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HC 3: Personal

Sachs, Paul J., 1878-1965. Papers, 1900-1994: A Guide

Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
The President and Fellows of Harvard College

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HC 3: Personal
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Creator: Paul J. Sachs
Title: Papers of Paul J. Sachs, 1900-1994: A Guide
Date(s): 1900-1994
Quantity: 4 linear feet (6 file boxes, 1 half file box, oversize materials)
Abstract: These personal papers of Fogg Museum associate director Paul J. Sachs document his involvement with the Fogg, his academic career, publishing projects, collection of art objects, philanthropic endeavors, and personal life. The bulk of the collection dates from 1915 to 1958. Included are: financial records, correspondence, certificates, diplomas, object lists, photographs, newspaper and journal clippings, valuations, and speech transcripts.

Acquisition Information:

The series was left to the Fogg Museum by former associate director Paul J. Sachs.

Processing Information:

The series was processed November 2005-February 2006 by Laura Morris with assistance from Susan von Salis.

Conditions on Access:

Access: Unrestricted.

Conditions on Use:

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.
Copyright: Copyright in the papers in the collection may be held by Paul J. Sachs' heirs or assigns. Copyright in other papers may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museum Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.

Related Materials

There are additional papers of Paul J. Sachs elsewhere in the Harvard Art Museums Archives, as well as in the Harvard University Archives. The Archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY also holds some of his correspondence.


Paul Joseph Sachs, the first associate director of the Fogg Museum at Harvard University and a Harvard professor, was born in New York City on November 24, 1878. His parents were Samuel Sachs and Louisa (Goldman) Sachs. Samuel entered a partnership with his father-in-law in 1882, to form the M. Goldman, Sachs investment firm; it would eventually become Goldman, Sachs & Co. The oldest of four, Paul Sachs had two brothers, Arthur and Walter, and a sister, Ella (Sachs) Plotz, who died at a young age. He attended the Sachs Collegiate Institution in New York City, founded by his uncle, Julius Sachs. Sachs graduated from Harvard University in 1900 and entered the family firm soon after, becoming a partner in 1904. He married Meta Pollack in 1904, and they had three daughters: Elizabeth, Celia, and Marjorie.
Sachs retired from banking in 1914 and spent the next year traveling the country, visiting art museums. In 1915, Edward W. Forbes, director of the Fogg Art Museum, asked Sachs to join the staff as assistant director. In 1923, Sachs became associate director, and he remained in this position until his retirement in 1948. Sachs' career also included teaching; he first lectured at Wellesley College in 1916 and then became an assistant professor of fine arts at Harvard in 1917. Ten years later he became an associate professor, and in 1933 he became chairman of the Harvard department of fine arts. Sachs was an exchange professor at the Sorbonne in 1933; during this year abroad, he traveled frequently to lecture and to meet French colleagues. In 1921, Sachs had begun teaching his most well known course, "Museum Work and Museum Problems," known as "the Museum Course," which he taught until his retirement.
Many of Sachs' students went on to direct major art museums. His students included William Lieberman; A. Everett Austin, Jr.; Walter Path; Edward Warburg; Kirk Askew; Alfred H. Barr; Lincoln Kirstein, John Walker, III and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., as well as Agnes Mongan and John Coolidge, who both served terms as director of the Fogg Art Museum. Sachs received numerous honorary degrees during his lifetime: honorary doctorates from Colby College in 1949, from Harvard in 1942, and from Yale in 1953, and honorary degrees from Princeton in 1957 and the University of Pittsburgh in 1928.
Through his work and travels, Sachs developed important contacts throughout Europe and North America in the fields of art collecting and dealing, book selling, art history and museum administration. He was an editor of Art Bulletin from 1919-1940. He was a founding member of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, serving as a trustee of the museum from 1929-1938 and as honorary trustee in 1964. He also served as a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and on the boards of Smith, Wellesley and Radcliffe Colleges. Sachs co-authored Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art with Agnes Mongan. He also wrote Modern Prints and Drawings, published by Alfred A. Knopf, and Pocket Book of Great Drawings. Sachs began writing his autobiography, Tales of an Epoch, in 1947, but it was never published. He was president of the American Association of Museums and the American Federation of Art, and a member of the Century Association, Phi Beta Kappa, the American Philosophical Society, and the Grolier Club. Sachs was an avid collector of art and assembled a tremendous personal collection. He donated many objects to the Fogg Museum during his lifetime, as well as upon his death.
Sachs was involved in a wide range of philanthropic endeavors throughout his life. He and Edward Forbes were nicknamed "the exuberant mendicants" for their fundraising efforts at the Fogg Art Museum, and Sachs' generosity extended beyond his gifts to Harvard. He gave gifts of art objects, books and money to museums and libraries, as well as countless cultural institutions, fellowships and funds. He was also actively involved in the American Red Cross during World War I and in aid to refugee scholars displaced by World War II. His philanthropy continued into the last years of his life.
Paul J. Sachs died on February 18, 1965 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This collection is arranged in three subseries:

