenience of the family. Online condolences may be sent to www.sundquistfh.com.

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