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John Thacher

Thacher, John.

John Seymour Thacher (1904-1982) served as the first director of Dumbarton Oaks after Robert and Mildred Bliss gifted their estate to Harvard University in 1940. Thacher earned his B.A. at Yale in 1927 and completed graduate work at Harvard in 1931-34. Beginning in 1935, he attended the Courtauld Institute at the University of London, England, where he earned a Ph.D the following year.

Thacher began a long career with Harvard University in 1936 when he accepted a position as Assistant to the Director of the William Hayes Fogg Museum of Art. For a time, he also served as Keeper of Paintings for the Fogg Museum. This experience prepared Thacher to take over directorship of the newly established Dumbarton Oaks institution in 1940.

At Dumbarton Oaks, Thacher’s first title was Executive Officer. From 1945-46, he was known as Acting Director, and finally in 1946 he became Director. Thacher served in this position until his retirement in 1969. His successor at Dumbarton Oaks was William R. Tyler, son of Royall and Elisina Tyler.

Thacher’s distinguished career included fellowship at the Pierpont Morgan Library. He was a member of the board of directors of the American National Opera Company. In 1946, Thacher was made a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, and he also received decorations from the governments of Italy and Greece.



“Dumbarton Oaks.” Wikipedia. Last modified July 16, 2014.

Harvard University. “Harvard Art Museum. Director’s Office. Records of the Assistants to the Directors, 1909-1999 (inclusive), 1927-1943 (bulk): A Guide.” Last modified 2010.

Harvard University. Report of the President of Harvard College and reports of departments. Harvard University, 1982. Page 35 (seq. 20473). Accessed January 10, 2014.