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COLLECTION Identifier: HC 3: Personal

Papers of Paul J. Sachs, 1900-1994


These personal papers of Fogg Museum associate director Paul J. Sachs document his involvement with the Fogg, his academic career, publishing projects, collection of art objects, philanthropic endeavors, and personal life. The bulk of the collection dates from 1915 to 1958. Included are: financial records, correspondence, certificates, diplomas, object lists, photographs, newspaper and journal clippings, valuations, and speech transcripts.


  • 1900-1994


Conditions on Access:

Access: Unrestricted.

Conditions on Use:

Copying: Papers may be copied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' usual procedures.

Copyright: Copyright in the papers in the collection may be held by Paul J. Sachs' heirs or assigns. Copyright in other papers may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the Harvard Art Museum Archives before publishing quotations from any material in the collection.


4 linear feet (6 file boxes, 1 half file box, oversize materials)

These papers document Paul J. Sachs' academic career, publishing projects, collection of art objects, philanthropic endeavors, and personal life. They date from 1900 to 1994, with the bulk from 1915 to 1958. The series includes financial records, correspondence, certificates, diplomas, object lists, photographs, newspaper and journal clippings, valuations and speech transcripts.

The series is arranged with close attention to its original order. The folder titles have been retained; they are written, in quotation marks, on each individual folder and they comprise the topical groupings within each subseries. Previously overstuffed folders have been divided among several folders for the sake of preservation. Although in many instances, the records within each folder group have been arranged chronologically, it should be noted that often papers spanning several years are clipped together, interrupting chronological order.

It is unknown if the series' structure was created by Sachs or imposed by subsequent museum staff. Many folders contain typed notes of unknown origin, groupings of documents clipped together without evident purpose, and documents clearly added after Sachs' death. These anomalies have been preserved. Researchers should also note that folder titles are not always entirely accurate or reflective of content. Since the majority of the documents are logically arranged, the found arrangement has been retained.

Photographs and acidic fragile materials have been photocopied; photocopies of the original documents are filed in place of the originals. The originals have been filed separately for preservation purposes. Some oversize documents are housed separately from the collection and may be consulted upon request. Some of the collection suffered water damage in a flood of the archives in 1998; as a result, many of the papers are wrinkled, some are stuck together and some of the ink has run.

Unless otherwise noted, correspondence includes both sent and received letters.

Subseries I, Personal and Professional, is divided into five topical groupings: Financial and Family Records; Academic Honors and Teaching Career; Other Honors; Collections: Art Objects and Books; and Clubs and Organizations. Included are certificates, correspondence, letters of introduction, lecture transcripts, receipts, invoices, lists, insurance policy statements, object lists with valuations, and newspaper and journal clippings.

Subseries II, Philanthropy and Community Involvement, is divided into two topical groupings: Gifts and Community Involvement. The Gifts topical grouping contains correspondence, object lists, certificates of gift and loan, receipts and shipping notices related to Sachs' gifts to a wide range of institutions. The Community Involvement topical grouping contains correspondence, reports, newspaper articles and a photographic portrait. Documents relate to Sachs' involvement in various philanthropic undertakings, including work for U.S. organizations during World War I and the placement of displaced refugee scholars following World War II.

Subseries III, Publications, contains correspondence, newspaper and journal reviews, contracts, and printed advertisements related to books that Sachs authored or co-authored.


Paul Joseph Sachs, the first associate director of the Fogg Museum and a Harvard professor, was born in New York City on November 24, 1878. His parents were Samuel Sachs and Louisa Goldman Sachs; Samuel joined his father-in-law, Marcus Goldman, in the investment banking and management firm that would become Goldman Sachs. The oldest of four children, Paul Sachs had two brothers, Arthur and Walter, and a sister, Ella Sachs Plotz, who died at a young age. He attended the Sachs Collegiate Institution in Manhattan, founded by his uncle Julius Sachs, before attending Harvard University. He graduated from Harvard in 1900 and entered the firm of Goldman Sachs soon after, becoming a partner in 1904. Sachs married Meta Pollack in 1904, and they had three daughters: Elizabeth, Celia and Marjorie. Paul and Meta Sachs were married until her death in 1960.

