Tuesday, July 24, 2012

H. A. Crosby Forbes, 1925-2012

UPDATE: A memorial service for Crosby Forbes will take place on June 23, 2013 at the Harvard Club of Boston. All are invited.

Thanks to Karina Corrigan at the Peabody Essex Museum for this beautiful biography.

From: Karina Corrigan <karina_corrigan@pem.org>
Date: Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Subject: Henry Ashton Crosby Forbes
To: Every User <everyuser@pem.org>

Last night, we received the sad news that Crosby Forbes, Curator Emeritus of Asian Export Art died peacefully over the weekend in New Haven.

A descendant of Robert Bennet Forbes, one of America's great China trade merchants, Crosby charted an unlikely path for himself when, in 1965, he founded the Museum of the American China Trade in a home he'd inherited from his great aunt.

One of the earliest scholars to look specifically at this type of cross-cultural art and history, Crosby was a leading force in the field for over forty years. He was a frequent lecturer and writer on all aspects of Asian export art and in 1975, Crosby wrote (with John Devereux Kernan and Ruth Wilkins) Chinese Export Silver: 1785-1885, which remains the definitive volume on the subject.

Crosby continually expanded the scope of the field, later redefining the museum's collecting goals to include works from throughout Asia and for diverse markets - Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. In 1984, the China Trade Museum (as it was then called) merged its Asian export art with the Peabody Museum to form one of the world's great collections of this type of art. A rigorous scholar, Crosby and his wife Grace were also generous donors, contributing hundreds of works from their own collection to the museum.

He led a vibrant life outside of the museum, serving on boards of many organizations and was always willing to share his considered opinions - sometimes with people who were perhaps less eager to hear them. A passionate preservationist, Crosby was never afraid to challenge his alma mater and neighbor, Harvard University, about the disposition of its many historic structures.

He was the devoted husband of Grace Pierce Forbes, a book editor and Russian scholar, loving father of two sons, Robert and Douglas Forbes, and grandfather of Rob's two children Rachel and David.

Crosby was too ill to make it up from New Haven this year, but I feel confident that he would have been delighted by the fresh breeze that Freeport [No. 5]: Michael Lin has brought the Asian export art wing including the silver galleries that bear his name. I hope you'll take the opportunity to spend some time this week in the collection he helped to build, remembering the life of this inspiring, charming, and wonderful man. And I'm sure he'd be delighted if you had a piece of chocolate cake in his honor as well!

Burial will be private, but a memorial service is planned for later this year. 

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