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Arthur Upham Pope

Arthur Upham Pope
Born (1881-02-07)February 7, 1881
Phenix, West Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.
Died September 3, 1969(1969-09-03) (aged 88)
Shiraz, Iran
Nationality American
Fields Persian art, architecture and archaeology
Institutions Brown University
University of California, Berkeley
Amherst College
California Palace of the Legion of Honor
Asia Institute, Shiraz University
Alma mater Brown University
Academic advisors Alexander Meiklejohn
Notable students Jay Gluck
Phyllis Ackerman
Influenced Richard N. Frye
Spouse Bertha Louise Clark
Phyllis Ackerman

Arthur Upham Pope (1881–1969) is best known as a pioneering American expert on Persian/Iranian art and the editor of the authoritative Survey of Persian Art. He was also a university professor of philosophy and aesthetics, archaeologist, photographer, political activist, museum director and planner, pianist, interior designer, and founder of an international scholarly organization.[1]

Mausoleum of Arthur Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman in Isfahan.


  • Education and early career 1
  • Renowned authority on Persian art 2
  • San Francisco 3
  • Continued Persian pursuits 4
  • 1940s and later 5
  • Legacy 6
  • 2014 vandalism of Pope-Ackerman tomb 7
  • References 8
  • See also 9

Education and early career

Born in Phenix, Rhode Island, Pope graduated from

  • Robert Lewis Taylor, "Profile: Under the Rug," The New Yorker, July 14 and 21, 1945.
  • Arthur Upham Pope Papers, New York Public Library
  • vol. 8 no. 3 (February/March 1988)Oriental Rug ReviewGeorge W. O'Bannon, "The Grand Gesture: The Ahwanee Hotel, Phyllis Ackerman and Arthur Upham Pope,"
  • [2] Yuka Kadoi, "Arthur Upham Pope and his 'Research Methods in Muhammadan Art': Persian Carpets," Journal of Art Historiography no. 6 (June 2012)

See also

  1. ^ a b c Encyclopedia Iranica
  2. ^ San Francisco Chronicle, November 26, 1916, p. 31.
  3. ^ Museum Work, 7 (May–June 1924), pp. 21-22.
  4. ^ Aline Kistler, “New Museum Program is Planned Here,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 19, 1926, p. D7
  5. ^ Coxhead House history
  6. ^ Surveyors of Persian Art: A Documentary Biography of Arthur Upham Pope & Phyllis Ackerman edited by Jay Gluck, Noël Siver and Sumi Hiramoto Gluck. ISBN 978-4893600233
  7. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica
  8. ^ "'Isfahan is waiting to welcome Frye'". Tehran Times. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Hardliners Oppose Frye’s burial in Iran". World Cultural Heritage Voices. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Gladstone, Rick (24 June 2014). "Iran: Harvard Scholar’s Body Cremated After Request for Burial in Iran Falters". New York Times. Retrieved 30 July 2014. 
  11. ^
  12. ^


Richard Frye, who was a student of Arthur Pope and an American scholar of Iranian and Central Asia studies, died on March 28, 2014, at the age of 94. In his will, Professor Frye expressed his wish to be buried, like Pope, next to the Zayandeh River in Isfahan. This request was approved by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September 2007.[8] However, Frye's death coincided with efforts to improve Iran-United States relations, and the planned burial became highly controversial. During the associated protests by Islamic hardliners in April 2014, the Pope-Ackerman tomb was vandalized with extensive painted words. After Frye's family waited more than two months for approval to proceed with the burial, they had his body cremated in Boston. [9][10][11][12]

2014 vandalism of Pope-Ackerman tomb

Arthur Upham Pope was a charismatic yet controversial figure. While admired by most of his contemporaries for his aesthetic sensibilities, his energy, his enthusiasm, and for the many contributions and activities described above, more recent opinion has been critical of Pope’s financial dealings including the sale of works of art to museums and important collectors, activities which he felt, having exhausted his personal means, were necessary in order to sponsor the field trips, underwrite the Survey of Persian Art, keep the underfunded Institute afloat, etc.

According to Noël Siver in the Encyclopaedia Iranica,[1]

In 2010 the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the museums Pope advised, presented an exhibition, "Arthur Pope and a New Survey of Persian Art," curated by Dr. Yuka Kadoi. In conjunction with the exhibition the museum held a symposium in which international scholars of Persian art discussed the life, achievements and influence of Arthur Upham Pope.

