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Lowry, Bates

    Full Name: Lowry, Bates

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1925

    Date Died: 2004

    Place Born: Cincinnati, Hamilton, OH, USA

    Place Died: Brooklyn, Cattaraugus, NY, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Modern (style or period), and sculpture (visual works)


    Architectural historian and Director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York 1968-1969. Lowry served in the army during World War II. Initially considering the law as a career, he served an assistant to Justice Robert Jackson in Paris at the war crimes tribunal. He returned to Chicago and received a B. A. degree in philosophy, working as assistant editor for the American Bar Association journal. He married Isabel Barrett in 1946. Lowry traveled again to Europe, studying art at Grenoble and the Sorbonne. Moving back to Chicago, he completed an A.M. in 1952 and his Ph.D. in 1957, both at the University of Chicago under Ulrich Middeldorf. His dissertation topic was on the architectural programs of the Louvre. After teaching at the University of California, Riverside, 1954-1957, he taught at New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, 1957-59, before chairing the art department at Pomona College in California. In 1963 he joined Brown University as professor of art, becoming chair of the department in 1967. When the 1966 floods in Florence destroyed many works of art, Lowry and fellow Brown art historian Fred Licht. Lowry became chairman of the Committee to Rescue Italian Art, (CRIA) which acted as a fund-raising group, eventually raising $1,750,000. At the retirement of Museum of Modern art Director, René d’Harnoncourt, Lowry succeeded him. From the first, however, his position was fraught with controversy. New York artists picketed the museum and threatened a sit-in demanding more of a say in museum affairs. Lowry offered to set up committees where artists would be involved. The public input to the private museum was viewed with alarm by MoMA’s wealthy board. Lowry attempted to take on the job of curator of painting and sculpture in addition to his job as director, a plan that was resented by the department. Scarcely more than a year later, Lowry tendered his resignation at the Board’s insistence in 1969. He joined the University of Massachusetts in Boston as faculty in 1971 to 1980. In 1980, Lowry was founding director of the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. and consulted with the Getty Museum on Daguerreotype photographs, of which he and his wife were collectors. He died of pneumonia in Brooklyn, NY. He is not related to the current MoMA Director, Glenn D. Lowry.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Palais du Louvre, 1528-1624: The Development of a Sixteenth-Century Architectural Complex. Chicago, 1957; “Redefinitions of Style: High Renaissance Architecture.” College Art Journal 17 (1958): 115-28; The Architecture of Washington, D.C. 2 vols. Washington, DC: Dunlap Society, 1976-1979; The Silver Canvas: Daguerreotype Masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998; Building a National Iimage: Architectural Drawings for the American Democracy, 1789-1912. Washington, DC: National Building Museum,1985; and Lowry, Isabel. Looking for Leonardo: Naive and Folk Art Objects Found in America. Iowa City: University of Iowa Museum of Art /University of Iowa Press, 1993; Renaissance Architecture. New York: G. Braziller, 1962; The Visual Experience: an Introduction to Art. Englewood Cliffs, NJ:, Prentice-Hall, 1961.


    Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, 51 mentioned; Knox, Sanka. “Modern Museum Names Director.” New York Times May 12, 1967, p. 94; [obituary:] Glueck, Grace. “Bates Lowry, 80, Head of Building Museum.” The New York Times March 18, 2004, p. 10.


    "Lowry, Bates." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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