Henry Augustine Tate

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"My job, I tell my students, is to be their guide, to help them articulate what they already know. For me, that's what the process of education is—it's the act of leading out. So I tell my students to think about a symphony. There is going to be an introduction, or an 'entry' in painterly terms. The leitmotif in a musical composition is a 'directional' in a painting. And then we have major movements, which carry the viewer's eye around the composition and lead us to a finale, which we call an 'exit.' When showing my students the importance of color and why we have to be careful about color, I'll say, for example, 'Red is almost a D major. You put that in the wrong place, and your composition will fall apart.'"

"Since I'm also a painter, I'll say to the students, the only difference between what you do when you're composing a tune and what I do when I'm creating a painting is the tools that we use. We come from the same creative background. Whether someone is writing a poem or composing the symphony or painting a fresco or sculpting a work of art, the difference is the tools that we use. And then I quote Robert Frost, who tells us, 'It's knowing what to do with things that counts.'"

Career Highlights


  • B.A., Villanova University
  • B.A., University of Pennsylvania
  • M.A., Trinity College, Dublin
  • D.Phil., Dublin University
  • Curatorial positions in the education departments of the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Arts, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
  • Educational consultant and lecturer at Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston; and James Joyce Society, New York and Dublin