The Asia Institute became a part of Pahlavi University and gradually declined, especially after the Islamic revolution in 1979. Eventually, the Bulletin of the Asia Institute was revived in Michigan in 1987.[7]


In 1964, during a state visit to Iran, Pope and Ackerman were formally invited to move the Asia Institute to Shiraz, Iran, where it would be affiliated with Pahlavi University and housed in the Narenjestan. They accepted the offer and in 1966 moved to Iran, where they would spend the rest of their lives. Their remains lie in a mausoleum on the bank of the Zayandeh River in Isfahan close to Khaju Bridge.[6]

Pope retired as chancellor of the Asia Institute in 1952 at age 71. The institute went into decline and no longer operated as the thriving educational institution it had been. Pope remained active as a scholar, publishing more than 20 articles and papers, as well as a book on Persian architecture, between 1952 and his death in 1969.

During the Second World War Pope again worked for the U.S. government, drawing upon his expertise in languages and cultures. He also became a champion of Russia at a time when it was not popular to do so. He was a trustee of the American-Russian Institute and a vice-president of the National Council for American-Soviet Friendship. He published a biography of the Russian diplomat Maxim Litvinov in 1943. After Life magazine listed Pope in April 1949 among people they considered to be Communist sympathizers, some patrons withdrew their support of the Asia Institute.

1940s and later

In 1928 Pope founded the American Institute for Persian Art and Archaeology, which was incorporated in New York City in 1930 and later became the Asia Institute. He enlisted other scholars to teach and conduct research under the auspices of the institute, and he led numerous trips to Iran from 1929 to 1939 to photograph art and architecture and participate in archeological excavations. The six-volume Survey of Persian Art from Prehistoric Times to the Present was published by Oxford Press in 1938-39, and Pope and his colleagues arranged for several exhibitions of Persian art in the U.S. and Europe to coincide with the publication.

In 1926 Pope helped design the Persian pavilion and organized an exhibition of Persian art for the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco and the interior of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, where they made extensive use of Middle Eastern kilims as well as Native American artifacts.

Pope made his first trip to Iran in the spring of 1925. He gave a speech urging Iranians to appreciate the architecture of their past and to use it as inspiration for modern buildings. Reza Khan Pahlavi, then prime minister and later Shah of Iran, heard the speech, met Pope, and began taking a personal interest in Persian architectural restoration and revival. He authorized Pope to enter key mosques to study and photograph their architecture and became a lifelong supporter of Pope's pursuits in the field.

Continued Persian pursuits

In 1923, Pope was appointed director of the not-yet-opened California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Ackerman was named assistant director, and the two traveled in Europe to develop a collection for the new museum. Before long, however, their relationship with Alma Spreckels, patron of the museum, deteriorated and they resigned. Pope remained interested in museum planning, publishing an article on "Museum Fatigue" in 1924[3] and writing and lecturing about a new museum plan for San Francisco.[4] He was a consultant to the planning process for an art museum and opera house in the Civic Center of San Francisco in the mid-1920s. In 1924 Pope and Ackerman bought the house in San Mateo, California they called "Scholars' Cottage" from its architect and first occupant, Ernest Coxhead. They sold it in 1943 and it later became a state and national historic landmark.[5]

San Francisco

By the early 1920s Pope and Ackerman had developed a great deal of expertise as historians of Persian and related art, and they became advisors to major collectors and museums on the acquisition of Islamic art and artifacts. Pope's museum clients included the John D. Rockefeller, Jr.[1]

Renowned authority on Persian art

Following a divorce from his first wife (who later became the author Bertha Damon), in 1920 Pope married his former student Phyllis Ackerman (1893-1977), who had completed a doctorate in philosophy at Berkeley in 1917 and shared his interest in textile arts. They had collaborated on an exhibition of the Phoebe Apperson Hearst collection in 1916 at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, and they continued to be partners in many projects for the rest of their lives, each crediting the other with greater expertise.

After the United States entered World War I in 1917, Pope took a job in the Personnel Division of the War Department’s General Staff in Washington, D.C. He began lecturing and writing on military morale and on the assessment for promotion of officers. After the war he was among the organizers of the League of Oppressed Peoples and made speaking tours in favor of the Irish Free State. He also intensified his study of Islamic art, a field that was not yet being taught in American universities.

. He had organized his first museum exhibition of Middle Eastern carpets while still an undergraduate at Brown. Oriental rugs had become president. But he soon gave up teaching philosophy and pursued his passion for Persian art, which had begun with an early interest in Alexander Meiklejohn, where his friend and former professor Amherst College He left Berkeley in December 1917 under a cloud caused by his relationship with student Phyllis Ackerman. He taught briefly at [2]

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