Comfort, George Fisk

Full Name: 
Comfort, George Fisk
Year Born: 
1833
Year Died: 
1910
Place Born: 
Berkshire, Tompkins County, NY, USA
Place Died: 
Syracuse, NY, USA
Home Country: 
USA
Overview: 
American scholar and early art history exponent, founder of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, and Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY. Comfort was the son of Rev. Silas Comfort, a minister in the Methodist Episcopal church. He attended Wesleyan University in Middleton, CT. After graduation he taught science and drawing in New York seminaries. In 1860, Comfort traveled to Europe to study art history and archaeology. In Berlin he met or studied with the philosopher Friedrich Kaulbach, Carl Richard Lepsius (1810-1884, curator of Egyptology at the Berlin Museum), Gemäldegalerie director Gustav Waagen (q.v.), Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886), and others. In 1865 he returned to the United States to become professor of modern languages at Allegheny College, Pennsylvania. He move to Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, NJ, to become lecturer in Christian (late ancient and early medieval) archaeology. Resident in New York, he helped found the American Philological Society, of which he was president in 1869-74. In 1869, he helped found the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The following year he published his Art Museums in America, a book outlining his vision for museums and museum education in the United States. In 1871 he married Anna Manning (1845-1931), a medical doctor and pioneer in women's health. Comfort remained on the board of the Metropolitan until 1872. That year he moved to Syracuse, NY, to become professor of modern languages and esthetics at the newly founded university. He was instrumental in founding the College of Fine Arts there in 1873. In 1896, Comfort founded the Everson Museum of Art at Syracuse, holding its first exhibition in 1900. Under Comfort's leadership the museum developed the first regular educational program in a museum in America. His papers are held at Syracuse University and the Archives of American Art.Comfort's outline for art museums in the United States became the principal vision, based on the German model. His facility in the German language directly transported those ideas to the United States. His famous Union League Club address espoused an art museum for New York that "represent[ed] the History of Art in all countries and in all ages of art both pure and applied."
Selected Bibliography: 
Art Museums in America. Boston: H. O. Houghton, 1870; "Esthetics in collegiate education." Methodist Quarterly Review (October 1867): 573-593.
Sources: 
Tomkins, Calvin. Merchants and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2nd. ed. New York: Henry Holt, 1989, pp. 30, 47 [incorrectly as "Fiske"]; "Comfort, George Fisk." National Cyclopedia of American Biography 3: 162.