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George Grey Barnard Papers

Identifier: GGB

Scope and Contents

The George Grey Barnard Papers are comprised primarily of correspondence and financial and business records documenting Barnard’s collecting and creation of art. The collection includes a significant amount of personal correspondence, biographical information, and family financial records as well.

The records of his collecting are notable 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.

In debt most of his life, Barnard was often scurrying to avoid creditors and bankers. His 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.

Of particular note are the “Correspondence,” “Sculpture,” and “The Cloisters/Collections” series. These series contain business related letters, agreements, and photographs related to Barnard’s art purchase, collecting, and sculpture. There are many letters with John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Washington Cathedral. The “Sculpture” series comprises of correspondence, photographs, sketches, financial records regarding Barnard's Lincoln statue, Rainbow Arch, and Harrisburg capitol works. Barnard’s correspondence when creating the Lincoln statue with his patrons, his casting foundry, and his models provide insight to the intricacies of sculpture production. “The Cloisters/Collections” series includes inventories of the objects in Barnard's cloisters collections, correspondence with prospective purchasers, descriptions of the objects, and correspondence regarding the Abbaye exhibitions of 1937 and 1940. The later series document the more personal side of Barnard. Particularly, the “Work Miscellany” series includes notes, memos and writings that reflect Barnard's daily routine and thought processes. Additional descriptive information can be found within the series and sub-series notes.


  • 1895-1941


Language of Materials

Predominantly in English; some material in French.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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.

Biographical / Historical

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 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" for the 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. 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. 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.'"


19 linear feet


George Grey Barnard was an American sculptor and collector of Medieval art. He located and arranged the pieces that eventually became "The Cloisters" for the 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.


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.

Custodial History

The George Grey Barnard Papers were most likely acquired in 1945, when the museum purchased the Barnard Abbaye of Medieval art from the Barnard estate. The papers were then transferred from the Office of the Curator of Medieval Art to the Archives in 1975.

Existence and Location of Copies

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.

Separated Materials

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 originally prepared by Douglas Kohn in 1981. Revised 2007.
1981, 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation

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