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HC 3

Sachs, Paul J., 1878-1965. Papers, 1903-2005: A Guide

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

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


These papers were processed with the generous support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Getty Foundation.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HC 3
Repository: Harvard Art Museum Archives, Harvard Art Museums, Harvard University
Creator: Sachs, Paul J., 1878-1965
Title: Papers of Paul J. Sachs, 1903-2005: A Guide
Date(s): 1903-2005
Quantity: 43 linear feet (99 file boxes, oversize materials)
Abstract: These papers of Fogg Museum associate director Paul J. Sachs document his administration of the museum, his teaching career at Harvard, and related professional activities. The papers consist primarily of correspondence and also include photographs, printed material, clippings, architectural drawings, reports, financial records, letters of introduction, insurance records, maps, funding appeals, minutes, memoranda, exhibition brochures, page proofs, and press releases.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The papers were left at the Fogg Museum by former associate director Paul J. Sachs.

Processing Information:

The collection was processed from May to August 2008 by Laura Morris.

Conditions on Access:

Access: Access to most of the Sachs materials is unrestricted. Access to sensitive or financial materials may be closed to research as noted in the finding aid.
Copyright: The President and Fellows of Harvard College hold any copyright in Sachs' papers. Copyright in some papers in the collection 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.

Conditions on Use:

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museum Archives usual procedures.

Related Material

There are additional papers of Paul J. Sachs in the Harvard Art Museums Archives and the Harvard University Archives. There are also materials from Sachs in the archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY, the Columbia University Libraries' Oral History Research Office, and the Getty Research Institute.

Biographical Note:

