TABLE OF CONTENTS

Collection Overview

Administrative Information

Biographical Note

Scope and Content Note

Arrangement

Names and Subject Terms

Series Descriptions

Memoirs, [1944-1956]

Correspondence, 1919-1957 [bulk 1947-1957]

Clippings, 1948, no date

Other Writings, no date

Images, no date

Catalog Images, 1935, no date

Art Object Photographs, no date


A.W. Bahr

A Finding Aid to the A.W. Bahr papers, 1919-1957 (bulk 1947-1957), at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives

by Evelyn Khoo

June 23, 2008

Collection Overview

Creator: A.W. Bahr
Title: The A.W. Bahr Papers
Dates: 1919-1957
Abstract: 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.
Extent: 1.25 linear feet
Language: English

Administrative Information

Provenance

Penelope Jane Bahr donated her grandfather's papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives on November 12th, 2001.

Location of Originals

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Related Material

There are no known related materials at any other institution or historical society.

Processing Information

Processed by intern Evelyn Khoo, with the assistance of archivists Rachael Cristine Woody and David Hogge.

Preferred Citation

A.W. Bahr Papers. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gift of Penelope Jane Bahr, November 12th, 2001.

Restrictions on Access

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.

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Biographical Note

Date Event
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

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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.

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Names and Subject Terms

Names:
    Bahr, Abel William, 1877-1959
    Cammell, Charles Richard
Subjects-Topical:
    Art, China
    Art, Japan
    China - Description and travel
    Japan - Description and travel
Subjects-Geographical:
    China
    Connecticut
    England
    Japan
Types of Materials:
    Letters
    Manuscripts
    Photographs

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Arrangement


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

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Series Descriptions

 

Series 1:  Memoirs, [1944-1956] 


This series contains drafts of Bahr's memoir and other writings related to his memoir.

Box

Folder
1 1  Bahr's first person accounts, no date
2  Manuscript: "Old China Hand, Merchant, Art Collector and Traveler," circa 1954
3  Cammell's manuscript chapters, no date
4  Handwritten notes on scrap paper, no date
5  Biographical draft [1949]
6  Correspondence regarding memoir, 1944, 1951
 

Series 2:  Correspondence, 1919-1957 [bulk 1947-1957] 


This series contains correspondence between Bahr and collectors of Chinese art and other figures in the art world, such as Lord Kitchener, Kenjiro Matsumoto and the King of Sweden. This series also has official correspondence between Bahr and museums, usually regarding donations of his pieces to their collections.

Box

Folder
1 7  Kitchener, Lord (Horatio Herbert Kitchener), no date
8  King of Sweden, 1920-1954
9  Whitehill, Walter Muir, 1956-1957
10  Matsumoto, Kenjiro, 1955-1956
11  Senator Theodore Francis Green, [1957]
12  Other Correspondence, 1919-1954
13  Official Correspondence with Museums, etcetera, 1947-1951
 

Series 3:  Clippings, 1948, no date 


This series contains newspaper clippings, several of which have handwritten notes on the top saying 'book', indicating they are possibly to be used for his memoir.

Box

Folder
1 14  Clippings, 1948, no date
 

Series 4:  Other Writings, no date  


This series has other written materials such as possible poems written on scrap paper and a few written descriptions of Chinese art objects.

Box

Folder
1 15  Poetry, no date
16  Collection descriptions, no date
 

Series 5:  Images, no date  


This series contains a few personal photographs of Bahr as well as several photographs of Chinese art objects.

Box

Folder
1 17  Photographs, no date
18  Photonegatives of Lacquer Furniture, no date
 

Series 6:  Catalog Images, 1935, no date  


This series contains prints and photographs which seem to be grouped together in catalogs or printed in some publication.

Box

Folder
2 1  Prints, no date
2  Photographs from the Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935-6
3  Catalogue Pages, no date
 

Series 7:  Art Object Photographs, no date  


This series contains mostly unidentified photographs of art objects, possibly for use in Bahr's publications (as indicated by notes and annotation on some of the photographs.) Photographs have been re-organized based on type of object pictures, such as paintings, sculpture or figurine.

Box

Folder
2 4  Paintings - Portraits
5  Paintings - Landscapes, scenes with people and horses
6  Paintings - animals and plants
7  Paintings - deities, monks, etcetera
8  Statues/Sculpture
9  Sculpture Heads
10  Stone animal sculptures/figurines
11  Smaller stone animal sculptures/figures

Box

Folder
3 1  Single small stone or jade figurines and pieces
2  Small stone or jade figurine groups
3  Vessels
4  Disks and blades
5  Miscellaneous - friezes, seal(?) Stone statues, calligraphy, etcetera