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Perry Townsend Rathbone papers, 1929-1985

Rathbone, Perry Townsend, 1911-2000

Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 4.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of museum director Perry Townsend Rathbone measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1929 to 1985. The papers document Rathbone's career as museum director of the City Art Museum of St. Louis and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and his later work with Christie's New York office. Found within the papers are biographical materials, correspondence with friends and colleagues, writings, professional and project files, printed materials, and photographs, mostly of exhibitions.
Biographical materials contain curriculum vitae, biographical sketches, citations for honorary degrees and for Rathbone's appointment as Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor, a passport, a transcript of an interview with Rathbone, and articles written by others about Rathbone, including one by S. Lane Faison.
Correspondence is with Rathbone's friends and colleagues. Notable correspondents include Max Beckmann, Xavier Gonzalez, Hanns Swarzenski, Curt Valentin, Jane Sabersky, William R. Valentiner, and Marian Willard, among others. Rathbone knew several art historians and conservators who served in the U.S. Army as members of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, also known as the Monuments Men. Correspondence with these colleagues is arranged together as a subseries and includes correspondence with S. Lane Faison, Thomas Carr Howe, Lamont Moore, Charles Parkhurst, Andrew Ritchie, George Leslie Stout, and Otto Wittman. Most of the correspondence with other Monuments Men is post World War II.
Writings by Rathbone consist of student papers, typescript drafts of articles, and entries for exhibition catalogs, notes and notebooks from European trips, and lectures.
Professional files encompass a range of documents related to Rathbone's museum directorships, projects, travels and professional affiliations. The folders about his work at the City Art Museum of St. Louis and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston include correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, press releases, and notes. There are also folders on specific projects such as the renovation of the historic Dederer-Blodgett House and Rathbone's membership on various art commissions and committees. Also found within this series are correspondence, notebooks, receipts, itineraries, and vouchers for Rathbone's business trips to Europe and other locations while working for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Printed materials include news clippings, articles, press releases, a few art magazines and exhibition catalogues, and invitations to events. There are also black and white photographs of exhibitions, including a Max Beckmann exhibit, and a few images of Rathbone.

Biographical/Historical Note

Perry Townsend Rathbone (1911-2000) was a museum director in New York, N.Y. and Boston, Mass. Rathbone was the director of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, 1940-1955, and director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1954-1972. He was director of the auction house, Christie's USA, between 1973-1977, senior vice-president from 1977-1987, and a consultant beginning in 1987.


Perry Townsend Rathbone donated his paper to the Archives of American Art in 1977 and 1988.

Related Materials


Processing of this collection was funded by the Kress H. Kress Foundation.