Paul Joseph Sachs, the first associate director of the Fogg Museum and a Harvard professor, was born in New York City on November 24, 1878. His parents were Samuel Sachs and Louisa Goldman Sachs; Samuel joined his father-in-law, Marcus Goldman, in the investment banking and management firm that would become Goldman Sachs. The oldest of four children, 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 Manhattan, founded by his uncle Julius Sachs, before attending Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1900 and entered the firm of Goldman Sachs soon after, becoming a partner in 1904. Sachs married Meta Pollack in 1904, and they had three daughters: Elizabeth, Celia and Marjorie. Paul and Meta Sachs were married until her death in 1960.
Sachs retired from banking at the end of 1914, when he accepted Edward Forbes' offer to join the staff of the Fogg Museum as assistant director. He spent the first half of 1915 traveling abroad, primarily in Italy, learning and seeing as much as possible in preparation for his new position at the Fogg. He and his family moved to Shady Hill, the former home of Charles Eliot Norton in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before the fall term in 1915; they would live in this home until 1949. Sachs stayed at Harvard for the rest of his career, becoming associate director of the Fogg in 1923 and retaining that title until his retirement from the museum in 1944, when he became Honorary Curator of Drawings. Sachs' career also included teaching. He first lectured at Wellesley College in academic year 1916-1917 and was appointed assistant professor of Fine Arts at Harvard the following year. In 1922 Harvard named Sachs associate professor, and in 1927 he became full professor. He spent the academic year 1932-1933 as an exchange professor at the Sorbonne and as a lecturer in French provincial universities. Sachs became chairman of Harvard's division of Fine Arts in 1933, a position he held for many years.
Sachs had begun teaching his most well-known course, "Museum Work and Museum Problems" (commonly known as simply "the Museum Course"), in 1921 and taught it almost every year until his retirement. The course covered all aspects of museum work and practice, including the history, philosophy, organization and administration of museums, museum architecture, exhibition installation and display, collection development, donor relations, the cataloguing of objects, the detection of forgeries, and museum policies and ethics. It involved both theory and practice and provided training for administrators, curators, and connoisseurs. He took his students on winter and spring trips to visit museums and private collections in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Providence, and New Haven. Many of Sachs' students in the course went on to become curators and directors at art museums and cultural institutions across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, and museums in Kansas City, St. Louis, Providence, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Montréal.
His dual roles as museum administrator and member of the Department of Fine Arts allowed him not only to advise colleagues at other institutions about programs and aims, but also to recommend staff for open positions. He successfully placed hundreds of former students in positions and was once referred to as a "one-man employment agency." Sachs retired from teaching in 1948, becoming Professor Emeritus, but his interest and involvement with former students continued into the last years of his life.
Sachs was author or co-author of several publications. His first published work at the Fogg Museum was an exhibition catalogue, A Loan Exhibition of Early Italian Engravings (Intaglio), printed in 1915. With Agnes Mongan, Sachs co-authored Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art (3 vols.), first published in 1940. He also wrote The Pocket Book of Great Drawings, first published in 1951, and Modern Prints and Drawings, published in 1954. Sachs wrote the introduction to James Thrall Soby's book Modern Art and the New Past, first published in 1957. He began work on an autobiography with the working title Tales of an Epoch in 1947, but it was never published; the archives holds several drafts of this work and related correspondence. He was also an editor of Art Bulletin from 1919 to 1940.
Sachs served on the administrative committee of Dumbarton Oaks for many years and also on the Board of Syndics of the Harvard University Press. He was a founding member of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, where he served as a trustee from 1929-1938 and as honorary trustee in 1964. Sachs gave MoMA the first drawing to enter its collection and was honored with the naming of the Paul J. Sachs Galleries for Drawings and Prints in 1964. He also served as a trustee of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and on the boards of Radcliffe, Smith, and Wellesley Colleges. He served as president of the American Association of Museums and the American Federation of Art, and was a member of the Century Association, Phi Beta Kappa, the American Philosophical Society, the St. Botolph Club, the Club of Odd Volumes, and the Grolier Club, among other scholarly and social organizations. He received numerous honorary degrees during his lifetime, including an honorary degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1928 and from Princeton University in 1957, as well as honorary doctorates from Harvard in 1942, from Colby College in 1949, and from Yale University in 1953. He was also named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor.
Sachs was an avid connoisseur and collector of art who assembled an important personal collection. He is best known for his love of fine drawings, particularly those of Degas. He was a visionary collector, and one of first Americans to buy the work of Picasso and Matisse; Sachs was receptive to contemporary art at a time when many were definitively against it. He loaned and donated hundreds of objects to the Fogg Museum during his lifetime and bequeathed his own collection of prints and drawings to the museum. At his death, he had given or bequeathed approximately 2,700 works of art, 4,000 books, and many thousands of photographs to the Fogg Museum and the Harvard College Library. Sachs also played a major role in the incorporation of both Dumbarton Oaks and Villa I Tatti into Harvard University; his friendships with Robert Woods Bliss and with Bernard Berenson, cultivated over many years, facilitated these alliances.
Sachs was involved in a range of philanthropic endeavors throughout his life. He was a speaker for the First Liberty Loan campaign and Chief of Staff in the License Division of the Massachusetts Food Administration before serving as a major with the Red Cross in Paris during World War I, and he assisted countless displaced scholars and other refugees in the years leading to the second World War. Sachs and Edward Forbes were nicknamed the "exuberant mendicants" for their efforts to raise funds and build an endowment for the Fogg Museum, and the construction of the new Fogg Museum on Quincy Street, which opened to the public in 1927, was largely the result of their fund-raising work. Over many years, Sachs also played a quiet but significant role in building the collections of Harvard College Library. Beyond these gifts to Harvard, he gave art objects and books to a wide range of cultural institutions and made financial contributions to many fellowships and funds. He lent books from his personal library; wrote countless letters of introduction for friends, students and colleagues; gave generously of his ideas and time to those who needed assistance; loaned works of art from his personal collection for exhibitions in the United States and abroad; and in many instances anonymously financed the travels and studies of others. Sachs and his family openly welcomed guests into their home on an almost daily basis, and Sachs' philanthropy continued into the last years of his life.
Paul J. Sachs died on February 17, 1965, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Scope and Content:

The papers in this collection document Paul Sachs' career at the Fogg Museum and in Harvard's Department of Fine Arts, his national and international travels, his role as a mentor to students and colleagues, his involvement on numerous boards and committees, and various other personal and professional endeavors and interests. The papers date from 1903 to 2005, with the bulk spanning the years 1915-1948, and consist primarily of sent and received correspondence. They also include photographs, printed material (including auction catalogs), newspaper clippings, blueprints and other architectural drawings, reports, financial records, letters of introduction and recommendation, field reports, lists, insurance records, maps, appeals for funding, meeting minutes, memoranda, certificates, invitations, exhibition brochures, page proofs, press releases, telegrams, and radiograms.
All materials in the collection have been re-housed into archival folders and boxes. Folders and their contents have been kept in their original order, and overstuffed folders have been divided among several folders for the sake of preservation and numbered to indicate that they represent a part of a larger whole (for example: "folder 1 of 2"). The original folder titles have been retained; any added information has been enclosed in square brackets by the processing archivist. The folders are filed alphabetically by title, and in most instances the papers within each folder are filed either in chronological or reverse chronological order. Occasionally the papers in a folder are filed alphabetically instead of chronologically.
Many of the folder titles in the collection consist of a personal name, followed by either "scholar" (or the abbreviation "sch."), "dealer," "museum course," "collector" or "artist." These categories indicate the primary capacity and context in which Sachs knew and interacted with each individual, but in many cases museum course students went on to become scholars, collectors were also dealers, and so forth. Dealers include both art dealers and booksellers. Some notes in the collection suggest that the folders were at one time filed separately according to these categories; i.e. all dealer files were kept together, artist files kept together elsewhere, collector files kept somewhere else, and so forth. It is unknown at what point these separate categories were interfiled to create the current arrangement, in which all are filed together. It is also indicated, via Sachs' own handwritten memoranda and margin notes, that he weeded the correspondence during the 1950s, disposing of what he considered unnecessary or redundant material.
Some folders contained notes of unknown origin and documents clearly added after Sachs' death, including archivists' memoranda. These added materials have been removed from the papers and maintained in separate files in the archives; they may be consulted upon request. The dates of these materials has been preserved in the folder titles, as a cue to researchers that added materials from a given folder can be found in a separate location. Researchers should also note that folder titles are not always entirely accurate or reflective of content. In cases where the folder title and content differ significantly, a note has been added at the folder level of the finding aid. Many folders contain correspondence with individuals not mentioned in the folder title. For this reason, the processing archivist has made notes about various individuals' correspondence in the collection; these notes are held in the archives and may be consulted upon request. While they are not exhaustive, they may be helpful in locating materials.
Acidic documents have been isolated with archival paper and in some cases enclosed in mylar. Fragile materials have been enclosed in mylar. Oversize materials have been filed in an oversize box and cabinet; separation sheets indicate their removal. These oversize materials may be consulted upon request, and their location is indicated in the detailed container list that follows. 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 ink has run, and some are stuck together and in need of treatment by conservators.
The correspondence covers many topics, reflecting Sachs' involvement and interest in a wide range of activities. Topics covered include the following, among many others: the direction and staffing of museums and other cultural institutions; the sale, purchase and exhibition of works of art; the content and editorial management of scholarly publications; travel and the visitation of museums and private collections; collectors and collecting; books, libraries and typography; university education in art history and the fine arts; and the effects of the first and second World Wars on individuals and communities, including refugee scholars. Many of the folders contain a mixture of correspondence and other materials. Sachs retained a carbon copy of outgoing letters, and there are often handwritten drafts of letters, as well as transcriptions of received letters that are particularly difficult to read.