Sachs retired from banking at the end of 1914, when he accepted Director Edward Waldo Forbes's offer to join the staff of the Fogg Museum as assistant director. He spent the first half of 1915 traveling abroad, primarily in Italy, learning and seeing as much as possible in preparation for his new position at the Fogg. He and his family moved to Shady Hill, the former home of Charles Eliot Norton, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before the fall term in 1915; they would live in this home until 1949. Sachs stayed at Harvard for the rest of his career, becoming associate director of the Fogg in 1923 and retaining that title until his retirement from the museum in 1944, when he became Honorary Curator of Drawings. Sachs's career also included teaching. He first lectured at Wellesley College in academic year 1916-17 and was appointed Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard the following year. In 1922 Harvard named Sachs associate professor, and in 1927 he became full professor. He spent the academic year 1932-33 as an exchange professor at the Sorbonne and as a lecturer in French provincial universities. Sachs became chairman of Harvard's division of Fine Arts in 1933, a position he held for many years.

Sachs began teaching his most well-known course, "Museum Work and Museum Problems" (commonly known as "the Museum Course"), in 1921 and taught it almost every year until his retirement. The course covered all aspects of museum work and practice, including the history, philosophy, organization and administration of museums, museum architecture, exhibition installation and display, collection development, donor relations, the cataloguing of objects, the detection of forgeries, and museum policies and ethics. It involved both theory and practice and provided training for administrators, curators, and connoisseurs. He took his students on winter and spring trips to visit museums and private collections in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Hartford, Providence, and New Haven. Many of Sachs's students in the course went on to become curators and directors at art museums and cultural institutions across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery, the Wadsworth Athenaeum, and museums in Kansas City, St. Louis, Providence, San Francisco, Buffalo, and Montréal. His students included William Lieberman, A. Everett “Chick” Austin, Walter Path, Edward Warburg, Kirk Askew, Alfred H. Barr, Lincoln Kirstein, Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., as well as Agnes Mongan and John Coolidge, who both served terms as director of the Fogg Museum.

His dual roles as museum administrator and member of the Department of Fine Arts allowed Sachs not only to advise colleagues at other institutions about programs and aims, but also to recommend staff for open positions. He successfully placed hundreds of former students in positions and was once referred to as a "one-man employment agency." Sachs retired from teaching in 1948, becoming Professor Emeritus, but his interest and involvement with former students continued into the last years of his life.

Sachs was author or co-author of several publications. His first published work at the Fogg Museum was an exhibition catalogue, A Loan Exhibition of Early Italian Engravings (Intaglio), printed in 1915. With Agnes Mongan, Sachs co-authored Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art (three volumes), first published in 1940. He also wrote The Pocket Book of Great Drawings, first published in 1951, and Modern Prints and Drawings, published in 1954. Sachs wrote the introduction to James Thrall Soby's book Modern Art and the New Past, first published in 1957. He began work on an autobiography with the working title Tales of an Epoch in 1947, but it was never published. The Harvard Art Museums Archives holds several drafts of this work and related correspondence. He was also an editor of Art Bulletin from 1919 to 1940.

Sachs served on the administrative committee of Dumbarton Oaks for many years and also on the Board of Syndics of the Harvard University Press. He was a founding member of MoMA in New York City, where he served as a trustee from 1929-38 and as honorary trustee in 1964. Sachs gave MoMA the first drawing to enter its collection and was honored with the naming of the Paul J. Sachs Galleries for Drawings and Prints in 1964. He also served as a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and on the boards of Radcliffe, Smith, and Wellesley Colleges. He served as president of the American Association of Museums and the American Federation of Art, and was a member of the Century Association, Phi Beta Kappa, the American Philosophical Society, the St. Botolph Club, the Club of Odd Volumes, and the Grolier Club, among other scholarly and social organizations. He received numerous honorary degrees during his lifetime, including an honorary degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1928 and from Princeton University in 1957, as well as honorary doctorates from Harvard in 1942, from Colby College in 1949, and from Yale University in 1953. He was also named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor.

