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George Grey Barnard Papers

Identifier: GGB
These records are interesting in many ways: as reflections of a very colorful man, as a history of an exciting era in the art world, and as the chronicle of an artist trying to make ends meet.

George Grey Barnard was a passionate man who was involved in many different arenas. The records of his collecting are fascinating in that they reveal a side of museums mostly unknown to people: how they acquired what they have. Barnard corresponded with museums, often desperately trying to sell his sculpture and his collections. The records of his Cloister Collections, one of which found a home at the Metropolitan Museum's Cloisters and the other at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, provides a rich background to two current museum treasures.

Barnard himself was interesting. His writings were flowery and passionate, often containing references to divine inspirations and righteous missions. He often was consumed in one activity or another, such as bringing a live turkey as a guest of honor to a vegetarian Thanksgiving feast, or offering twelve museums "first rights" to a collection of medieval objects he was selling. In debt most of his life, Barnard often was scurrying to avoid creditors and bankers. His magical personality, fame as an artist, and influential friends rescued him in times of difficulty, as is evidenced in his financial papers and his personal and business correspondence.

Portraying his role as an artist, Barnard's papers regarding his Lincoln sculpture are thrilling. His correspondence with his patrons, his casting foundry, and his models provide insight to the intricacies of sculpture production. The row over portraying Lincoln - whether strong and idealistic as Saint-Gaudens sculpted him, or gangly, emotional and human as did Barnard - sparked a controversy in the art world which is yet unresolvable. What is the mission of art and the artist? Throughout his papers Barnard's philosophy was apparent: he was gifted and felt responsible for honoring his Maker with his art, and he felt needy of evoking pathos towards injured or less-fortunate souls. This attitude of Barnard, when blended with his incessant pecuniary pressures and scheming, reflect a delightfully unpredictable man whose papers are seldom dull and often surprising.


  • 1895-1941


Language of Materials

Predominantly in English; some material in French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

The George Gray Barnard Papers are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.


19 linear feet


George Grey Barnard was an American sculptor and collector of Medieval art, locating and arranging the pieces that eventually became "The Cloisters," now of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. His papers are comprised primarily of correspondence and financial and business records documenting both his collecting and creation of art. The collection includes a significant amount of personal correspondence, biographical information, and family financial records as well.

Historical Note

George Grey Barnard was an American sculptor and collector of Medieval art. Described by Harold Dickson in his introduction to "George Grey Barnard Centenary Exhibition, 1863-1963" as a "born" sculptor, Barnard was among the greatest of American sculptors and a medalist at the Salon of the Champs de Mar in Paris. Also a collector, Barnard located and arranged the pieces that eventually became "The Cloisters," now of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Born in 1863 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Barnard received art training at the Chicago Art Institute and at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, there a student of Jules Cavelier. Unknown, Barnard was an instant sensation at the 1894 Salon with his Rodinesque piece, "I Feel Two Natures Struggling Within Me," which also belongs to the Metropolitan. In 1902 Barnard was commissioned to create statuary for the new Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. He was producing pieces for private individuals as well, including his special patron, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

At this time, Barnard was commissioned by Charles P. Taft to create a statue of Abraham Lincoln for Cincinnati. It was erected in 1917. Not idealistic like the Saint-Gaudens Lincoln, Barnard's was a gangly, beard-less Lincoln of the Douglass debates, and one showing great sensitivity, frailty, and emotion. This portrayal became the focus of a scandalous controversy when a copy was to be presented to Westminster Abbey. Eventually, Barnard's was transferred to Manchester, a center of working men, and Saint-Gauden's was erected in London.

While carrying out his Harrisburg commission in France, funding for the project nearly collapsed due to graft. In order to support his family, Barnard was reduced to scavenging the countryside for medieval antiques he could sell. With this he launched his avocation of collecting great medieval pieces. Barnard retained his best finds and built "The Cloisters" which he sold to Rockefeller in 1925 for $600,000. Rockefeller then gave The Cloisters to the city of New York as a park/museum. Barnard later built a second collection which was sold by his estate to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1945.

The son of a preacher, George Grey Barnard was greatly moved by the devastation of World War I, and devoted his life after that carnage to creating a monument to Peace. He designed a hundred-foot high "Rainbow Arch" which included about 400 figures. Dedicated to the Mothers of America, Barnard wished to build his arch entirely of his own funds, and nickles and dimes contributed by children. He spent many years and all his resources on the arch, yet only completed a plaster model before his health failed and he died in 1938.

George Grey Barnard married Edna Monroe of Boston in 1895. He was survived by his wife and his three children, son Monroe and daughters Vivia Barnard and Barbara McGregor.