Scope and Content:

These papers document Paul J. Sachs' academic career, publishing projects, collection of art objects, philanthropic endeavors, and personal life. They date from 1900 to 1994, with the bulk from 1915 to 1958. The series includes financial records, correspondence, certificates, diplomas, object lists, photographs, newspaper and journal clippings, valuations and speech transcripts.
The series is arranged with close attention to its original order. The folder titles have been retained; they are written, in quotation marks, on each individual folder and they comprise the topical groupings within each subseries. Previously overstuffed folders have been divided among several folders for the sake of preservation. Although in many instances, the records within each folder group have been arranged chronologically, it should be noted that often papers spanning several years are clipped together, interrupting chronological order.
It is unknown if the series' structure was created by Sachs or imposed by subsequent museum staff. Many folders contain typed notes of unknown origin, groupings of documents clipped together without evident purpose, and documents clearly added after Sachs' death. These anomalies have been preserved. Researchers should also note that folder titles are not always entirely accurate or reflective of content. Since the majority of the documents are logically arranged, the found arrangement has been retained.
Photographs and acidic fragile materials have been photocopied; photocopies of the original documents are filed in place of the originals. The originals have been filed separately for preservation purposes. Some oversize documents are housed separately from the collection and may be consulted upon request. Some of the collection suffered water damage in a flood of the archives in 1998; as a result, many of the papers are wrinkled, some are stuck together and some of the ink has run.
Unless otherwise noted, correspondence includes both sent and received letters.
Subseries I, Personal and Professional, is divided into five topical groupings: Financial and Family Records; Academic Honors and Teaching Career; Other Honors; Collections: Art Objects and Books; and Clubs and Organizations. Included are certificates, correspondence, letters of introduction, lecture transcripts, receipts, invoices, lists, insurance policy statements, object lists with valuations, and newspaper and journal clippings.
Subseries II, Philanthropy and Community Involvement, is divided into two topical groupings: Gifts and Community Involvement. The Gifts topical grouping contains correspondence, object lists, certificates of gift and loan, receipts and shipping notices related to Sachs' gifts to a wide range of institutions. The Community Involvement topical grouping contains correspondence, reports, newspaper articles and a photographic portrait. Documents relate to Sachs' involvement in various philanthropic undertakings, including work for U.S. organizations during World War I and the placement of displaced refugee scholars following World War II.
Subseries III, Publications, contains correspondence, newspaper and journal reviews, contracts, and printed advertisements related to books that Sachs authored or co-authored.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Art--Collectors and collecting
Art--Societies, etc.
Art--Study and teaching--Massachusetts
Art--Study and teaching--20th century
Art in universities and colleges
Art museum directors
Art museums--Massachusetts
Art museums--Educational aspects
Art objects--Collectors and collecting
Art objects--Prices
Art objects--Private collections
Art patronage--Massachusetts
Art patrons
Art publishing
Art--Private collections
Class reunions--Massachusetts--Cambridge
College art museums--Massachusetts--Cambridge
Commercial documents
Customs appraisal
Degrees, Academic
Insurance, art
Lectures and lecturing
Legal assistance to refugees
Museum directors
Museum exhibits
Museum loans
Political refugees
Teacher exchange programs--France
Titles of honor and nobility
World War, 1914-1918
World War, 1939-1945
Harvard University--Alumni and alumnae
Harvard University--Anniversaries, etc.
Harvard University--Benefactors
Harvard University--Faculty
Harvard University--History--20th century
Harvard University--Libraries
Harvard University--Museums
Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965--Correspondence