A detailed account of uncertain authorship recalling travel to and from Urga (presently known as Ulaanbataar, Mongolia) in Outer Mongolia. The author is perhaps Georg Soderbom; a member of Sven Hedin's expedition who often worked under Frans Larson Soderbom is pictured in many of the collection's silver plates. The account is replete with descriptions of travel conditions and methods, ethnographic notes, an encounter with "the Andrews expedition" (likely the Central Asiatic Expedition of the American Museum of Natural History led by Roy Chapman Andrews from 1922-1925), and the natural ecosystem. 79 silver prints adorn the text, depicting Soderbom, peoples encountered, vehicles, buildings, and so forth. For the purpose of this collection, all relevant silver prints are numbered as attachments to the appropriate page of the transcript; i.e., the second print affixed to page 32 of the transcript becomes 32b.
While exact provenance of the collection is unclear, it is believed the collection was owned by the Asian art dealer Abel William Bahr (1877-1959). Bahr was born to a German father and a Chinese mother in Shanghai, and became an avid collector of Chinese paintings, jades, and porcelains. He would become a prominent collector and, in 1908, helped to host the first exhibition of Chinese art under the auspices of the Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai.
Organized in the original manner by the creator.
Collection is open for research.
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
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.
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.