Robert Tyler Davis (1904-1978) was born in Los Angeles, California. He was a museum administrator and an educator in art and art history, specializing in Pacific Northwest Native American art, and decorative arts, particularly tapestries. He graduated from Franklin High School, Los Angeles, and studied art history, drawing, and painting at the University of California at Los Angeles, and at Harvard, A.B., 1926, A.M., 1928. He was a Carnegie Fellow (1927-1929), and studied fine arts abroad, taking courses at the Sorbonne. He taught drawing, painting and art history at the University of Rochester, in New York (1929-1933), and at the Erskine School for Girls, Boston, when he returned to Harvard for graduate museum studies between 1933 and 1934.
On September 6, 1934 Davis married mystery novelist Lillian Soskin, and became Director of Education at the Albright Gallery in Buffalo, New York. In 1939 Davis was named Director of the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, where he researched and collected Native American art. His book, "Native Arts of the Pacific Northwest," was published in 1949. From 1947 to 1952 Davis was Director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Professor of Fine Arts at McGill University in Montreal. Davis was Director of the Vizcaya-Dade County Art Museum, 1953-1957, Interim Director of the Joe and Emily Lowe Gallery, University of Miami, 1955-1956, and Coordinator of Humanities and Professor of Art at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida, 1956-1959. Lillian Davis died October 12, 1957. Davis was remarried January 29, 1959 to Janet Evans Golby.
In 1960 Davis was hired as museum consultant and liaison for the French and Company art dealership in New York. In September 1968 Davis became Assistant Director of the National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.; Acting Director, June 1969-January 1970; and later Special Assistant for the Collections, 1972-1975. His son, Martin M. Davis, died in 1969, and Janet Davis died in 1973. In 1975 Robert Tyler Davis retired to Lily Dale, New York, and traveled extensively. He died in 1978 in Pasadena, California.
(1) Correspondence, 1939-1940, 1947-1951, 1953-1977 and undated; (2) journals and daybooks, 1963-1977 and undated; (3) diplomas, almanacs, notes, notebooks, and lectures relating to Robert Tyler Davis's education and teaching career, 1918-1926, 1928, 1932-1934 and undated; (4) exhibition catalogs and photographs, notes, and Davis' publications relating to Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, 1937-1939 and undated; (5) reports, lecture notes, installation and collection photographs, exhibition catalogs, and museum publicity and policies relating to the Portland Art Museum, 1939-1947; (6) correspondence, annual reports, lectures, notes, publicity information, exhibition photographs, and Davis' publications relating to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and McGill University, 1947-1952; (7) correspondence, policy committee meetings and agendas, memoranda, reports, financial statements, and photographs relating to Vizcaya, Dade County Art Museum, and the Lowe Art Gallery, Miami, 1934-1937, 1952-1957, 1959 and undated; (8) correspondence, photographs, and publicity information relating to French and Company, 1959-1960, 1962-1968 and undated; (9) correspondence, exhibition catalogs, reports, notes, Gellatly material, and course lectures relating to the National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, 1968-1975; (10) personal and financial records, 1933, 1953, 1955-1977; (11) travels, 1949, 1974, 1976-1977; (12) sketches, paintings, prints, and photographs, 1928-1929, 1940, 1947, 1961-1962 and undated
These papers document Robert Tyler Davis's education and career, 1918-1977. The majority of the documentation is dated from 1937 to 1977. Incoming correspondence illustrates Davis's personal life, and, to a lesser extent, his professional career. Materials concerning his career consist largely of photographs, newspaper clippings and research notes, and less often include official business papers and correspondence. Other materials include travel photographs and sketches by Davis.
Smithsonian Institution Archives, Capital Gallery, Suite 3000, MRC 507; 600 Maryland Avenue, SW; Washington, DC 20024-2520