  • 1863 (May 24) Born, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania.
  • 1866 Family moves West to Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.
  • 1882-1883 Studies at Chicago Art Institute.
  • 1884-1887 Studies at École des Beaux-Arts.
  • 1893 "Struggle of Two Natures" completed in marble (Metropolitan).
  • 1894 Salon Champs de Mar, Paris, "Struggle" exhibited, Barnard elected Associé Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts.
  • 1894-1895 Moves to Washington Heights, New York; produces many pieces for patrons.
  • 1895 Marries Edna Monroe of Boston.
  • 1900 Salon Champs de Mars, Paris, Gold Medal.
  • 1900-1904 Professor of Sculpture, Art Students Leauge of New York; Jacob Epstein a student.
  • 1901 Salon, Buffalo, Gold Medal.
  • 1902 Receives commission to create statuary for new Pennsylvania Capitol Building, Harrisburg.
  • 1903-1911 In France at Moret-sur-Loing, completes plaster and marble for Harrisburg.
  • 1906-1907 Begins collecting medieval art in French countryside.
  • 1910 Salon Champs de Mars, Harrisburg Statuary stands aside doors to Salon.
  • 1911 (Oct. 4) "Barnard Day" in Harrisburg.
  • 1915-1925 Creates many Lincoln statues.
  • 1917 Lincoln statue in Cincinnati erected.
  • 1914-1918 World War I, Barnard greatly moved.
  • 1920-1937 Conceives "Rainbow Arch," monument to Peace; devotes rest of life to building it.
  • 1925 Sells first cloister collection to Rockefeller.
  • 1930 Forced to vacate studio; moves to Power House to complete plaster model of "Rainbow Arch."
  • 1933 Arch plaster model exhibited at Power House.
  • 1936 Recieves National Institute of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Sculpture.
  • 1937 Completes second medieval collection, "The Abbaye" (Philadelphia Museum of Art).
  • 1938 (Apr. 24) Dies; buried in Harrisburg.
  • 1938 (May 14) Exhibtion of "The Cloisters' opens.

Works Consulted

  1. Apollo 189 (Nov. 1977): 332-339. Young, Mahroni Sharp. "George Gray Barnard and the Cloisters."
  2. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37.1 (Summer 1979). Schrader, J. L. "George Gray Barnard: The Cloisters and The Abbaye."
  3. Art Quarterly 28.4 (1965): 253-254. Dickson, Harold. "The Origins of 'The Cloisters.'"


The records came to the Archives roughly grouped into series and in over-stuffed folders, sometimes with labels missing. In some cases it was necessary to create order, in others just to polish the existing configuration. Care was taken to maintain the original order when possible. In some cases items have been arranged within folders in order to enhance the evidential value of the papers; in other cases there may be a very loose intra-folder organization.

Acquisition and Custody Information

Probably acquired in 1945, when the Museum purchased the Barnard Abbaye of Medieval art from the Barnard estate. Transferred from the Office of the Curator of Medieval Art to the Archives in 1975.

Alternative Format Available

The collection, with material dated 1897-1945, and finding aid were microfilmed by the American Archives of Art. Reel nos. 3658-3664. Copies are availabe for use in the Museum's Library.

Related Material

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Archives. Records of Barnard's collection and of "The Cloisters."

"The Cloisters" Library. Barnard correspondence re "The Cloisters."

National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution. See AAA Journal citation above. Photographs of Barnard's work.

Archives of American Art. See AAA Journal 17.2 (1977); microfilm roll 118. Photographs, negatives, and correspondence.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. Includes correspondence and notes of Francis Henry Taylor, Curator of Medieval Art, 1927-1931. Medieval Art Department Records.

Separated Material

Scrapbook of Barnard's cloisters (1920-1922). Special Format. Scrapbooks.

Black-and-white cloth-mounted print of Barnard's "The Hewer;" 8 misc. black-and-white prints of works of art studies of famous statues, and a signed print of Isadora Duncan; 47 photographs of early jackhammers and their use. Special Format. Photographs.

Glass-enclosed negative of Barnard's "Sermon on the Mount;" copper etched plate of a decorative pattern; and copper engraved plate of Barnard's standing Lincoln statue. Special Format. Objects.

Nine daybooks (1916-1928); dedication proceedings book for the Harrisburg Statuary (1911); box of post cards; two notebooks (1887, 1889), pocket Bible, and journal of Joseph H. Barnard; newspaper article on GGB and his Rainbow Arch; checks (1937-1938). Special Format. Miscellany.

Six blueprints of Barnard's studio (1928) prepared by Duncan Candler. Special Format. Architectural Drawings.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Douglas Kohn in 1981. Revised 2007. Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation.
Guide to the George Grey Barnard Papers
Finding aid prepared by Douglas Kohn (8/31/1981). Revised 2007.
Language of description
Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation
Edition statement

Revision Statements

  • 3/30/2004: Kat Stefko: Text converted and initial EAD tagging provided by Apex Data Services, February 2001. Transferred to DIANA by Katherine Stefko, March 2004.
  • 9/20/2004: Kat Stefko: Updated links from "mellon-archives" to "archives.'
  • 9/20/2004: Kat Stefko: Updated links from "mellon-archives" to "archives.'
  • 1/20/2006: Susie Anderson: New nodes and citation
  • 4/21/2006: Bertha Adams: New URL
  • 6/11/2007: Bertha Adams: June 11, 2007

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States