Abel William Bahr was a coal merchant and general importer born in China who became an important collector of Chinese art. Several books and catalogues have been published about his collection. His papers include numerous drafts and notes about his memoirs as a collector, correspondence with other collectors and photographs of Chinese art objects, from jade to pottery to paintings.
Scope and Content Note:
This collection contains manuscript drafts and notes for Bahr's memoir, written by Bahr himself and C.R. Cammell, who was also the editor of The Connoisseur magazine. Other papers include correspondence with collectors of Chinese art or other figures in the art world, such as Lord Kitchener, the King and Queen of Sweden, Walter Muir Whitehill, Kenjiro Matsumoto and Senator Theodore Francis Green, among others. The bulk of the collection contains approximately 300 photographs of different Chinese art objects, from jade figurines to pottery to paintings. Most of these photographs are unidentified, but some of them include marginalia that indicate that they were of Bahr's own art objects for publication in books or articles. Photographs which are identified point to art objects also belonging to Bahr. The photographs have been organized based on the object type in the photograph, such as painting, statue or figurine.
The collection is arranged into 7 series:
Series 1 -- Memoirs, [1944-1956]
Series 2 -- Correspondence, 1919-1957 [bulk 1947-1957]
Series 3 -- Clippings, 1948, no date [bulk no date]
Series 4 -- Other Writings, no date
Series 5 -- Images, no date
Series 6 -- Catalog Images, 1935, no date
Series 7 -- Art Object Photographs, no date
1877 -- Born in Shanghai to German father and Chinese mother
Circa 1880s -- Educated at St. Xavier's School in Shanghai
Circa 1894 -- Work as a clerk at a wholesale and retail coal merchant's office, left solely in charge during the first Sino-Japanese war, encouraged by backers to start his own business
1898 -- Goes into business with shipping friend, started the Central Trading Company
1900 -- Marries Miss Helen Marion Southey (daughter of Mr. T.S. Southey, in Hong Kong. Working at firm of Hopkins Dunn and Company. Begins construction on his first house, Fairview, outside the settlement on North Honan Road Extension, first son born[?]
1901 -- Recipient of Victoria Medal for his role as a gunner during the Boxer Rebellion (had joined the Shanghai Volunteers)
1908 -- Shanghai Exhibition of Chinese Art, which he helped to organize and which he loaned many pieces from his own collection. Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society. Publishes a catalogue of the exhibit in 1911, "Old Chinese Porcelains and Works of Art in China: Being Description and Illustrations of Articles selected from an Exhibition held in Shanghai, November 1908"
1909 -- Begins his association with Lord Kitchener; travels with him through China
1910 -- Leaves permanent residence in China, moves to London, England
1911 -- Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Paintings from the Collection of A.W. Bahr, published by the Fine Art Society
1915 -- Applies to Foreign Office in London to go to America. (Involved in the art business; the war had stopped all such activities in London)
1927 -- Private printing of the catalogue, "Archaic Chinese Jades collected in China by A.W. Bahr, now in Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, described by Berthold Laufer"
1938 -- "Early Chinese Paintings from the A.W. Bahr Collection" by Osvald Siren, published by the Chiswick Press
1946 -- Leaves England, with his wife, daughter Edna, two sons and their wives and two granddaughters for Canada
1947 -- Metropolitan Museum of Art purchases Chinese paintings from Bahr, collection of archaic jades exhibited in the Royal Ontario Museum. The Met also publishes a portfolio of the painting, 'Ching Ming Shang Ho, Spring Festival on the River' which Bahr had donated to the museum
1948 -- The Met exhibits Bahr's Chinese paintings. Several Chinese art objects on loan to the Art Association of Montreal and exhibited in the new Far East gallery
1949 -- Tang figurine, paint cakes and Han pottery vase on display at the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology
1950 -- Donates Chinese ceramics to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
1951 -- Begins writing his memoir[?]
1952 -- Last visit to London
1954 -- Gets typed draft of memoir. Living in Ridgefield, CT, working with C.R. Cammell
1959 -- Dies
There are no known related materials at any other institution or historical society.
Gift of Penelope Bahr.
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment.
Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
Writer, curator, and professor Benjamin Franklin March Jr. (1899-1934) studied, lectured, and wrote in the United States and in China, and through his works gained respect as one of the foremost authorities on Chinese art during the 1920s and 1930s. His papers, dating from 1923 to 1934, document his professional and personal life in the United States and in China and include lecture notes and outlines; research notes; diaries; scrapbooks; and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The Benjamin March Papers span the years 1923 to 1934 and measure 15 linear feet. The collection includes: biographical data included in passports, obituaries, and fifty-seven condolence letters; lecture and course outlines; research notes; four diaries; one scrapbook; four illustrations including sketches for the March bookplate; fourteen photograph albums; printed matter; and 100 personal and artistic photographs.
The collection is divided into the following series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1927-1935
Series 2: Diaries, 1925-1934
Series 3: Writings and Research Materials, 1927-1934, undated
— Subseries 3.1: Lecture Materials
— Subseries 3.2: Research
— Subseries 3.3: Printed Matter
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1924-1934
Series 5: Graphic Materials, 1925, 1933, undated
— Subseries 5.1: Illustrations
— Subseries 5.2: Photo Albums
— Subseries 5.3: Photographs
1899 -- Born, Chicago, IL. Son of Benjamin Franklin and Isabel (née McNeal)
[1917?] -- Attended Lewis Institute and the YMCA College before transferring to the University of Chicago
1918-1919 -- Military service, Sergeant, Field Remount Squadron, No. 305, Army Service Corps
1922 -- Graduated from the University of Chicago (Ph.B)
1922-1923 -- Attended the Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY
1923-1925 -- Teacher of English, Latin, and Bible Studies at Hopei University; the Second Normal School; and the YMCA in Paotingfu, China
1925 June 25 -- Married Dorothy Rowe in Nanking, China
1925-1927 -- English instructor; Librarian; and Lecturer in Chinese Art, Yenching University Peiping, China
1927, summer -- Lecturer on Chinese art Columbia University
1927-1931 -- Curator of Asiatic Art Detroit Institute of Arts
1928 -- Honorary Curator of Oriental Aesthetic Art at the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1928 -- Appointed honorary curator at the Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
[1929?] -- Daughter (Judith) born
1929 -- China and Japan in Our Museums, published by the American Council, Institute of Pacific Relations
1931 -- Spent six months in China under a special grant from the American Council of Learned Societies to study 13th century painter, Ch'ien Hsuan
1932 -- Curator, Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
1932 -- Appointed honorary curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts
1933 -- Awarded a Freer Fellowship
1934 -- Standards of Pottery Description, published by the University of Michigan Press
1934, summer -- Organized, directed, and lectured at a summer session of the Institute of Asiatic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley
1934 December -- Died at home in Ann Arbor, Michigan after a five-week illness (heart ailment)
Far Eastern art writer, curator, and lecturer, Benjamin Franklin March Jr., was born in Chicago on July 4, 1899 to Benjamin and Isabel March. He studied, lectured, and wrote in the United States and China and through his works gained respect as one of the foremost authorities on Chinese art during the 1920s and 1930s. Although he lived only thirty-five years, Benjamin March was a respected and influential scholar of Asian art.
After high school, March attended the Lewis Institute and the YMCA College before transferring to the University of Chicago from which he graduated in 1922 (Ph.B). With thoughts of becoming a Methodist minister, March enrolled at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. At the same time, March enrolled in art classes at the Metropolitan Museum. After one year at the seminary, March was presented with and accepted the opportunity to work in China. From 1923 to 1927, March resided in China where he taught and lectured at colleges. Initially, March taught English, Latin, and Bible Studies at Hopei University, the Second Normal School, and the YMCA. From 1925 to 1927, he worked at Yenching University in Peiping (now Peking) as an instructor in English, a librarian, and lecturer in Chinese art.
While in China, March met Dorothy Rowe, the daughter of a Methodist missionary stationed in Nanking. On June 25, 1925 the two were married. Ms. Rowe, whom March sometimes called Doré, had lived in China since infancy. The author of the children's story, "The Begging Dear," Rowe wrote children's stories with Chinese settings.
During the summer of 1927, the March's moved to the United States when Columbia University offered March an appointment as lecturer of Chinese Art. Later that year March was appointed curator of Asiatic art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. He remained at the Detroit Institute of Arts in this capacity until 1931. In 1928, March was appointed Honorary Curator of Oriental Aesthetic Art by the University of Michigan's Museum of Anthropology. The next year, Dorothy March gave birth to the couple's only child, Judith.
During this period March published extensively, including two publications, China and Japan in Our Museums, in 1929 and, Standards of Pottery Description, in 1934. In the latter, March developed a new technique for the scientific study of the materials and methods of manufacture of ancient Chinese pottery. ( Ann Arbor Daily News. -- "Death Takes Noted Curator". -- December 14, 1934)
In 1931, March received a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. This grant allowed March the opportunity to travel to China and Europe to study the 13th century painter, Ch'ien Hsuan. In 1932, March was named a curator at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. The following year he was named a Freer Fellow. The summer of 1934 found March in Berkeley, California, organizing and directing the Institute of Asiatic Studies at the University of California. During the fall of 1934, March fell ill with a heart ailment. He was ill for five weeks before he died, at the age of 35, in December of 1934. At the time of his death, Benjamin March was survived by his wife Dorothy and their daughter, Judith.
The Detroit Institute of Arts maintains administrative correspondence and files generated by Benjamin March during his tenure as curator.
The Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan houses the Benjamin Franklin March drawings collection, This is a collection of drawings by March for his daughter; includes illustrated poems of Pentwater Beach, Michigan.
Judith March Davis, the daughter of Benjamin March, donated her father's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1995.
Benjamin March's daughter, Judith March Davis, donated her father's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1995.
Access is by appointment only, Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Please contact the Archives to make an appointment: AVRreference@si.edu.