Almost every year between 1915 and 1938, Sachs traveled to Europe, where he met with friends, colleagues, dealers and collectors; purchased works of art; and visited museums and private collections. These travels were beneficial not only because they frequently resulted in acquisitions for the Fogg Museum's collection, but also because they enabled Sachs to develop and maintain a remarkably wide and important network of contacts around the world. Sachs also made purchases for his personal collections during his European travels, many of which were eventually donated to the Fogg. Many letters in this collection were written while Sachs was abroad and contain accounts of what he was seeing and doing as he traveled.
Sachs' network of contacts and relationships, fostered by his work at the museum, his teaching and his travels, included art collectors and dealers, booksellers, art historians and other scholars, museum curators and administrators, publishers, former students, and friends and colleagues from other fields. He also maintained contacts in the realms of business and finance as a result of his years at Goldman Sachs and his family connections. These papers include correspondence with hundreds of individuals from across this network and reveal Sachs' influential role as advisor, mentor and colleague. He advised colleagues throughout the U.S. on matters of acquisitions and staff for both public and private art collections and was often called upon to recommend personnel for open positions. Sachs successfully placed hundreds of former students in positions and continued to advise them as their careers progressed. He was respected for his ability to judge individuals' strengths and weaknesses, as well as his understanding of the needs of an extensive range of organizations and his practical background in business administration. Sachs was often called upon for recommendations and opinions, notably in regard to potential grants and other funding, by both the Carnegie and Guggenheim Foundations.
The collection includes correspondence with many art dealers, in the United States and abroad. These include: Martin Birnbaum, Joseph Brummer, G. J. Demotte, Joseph Duveen, Maurice Gobin, César de Hauke, Bernard d'Hendecourt, Alphonse Kann, Dikran Kelekian, Paul Mallon, Gus Mayer, Walter Pach, R. Meyer Riefstahl, Paul Rosenberg, André Seligmann, Jacques Seligmann, Josef Stránský, André Weil, E. Weyhe, and many other individuals at firms including Colnaghi & Obach, Doll & Richards, Durand-Ruel, Durlacher, Knoedler & Co., P. W. French & Co., Parish-Watson & Co., Scott & Fowles, Yamanaka, and Wildenstein & Co. Correspondence with dealers covers a range of topics, from the discussion of objects for sale to negotiations of exchange for purchased objects to loans for exhibitions held at the Fogg Museum and elsewhere. Sachs also provided colleagues and students letters of introduction to these dealers, for use during their travels.
Also of interest is correspondence with scholars from across the globe. Many of Sachs' correspondents were museum curators and/or scholars of art history, but he also maintained correspondence with friends and acquaintances from a range of other disciplines. Among the art historians, curators and other scholars with whom he corresponded are: A. Everett (Chick) Austin, Marcel Aubert, Alfred Barr, Jr., Emil Baerwald, Bernard Berenson, W. G. Constable, Henri Focillon, Hetty Goldman, Belle da Costa Greene, Marcel Guerin, Alfred Hamill, William Ivins, Horace Jayne, Fiske Kimball, Charles Kuhn, Sir Eric Maclagan, Agnes Mongan, Charles Rufus Morey, Adam Paff, Erwin Panofsky, F. Mason Perkins, Arthur Kingsley Porter, Alan Priest, John Rewald, Daniel Catton Rich, Agnes Rindge, Jakob Rosenberg, Theodore Sizer, Georg and Hanns Swarzenski, Daniel V. Thompson, John Walker III and Langdon Warner. Many of these individuals were Sachs' former students.
The collection also includes correspondence with various artists and writers, including: George Grey Barnard, Joseph Coletti, Stuart Davis, Georg Grosz, Marsden Hartley, Charles Hopkinson, Edward Hopper and his wife Josephine, Philip Johnson, Henry Moore, John Singer Sargent, Maurice Sterne, Alfred Stieglitz, Max Weber, Harold Weston and Andrew Wyeth. The papers also include correspondence with Ray Nash, a graphic-arts historian and accomplished typographer, and Bruce Rogers, renowned book designer and typographer, reflecting Sachs' longstanding interest in books, graphic design and typography.
The papers also include correspondence with prominent collectors, including: Robert Woods Bliss, Helen Frick, James Hazen Hyde, Arthur Lehman, Philip Lehman, Robert Lehman, James Loeb, Charles Loeser, Robert Treat Paine, Jr., Duncan Phillips, Luis Plandiura, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Arthur Sachs, Edward M. M. Warburg, Felix Warburg, Maurice Wertheim and Grenville Winthrop. Sachs gave advice regarding potential acquisitions and the conservation of objects in these private collections; he also frequently advised collectors to give or bequeath their collections to museums and other public institutions. He encouraged students and colleagues to visit private collections and wrote many letters of introduction that enabled them to do so. Along with Edward Forbes, Sachs served as advisor to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in the selection of artists to create works for Rockefeller Center and in the design and creation of the Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum dedicated to the art and architecture of medieval Europe.
Much of the correspondence is related, either directly or indirectly, to "the Museum Course." The collection includes correspondence with hundreds of his former students. It also includes a set of detailed notes from Museum Course lectures and sessions, taken in 1930-1931 by student Calvin Hathaway.
Correspondence throughout the collection relates to both the first and second World Wars. Sachs served as a Major with the Red Cross in Paris during the first world war, and letters in the collection provide insight into his experiences during that time. From the inter-war years, particularly the 1930s and early 1940s, there is significant correspondence about the efforts of Sachs and others to assist refugee scholars and others displaced by the Nazi regime, both financially and in relocating to the United States and securing employment. Sachs advocated for many people, particularly scholars and art historians; he helped them find lecture engagements and appointments as well as teaching positions in American universities. Refugee scholars in whom Sachs took a particular interest include: Otto Benesch, Otto Brendel, Adolph Goldschmidt, Hans Huth, F. W. Lenz, Friedrich von Lorentz, Walter L. Nathan, Alfred Neumeyer, Jakob Rosenberg, Otto Georg von Simson, Clemens Sommer, Georg Steindorff, Charles Sterling, Georg Swarenski and Emanuel Winternitz. There is also correspondence from European museum directors and other professionals about the evacuation of works of art during World War II. During and after the second World War, Sachs was a member of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas, also known as the Roberts Commission.
The correspondence between Sachs and Edward W. Forbes, director of the Fogg Museum, is particularly rich. The two corresponded regularly - at times daily - during the years of their co-directorship of the Fogg, and these letters are full of information about museum affairs and decisions; fund-raising, in particular the joint campaign with the Harvard Business School and Chemistry Department; art objects they had acquired or that were for sale; the student-run Harvard Society for Contemporary Art; museum employees, colleagues and committees; museum-sponsored expeditions in China, "Jugoslavia" and elsewhere; dealers in America and abroad; displaced scholars in need of assistance; Sachs' involvement in the so-called "Albertina Affair," an attempt in 1935 to buy Archduke Albrecht's collection of prints and drawings on behalf of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Fogg Museum; and a wide range of other topics. Correspondence between Sachs and other staff members at the Fogg Museum, notably Frederick Robinson and Mary Wadsworth, provides a good deal of factual and anecdotal information about daily life at the Fogg Museum.
Sachs was active in the Harvard community beyond the Fine Arts department and the Fogg Museum. He corresponded regularly about the institutions Dumbarton Oaks and Villa I Tatti, notably with their primary benefactors, Robert Woods Bliss and Bernard Berenson, and he was heavily involved in the donation of both properties to Harvard and related negotiations. He was also a member of the committee formed at Harvard in 1922 to consider the so-called "Jewish Problem." Harvard's then-President, A. Lawrence Lowell, had proposed a quota to restrict the admission of Jewish students to the University, and Sachs was one of three Jews on a thirteen member committee appointed by Harvard's Overseers to study the "problem." This committee rejected Lowell's proposed quota but agreed that "geographic diversity" in the student body was desirable; the resulting geographic distribution requirements for incoming students effectively lowered and limited the percentage of Jews granted admission to Harvard. Sachs received letters from many individuals about the committee and its task, including: Judge Julian Mack, Amy Loveman, President Lowell, George Sarton, Alfred Hamill, Walter Pollack, Julius Rosenwald, Julius Sachs, Herbert Lehman, Paul Warburg and Maurice Wertheim.
Sachs was actively involved in many professional organizations. He served as President of the American Association of Museums and of the Harvard-Princeton Fine Arts Club. He also served as vice-president of the College Art Association and as delegate to the International Congress of the History of Art. Collaboration between Harvard and Princeton resulted in the publication Art Studies: Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern from 1923 to 1931; it was edited by Belle da Costa Greene, and the collection contains much correspondence about this joint publication. There is also significant material about Sachs' role as a founding member of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), including correspondence with members of its board and with its first director, Alfred Barr, Jr., who was hired upon Sachs' recommendation. The papers also include correspondence related to Sachs' involvement with the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art.
In addition to letters to and from Sachs, the collection also includes correspondence between Meta Sachs and various individuals, as well as correspondence with the spouses and other family members of various correspondents. These letters are interspersed throughout the collection.

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