Sachs was an avid connoisseur and collector of art who assembled an important personal collection. He is best known for his love of fine drawings, particularly those of Degas. He was a visionary collector, and one of first Americans to buy the work of Picasso and Matisse. Sachs was receptive to contemporary art at a time when many were definitively against it. He loaned and donated hundreds of objects to the Fogg Museum during his lifetime and bequeathed his own collection of prints and drawings to the museum. At his death, he had given or bequeathed approximately 2,700 works of art, 4,000 books, and many thousands of photographs to the Fogg Museum and the Harvard College Library. Sachs also played a major role in the incorporation of both Dumbarton Oaks and Villa I Tatti into Harvard University; his friendships with Robert Woods Bliss and with Bernard Berenson, cultivated over many years, facilitated these alliances.

Sachs was involved in a range of philanthropic endeavors throughout his life. He was a speaker for the First Liberty Loan campaign and Chief of Staff in the License Division of the Massachusetts Food Administration before serving as a major with the Red Cross in Paris during World War I, and he assisted countless displaced scholars and other refugees in the years leading to World War II. Sachs and Forbes were nicknamed the "exuberant mendicants" by Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell for their efforts to raise funds and build an endowment for the Fogg Museum; the construction of the new Fogg Museum on Quincy Street, which opened to the public in 1927, was largely the result of their fund-raising work. Over many years, Sachs also played a quiet but significant role in building the collections of Harvard College Library. Beyond these gifts to Harvard, he gave art objects and books to a wide range of cultural institutions and made financial contributions to many fellowships and funds. He lent books from his personal library; wrote countless letters of introduction for friends, students and colleagues; gave generously of his ideas and time to those who needed assistance; loaned works of art from his personal collection for exhibitions in the United States and abroad; and in many instances anonymously financed the travels and studies of others. Sachs and his family openly welcomed guests into their home on an almost daily basis, and Sachs's philanthropy continued into the last years of his life.

Paul J. Sachs died on February 17, 1965, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This collection is arranged in three subseries:

  1. I. Personal and Professional
  2. II. Philanthropy and Community Involvement
  3. III. Publications

Acquisition Information:

The series was left to the Fogg Museum by former associate director Paul J. Sachs.

Related Materials

There are additional papers of Paul J. Sachs elsewhere in the Harvard Art Museums Archives, as well as in the Harvard University Archives. The Archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, NY also holds some of his correspondence.

Box and Folder Locations

  1. Box 1: Folders 1-28
  2. Box 2: Folders 29-30, 32-62
  3. Box 3: Folders 63-85, 87-89
  4. Box 4: Folders 90-91, 92-119
  5. Box 5: Folders 120-147
  6. Box 6: 148, 150-160, 162-165, 167-176
  7. Box 7: 31, 86, 92, 149, 161, 166

Processing Information

The series was processed November 2005-February 2006 by Laura Morris with assistance from Susan von Salis.

Papers of Paul J. Sachs (HC 3: Personal), 1900-1994: A Guide
Harvard Art Museums Archives
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Art Museums Archives Repository

The Harvard Art Museums Archives is the official repository for institutional records and historical documents in all formats relating to the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1895 to the present. Its collections include papers of individuals and groups associated with the museums' history, including records of past exhibitions, architectural plans, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia, as well as correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and artists throughout the twentieth century. Its holdings also document the formation of the museums' collections and its mission as a teaching institution.

32 Quincy Street
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA