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Paul J. Sachs

Sachs, Paul J. (Paul Joseph), 1878-1965

Paul Sachs was the first born son of Samuel and Louisa Sachs. His father was a partner in the investment firm Goldman Sachs, and in 1904, Paul Sachs joined him at the firm. Sachs did not stay in the world of investment banking for long. In 1909, his good friend and former Harvard classmate Edward Forbes became the director of the William Hayes Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. Forbes pushed Sachs to leave the banking business and join him at the Fogg museum. Five years later, he did. Sachs became assistant curator at the Fogg in the autumn of 1915, and soon thereafter he became a lecturer at Wellesley College and an assistant professor of fine arts at Harvard. He became a full professor in 1927.

Sachs proved an influential force in the world of art and museum studies. The courses that Sachs created at this time were among the first "museum studies" to ever be established. He taught his most well-known course, "Museum Work and Museum Problems," from 1921 until his retirement in 1948. Many students who took this course went on to become curators and directors at museums and cultural institutions from New York to Kansas City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Montréal.

Sachs served an administrative role for many of these same institutions over the years. He served as a board member for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Board of Syndics of the Harvard University Press, and Dumbarton Oaks. At Dumbarton Oaks he played a crucial role in its incorporation with Harvard University. He worked alongside his friend Robert Woods Bliss to form the institution into the cultural and educational center that the Blisses envisioned. He also helped to found the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he served as a trustee from 1929 to 1938. At the MoMA, Sachs actually donated the first drawing to enter their collection; they thanked him by naming a gallery after him in 1964. He continued teaching, advising, and collecting and donating art until the last years of his life. Paul Sachs died in 1965 in his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.



Brown, David Alan. "Teaching Connoisseurship: Paul Sachs at Harvard University and Bernard Berenson at Villa I Tatti." Lecture, Works in Progress at National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., December 7, 2009.

Cohen, Noam S. "The Achievement of Paul J. Sachs." The American Scholar. Vol. 60, No.1 (Winter 1991), pp. 33-52.

Sorenson, Lee. "Sachs, Paul J[oseph]." Dictionary of Art Historians. Accessed June 10, 2014.

Tassel, Janet. "Portrait of the Artist as a Director." Harvard Magazine. September-October 2002.