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 and Helen M. Bahr (Stewart).
Collection is open for research.
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1907 to 1946 and can be useful.
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Leo Castelli Gallery records, circa 1880-2000, bulk 1957-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the partial digitization of this collection was provided by the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
Smithsonian Institution. Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Search this
In the 1970s, more than 90 percent of all Americans recognized themselves as heirs to cultural traditions brought to this country from other parts of the world. The 1975 Old Ways program featured six of the many ethnic groups that have enriched the American mosaic of culture. In the Bicentennial celebration in 1976, more than 30 were expected to participate.
The central theme of the 1975 presentations was celebration. Individuals and groups who serve their communities through singing, dancing, playing music, telling stories, or preparing food for these gatherings were brought to the Festival from ethnic communities in the United States and from their parent nations overseas. The 1975 presentations featured German and Lebanese traditions (June 25-29), and Japanese, Mexican, and Italian traditions (July 2-6).
The German presentation focused on the music, dance and foodways associated with weddings - a celebration that involves whole communities in customs that have been practiced for hundreds of years. German American musicians played traditional wedding music on a combination of instruments: a hammered dulcimer, accordion, trombone, and bass guitar. Other wedding music was performed by a German American brass band from Wisconsin and another from Texas. From Schleswig-Holstein a six-piece band performed wedding dance music, and Bavarian wedding music was played by three musicians from Munich. A brass band and dancers from Baden-Wurtemburg performed wedding music from their region, and wedding foods were demonstrated.
The Lebanese program reflected the diversity of traditional music and dance, urban and village, sacred and secular. An urban cabaret orchestra from Beirut was joined by another from the United States. Each day's activities portrayed a haflah, or Lebanese party with music, song, food, and dance. Dancers from Marjayoun and Mtein, Lebanon, and Springfield, Massachusetts taught Festival visitors the dabke and other village group dances, and the sacred dimension of Lebanese music was shown by vocalists singing choral songs sacred to Lebanese Christians.
A Natsu Matsuri, or summer festival, provided the frame within which Japanese music, dance, crafts and foods were presented. Japanese Americans from communities in Seabrook, New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., together with folk artists from Tokyo and Mihara, a small seacoast city in Hiroshima Prefecture, created festive celebrations daily, culminating in a major Bon Odori in the Plaza on July 5. Crafts related to festivities such as flower arranging and origami were demonstrated, as were calligraphy, kimono-making, cushion-making and kite-making.
In the Italian area, Italian Americans from neighborhoods in the New York metropolitan area joined counterpart participants from Italy in activities traditionally associated with saint's day celebrations, scampagnate, carnivale and other special occasions. Music was of special importance in these presentations, as it has been in the immigration experience. Visitors also heard the cries of street vendors and the sounds of tambourines, bagpipes, scrapers and accordions, instruments native to many regions of Italy. They enjoyed a Sicilian American marionette show and watched and played Italian games.
Mexicans and Mexican Americans shared the stage the second week of the Festival in a program that attempted to trace the roots of those music traditions most popular among Mexican Americans in the United States. Visitors could compare the styles of the mariachi music that now thrives in Mexico and in the United States. The norteño style, a lively, rustic sound that flourished in Texas and spread through parts of the Southwest, was performed by Mexican American musicians and dancers. An ensemble of five performers from southern Veracruz played the harp-dominated jarocho music and executed the complex footwork of the dances.
Program Coordinator for the Old Ways in the New World was Shirley Cherkasky, assisted by Sandra Tussing and Suzanne Cox. Thomas Vennum was ethnomusicologist. An advisory group included Conrad Arensberg, Svatava Pirkova Jakobson, Alan Lomax, and David McAIIester.
The 1975 program was made possible by the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration, Government of Germany, Government of Japan, Japan Foundation, Government of Lebanon, and Government of Mexico.
Anna Lomax, Anthony Shay, Miiko Toelken, Roger Welsch, Ernestine Perrie, Elizabeth Mathias, Ronald Smith, Philip Sonnichsen
Gretel Gross Trio:
Hans Eibl, 1941-, zither player
Margarete Gross, 1932-, hackbrett player
Gottfried Keck, 1929-, guitar player
Die Holsteiner -- Die HolsteinerGregor Otto, 1928-, leaderKarl-Heinz Kler, 1937-, musicianHans-Joachim Knoof, 1957-, musicianRüdiger König, 1943-, musicianWalter Siwek, 1919-, musicianPaul Gottfried Zulauf, 1943-, musician
Bob Schmer's Polka Play Boys -- Bob Schmer's Polka Play BoysAlbert Fahlbusch, 1925-2005, hammered dulcimer playerRoger Fahlbusch, 1958-, bass guitar playerAndrew M. Gentry, trombone playerRobert H. Schmer, accordion player
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Copyright and other restrictions may apply. Generally, materials created during a Festival are covered by a release signed by each participant permitting their use for personal and educational purposes; materials created as part of the fieldwork leading to a Festival may be more restricted. We permit and encourage such personal and educational use of those materials provided digitally here, without special permissions. Use of any materials for publication, commercial use, or distribution requires a license from the Archives. Licensing fees may apply in addition to any processing fees.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival records: 1975 Festival of American Folklife, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
Jacques Seligmann & Co. records, 1904-1978, bulk 1913-1974. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Processing of the collection was funded by the Getty Grant Program; digitization of the collection was funded by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.