History

History

Fogg Museum visitors examine Picasso’s Guernica during the first of two loans from MoMA in 1941. Picasso entrusted the painting to MoMA as a long-term loan on the condition it be returned to Spain once Francisco Franco was no longer in control of the government. Photo: Harvard Art Museums Archives.

In 1874, when the President and Fellows of Harvard College appointed Charles Eliot Norton the first professor of art history in America, they could hardly have anticipated a day when Harvard would have three distinct art museums, each a vital part of the university and the larger museum community.

The three museums that make up the Harvard Art Museums are entities in their own right, each with a particular focus and collection strength. They are linked through a common mission and a common administration.

As we move toward the future, a new building will unite the three museums under one roof in a single facility that will more effectively carry out the mission of the Harvard Art Museums. Each museum will maintain its separate identity, closely tied to the ideas that inspired its creation and that inform the institution’s rich history.

Fogg Museum

The Fogg Museum is Harvard’s oldest art museum. Its original building, designed by Richard Morris Hunt, opened in 1895 on the present site of Canaday Hall in Harvard Yard. In 1927 the museum moved to its home at 32 Quincy Street in a building designed by Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbott that became the site of the Fogg’s development as the nation’s premier teaching museum.

The Fogg Museum today is renowned for its holdings of Western paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photographs, prints, and drawings dating from the Middle Ages to the present.

Busch-Reisinger Museum

In 1897 a committee of three Harvard professors of German literature published an article titled “The Need of a Germanic Museum at Harvard.” By 1903 the Germanic Museum had opened in Rogers Hall, a former gymnasium.

In 1921 the Germanic Museum moved to Adolphus Busch Hall, at 29 Kirkland Street, and in 1950 it was renamed the Busch-Reisinger Museum. The museum moved again in 1991, this time to Werner Otto Hall at 32 Quincy Street, designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates. Adolphus Busch Hall continues to house the founding collection of plaster casts of medieval art and is the venue for concerts on its world-renowned Flentrop pipe organ.

The Busch-Reisinger Museum is the only museum of its kind in North America devoted solely to the art of central and northern Europe, with a particular emphasis on art from the German-speaking countries.

Arthur M. Sackler Museum

In 1912 Langdon Warner taught the first courses in Asian art at Harvard, and the first at any American university. By 1977 Harvard’s collections of Asian, ancient, and Islamic and later Indian art had grown enough in size and importance to require a larger space for their display and study. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum, a new museum building at 485 Broadway designed by James Stirling, opened in 1985.

The building also houses offices for the History of Art and Architecture faculty, as well as the Digital Images and Slides Collection of the Fine Arts Library.