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Arthur Edwin Bye Papers


Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

As a lecturer, adviser and practitioner of art restoration, as well as a painter, curator, and scholar, Arthur Edwin Bye's career in the fine arts took several paths, often at the same time. Born December 18, 1885 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bye completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at Princeton University. He also studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, and with the landscapes artists Charles Rosen and John Carlson. Like the former artist, Bye painted the scenic countryside of Bucks County, an area northwest of Philadelphia. His son, Ranulph, would later do the same.

In 1922, Bye joined the staff of the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Curator of Paintings and served in that position through 1928. By the next year he was working in the Philadelphia area, restoring paintings, and for at least one prominent family, the John D. McIlhennys, decorative art objects, as well. In addition to his restoration practice, Bye was an art dealer for most of his life.

Bye's ties to academia were also wide and varied. According to a 1943 issue of Chapel Hill Weekly, Bye did restoration work on several portraits at the University of North Carolina, and was involved in "official restoration" projects for Vassar College, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Reading Museum. Beginning in 1926, Bye was the technical adviser to the art department at Princeton University, a position he held for two decades. He was a professor of art at several institutions, including Vassar College, Lafayette College and the University of North Carolina.

As an author, Bye published five books on art history, two on his family's history and Quaker genealogy, as well as various articles. He died on November 4, 1969.

    Works Consulted
  1. The American artists bluebook. Database artist numbers, respectively: 120136, 23864 and 5778. AskART, s.v. Arthur Edwin Bye," "Charles Rosen" and "John Fabian Carlson."
  2. Interactive database. James A. Michener Art Museum. 24 Feb. 2996. "Bucks County Artists, s.v. Arthur E. Bye."
  3. Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1999. Falk, Peter H., ed., et al. Who was who in American art, 1564-1975: 400 years of artists in Americirca
  4. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. "Dealers, museums and others" subsries includes folder of correspondence and invoices with Bye. Henry P. McIlhenny Papers. Art collection series.
  5. Chapel Hill Weekly. 22 Jan. 1943. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies Online Reference Desk. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "University's old portraits are to be restored."

This collection consists of four scrapbooks that appear to reflect a few of Bye's varied interests and professional practices as well as two samples of his writings on art.

Loose items removed from Scrapbooks 1 and 4 are in folders and now housed with the "Writings" material.

Gift of Gerald H. Bye, 1988. The book review manuscript was found in Pfister's "Bruegel," which was included in Bye's book collection that was gifted to the Museum Library.

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams
Finding Aid Date
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

The Arthur Edwin Bye Papers is 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.

Collection Inventory

Scope and Content Note

The three oversized scrapbooks have leather covers with decorative spines and Bye's name or initials embossed on the front, suggesting that Bye may have intended these not only as keepsakes but as presentation albums. Two of the scrapbooks hold photographs of art objects, most of which are portrait paintings. Almost all of the paintings in Scrapbook #1 are unidentified. The only dated and identified item is a letter by the author Booth Tarkington responding to Bye's request for information of a portrait of Tennyson. Scrapbook #2 also contains photographs of paintings that are primarily portraits and a few other objects. Almost all the works are not only identified by artist, title and date but also by the private collector. Most of the works are noted from the collection of R.L. Taylor, Esq., with a few from the collection of Mrs. John D. McIlhenny. Since it is documented that Bye did restoration work for the latter, both scrapbooks may have served as portfolios of his work as a restorer and/or art dealer.

Christmas cards fill most of the pages of the third oversized and leather-bound scrapbook. Although a collection of such ephemera suggests a personal cache of memorabilia, there is a significant amount of original artwork and reproductions by Bye and his friends to serve as a portfolio or art reference book. Many of the works Bye created are identified as etchings he designed for bookplates. There are also a few of his illustrations reprinted as Christmas cards and three architectural identified as Italian, all dated from 1920. Signed prints from friends as well as those reprinted as Christmas cards are included. A number of cards were created by Edward Warwick, who not only lectured and later served as dean of the Philadelphia College of Art but also exhibited as an artist of printmaking and watercolor. Cards with a more commercially-produced appearance are also included.

Scrapbook #4 contains clippings, primarily of pictorial and graphic design illustrations. Bye's use of a blank ledger book to house these clippings suggests that, unlike the other three, this book served as his own reference. A number of tracings of heraldic devices and several sketches were also included, loosely between the pages. Most of the reprinted illustrations reflect a pre-Raphaelite style and romantic subject matter. The graphic samples show typefaces from gothic to art nouveau styles. All these styles are also found in many of the card designs in Scrapbook #3.

Physical Description

3.5 linear feet

Scrapbook #1 [unidentified paintings]., undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Photographs, ephemera and correspondence removed from Scrapbook #1., 1940, undated.
Box 5 Folder 1
Scrapbook #2 [identified paintings]., undated.
Box 2 Folder 1
Scrapbook #3 [Christmas cards and artwork]., 1920-1965, undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
Scrapbook #4 [clippings]., undated.
Box 4 Folder 1
Tracings and sketches removed from Scrapbook #4., undated.
Box 5 Folder 2
Prints and clippings removed from Scrapbook #4., 1903-1907, undated.
Box 5 Folder 3

Scope and Content Note

Included in Bye's writings is his review of two books published in 1921 about the artist Pieter Bruegel. The writing is in manuscript format. The other writing, an annotated typescript, was housed in a cover marked "Swiss Glass." The text consists of individual descriptions of various stained glass objects, similar to a catalogue. Research notes and a gelatin silver print of one of the objects are also included.

Physical Description

1/2 linear foot

"Swiss Glass." Annotated typescript, w/ photograph and notes., undated.
Box 5 Folder 4
Review of two books on Pieter Bruegel. Manuscript., circa 1921.
Box 5 Folder 5

Print, Suggest