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Oral history interview with Eleanor Sayre

Sayre, Eleanor A.  Search this
Brown, Robert F.  Search this
Ashmolean Museum  Search this
Bryn Mawr College -- Students  Search this
Fogg Art Museum  Search this
Harvard University -- Students  Search this
Lyman Allyn Museum  Search this
Museo del Prado  Search this
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston  Search this
Rhode Island School of Design. Museum of Art  Search this
Yale University. Art Gallery  Search this
Ames, Winslow  Search this
Constable, W. G. (William George), 1887-1976  Search this
Edgell, George Harold, b. 1887  Search this
Forbes, Edward Waldo, 1873-1969  Search this
Goya, Francisco, 1746-1828  Search this
Hofer, Philip, 1898-1984  Search this
Karolik, Maxim  Search this
King, Georgiana Goddard, 1871-1939  Search this
Rathbone, Perry Townsend, 1911-2000  Search this
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 1606-1669  Search this
Rosenberg, Jakob, 1893-  Search this
Rossiter, Henry P. (Henry Preston), b. 1885  Search this
Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965  Search this
Seybolt, George Crossan, 1914-1993  Search this
Sizer, Theodore, 1892-1967  Search this
Swarzenski, Hanns, 1903-1985  Search this
Washburn, Gordon B. (Gordon Bailey), 1904-1983  Search this
Wilson, Woodrow, 1856-1924  Search this
213 Pages (Transcript)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
Spain -- History -- 1939-1975
1993 April 19-1997 January 10
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Eleanor Sayre conducted 1993 April 19-1997 January 10, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Sayre talks about her early childhood in Williamstown and Cambridge, Mass.; her family background; visits to the White House with her maternal grandfather, Woodrow Wilson; living abroad while her father was in government service in Bangkok, then Siam (now Thailand), Paris, and Switzerland, with extensive recollections of her brothers and schooling in Europe.
Attending Winsor School in Boston; her mother's death; her years at Bryn Mawr College, including her switch to art history from political science; Georgianna Goddard King as an influential teacher; an internship under Laura Dudley at the Fogg Art Museum's Print Room and the lasting effect of this experience.
Being a graduate student in fine arts at Harvard and the importance of Edward Forbes and Paul Sachs as teachers; her decision not to pursue a PhD; working with Jakob Rosenberg; helping to get young Jews out of Europe; her position as assistant for exhibitions at Yale University Art Gallery under Theodore Sizer; the trauma of her father's internment by the Japanese in the Philippines, where he was High Commissioner and his rescue; and her decision to turn down a military intelligence job in order to work with German Jewish refugees.
Her brief tenure at Lyman-Allyn Museum, Conn., under Winslow Ames; her years in the education department under Lydia "Ma" Powel at the Museum of Art of the Rhode Island School of Design with Gordon Washburn as director; and working closely with Heinrich Schwartz on prints and drawings.
The liberal tradition of her father's wealthy family; her father; being brought to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by its curator of prints, Henry Rossiter and on the charming collector and benefactor, Maxim Karolik; MFA curator of paintings, William George Constable; and George Harold Edgell, MFA director.
The collector, Philip Hofer, who by putting his Goya proofs on loan at the MFA, led to Sayre's life-long study of the artist; her research on Goya in Spain; raising of a large sum from Boston businesses to purchase Hofer's prints for the MFA, and the MFA's eminence by the 1960s in Goya's graphic work; the disgusting repression of dissent in Franco-era Spain; Goya's passionate self-assertion, which is what principally attracted Sayre to his work, and his conceptual process and method of work.
Earlier years at the MFA, Boston, including the accessibility of the print department's study rooms; Edwin J. Hipkiss, curator of American decorative arts; the Christmas poetry and prints exhibitions designed as profound learning experiences for a broad public; and being chosen as successor to Rossiter; and further comments on Maxim Karolik.
W.G. Russell Allen and other collectors who gave their collections to the MFA; her efforts to effectively present art to the broad public; her methods of appealing to the public coalescing at the MFA in 1989 with the "Goya and the Spirit of the Enlightenment" exhibition; and an exhibition of the work of Beatrix Potter.
Spain under the dictator, Francisco Franco; her first study in Spain of Goya's drawings and her urging the Prado Museum to conserve its drawings; the Prado's director, F. Sanchez-Canton; her research on prostitution at the Ministry of Justice; being decorated for her recommending the preservation of Goya's art and the marvelous private collections of Goya in Spain; and her obsession with interpreting the meaning of Goya's work.
The MFA, Boston, under the directorship of Perry Rathbone, who wanted many more people involved than had his predecessor, George Harold Edgell, who ran it like a Boston Brahmin Club; Rathbone's accomplishments; his downfall and that of his assistant (and curator of European decorative arts and sculpture) Hanns Swarzenski in bringing a so-called Raphael into this country by irregular means, which led to Rathbone and Swarzenski's firing by George Seybolt, the trustee president; Rathbone's reluctance to hire women curators and Sayre's finally becoming curator of prints and drawings in 1967; her philosophy as curator; on Hanns and Brigitte Swarzenski as dear friends; her exchange of positions with the curator of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, where she put their valuable but neglected print collection in order.
The exhibition and catalog, "Rembrandt: Experimental Etcher," (1969) in collaboration with the Pierpont Morgan Library; general views on exhibitions; co-authoring the exhibition catalog "Goya and the Spiris of Enlightenment" (1989); her contributions to Goya research; her current research and writing on Goya's Capaprichos print series; and her satisfaction in having spent her career in art museums.
Biographical / Historical:
Eleanor A. Sayre (1916-2001) was a curator and art historian from Boston, Mass.
Originally recorded on 8 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 15 digital wav files. Duration is 11 hrs., 21 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Art historians -- Interviews  Search this
Printmakers  Search this
Jewish refugees -- Germany  Search this
Museum curators -- Massachusetts -- Boston -- Interviews  Search this
World War, 1939-1945  Search this
Sound recordings
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
Online Media:

Boston Art Commission records

Boston Art Commission  Search this
Boston Public Library  Search this
Adams, Herbert, 1858-1945  Search this
Allen, Thomas, 1849-1924  Search this
Bartlett, Paul, 1881-1965  Search this
Bellows, Robert Peabody, 1877-1957  Search this
Collins, Patrick Andrew, 1844-1905  Search this
Coolidge, J. Templeman (John Templeman), 1888-1945  Search this
Curley, James Michael, 1874-1958  Search this
Edgell, George Harold, b. 1887  Search this
French, Daniel Chester, 1850-1931  Search this
Kitson, Henry Hudson, 1863?-1947  Search this
Longfellow, Alexander W., 1854-1934  Search this
Maginnis, Charles Donagh, 1867-1955  Search this
Parker, J. Harleston, 1873-1930  Search this
Quincy, Josiah, 1802-1882  Search this
Shurcliff, Arthur A. (Arthur Asahel), 1870-1957  Search this
Walker, C. Howard (Charles Howard), 1857-1936  Search this
Warren, Samuel Dennis, 1852-1910  Search this
9 Microfilm reels
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Microfilm reels
Scope and Contents:
Commission charter, "Act to Create an Art Commission for the City of Boston," 1890; handwritten minutes of staff meetings, 1890-1959; annual reports and related correspondence, 1899-1953; minutes of a joint meeting of the Boston Art Commission, the Park and Recreation Commission, and the City Planning Board, 1914; 3 files maintained by the Boston Art Commission: monument files, 1890-1957, regarding the signing, erecting, and restoring of monuments, including estimates, proposals, contracts, sketches, printed materials, and photographs; operating and general files, 1890-1957, on statues, tablets, busts, paintings, monuments, and memorials in Boston public schools, Faneuil Hall and others locales; correspondence files, 1895-1953, for Boston Public Art Under the Curatorship of the Boston Public Library; 3 clippings, 1934-1947; and 2 brochures, "Some Statues of Boston," 1946, and "Other Statues of Boston," 1947, by Allan Forbes and Ralph M. Eastman.
Correspondents included among the monument, general, correspondence files include members of the Boston Art Commission, mayors of Boston, sculptors, and architects. Among the correspondents are Herbert Adams, Thomas Allen, Paul Bartlett, Robert Bellows, Patrick Collins (mayor), John Templeman Coolidge, James M. Curley (mayor), George Harold Edgell, Daniel Chester French, Henry Hudson Kitson, Alexander W. Longfellow, Charles D. Maginnis, J. Harleston Parker, Josiah Quincy (mayor), Arthur Shurtleff, C. Howard Walker, Samuel D. Warren, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
The Boston Art Commission was founded in 1890.
Lent for microfilming by the City of Boston, Boston Art Commission, 1984.
The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.
Monuments -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
statues -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Busts -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Fountains -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Art commissions -- Massachusetts
Boston Art Commission records, 1890-1959. Owned by the City of Boston, Boston Art Commission. Filmed by the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Art.
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art

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