With a father in the business of sporting goods and a mother devoted to the arts, it was inevitable that Ross Merrill would develop a love of the outdoors and a career as a plein air landscape artist.
Merrill studied painting for four years at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. But as a young artist, when the recognition that Merrill craved was slow in coming, he began a career in museums. He first went to work at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, where he discovered painting conservation. In 1974, he earned a master’s degree in fine-art conservation from Oberlin College and then led the conservation department at the Cleveland Museum of Art. By 1981, Merrill had became the head conservator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art. Two years later, he became the museum’s chief of conservation and built the department into one of the most respected groups of its kind in the world. Merrill was considered “one of the great conservators of the 20th century.”
Despite his demanding work in museums, Merrill continued to paint throughout his life. His paintings were twice featured on the cover of American Artist magazine, and he helped found the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association. He has several works at the National Gallery and in other museums and important collections. The American Institute for Conservation presents The Ross Merrill Award to institutions that have shown exemplary and sustained commitment to conservation and collections care.