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A Home of the Humanities

A Home of the Humanities

The Collecting and Patronage of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss

Edited by James N. Carder

ISBN 9780884023654

Publication date: 01/01/2011

Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss were consummate collectors and patrons. After purchasing Dumbarton Oaks in 1920, they significantly redesigned the house and its interiors, built important new structures, added over fifty acres of planned gardens, hosted important musical evenings and intellectual discussions in their Music Room, and acquired a world-class art collection and library.

The illustrated essays in this volume reveal how the Blisses’ wide-ranging interests in art, music, gardens, architecture, and interior design resulted in the creation of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Their collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art and rare garden books and drawings are examined by Robert Nelson, Julie Jones, and Therese O’Malley, respectively. James Carder provides the Blisses’ biography and discusses their patronage of various architects, including Philip Johnson, and the interior designer Armand Albert Rateau. The Blisses’ collaboration with Beatrix Farrand on the creation of the Dumbarton Oaks Gardens is recounted by Robin Karson, and their commission of Igor Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks Concerto and its premiere by Nadia Boulanger is examined by Jeanice Brooks. The volume demonstrates that every aspect of the Blisses’ collecting and patronage had a place in the creation of what they came to call their “home of the humanities.”


  • A Home of the Humanities is lavishly illustrated and includes a variety of images, from evocative ones that capture the gardens’ many lovely spots to others that show off the splendor of Dumbarton Oaks’ interior and exterior design. There are some nice ones of the Blisses too, and they manage to convey some of the couple’s plainness, modest demeanor and gravitas… It has been nearly half a century since the Blisses died, but [this] splendid book reminds us of those days when they reigned over their court so close to the heart of democratic power. And of how they traveled the world to bring its splendors home to their nation’s capital to create there a truly world-class site dedicated to beauty and scholarly enterprise.

    —Martin Rubin, Washington Times


  • James N. Carder is Archivist and House Collection Manager at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection.

Book Details

  • 200 pages
  • 9 x 11 inches
  • Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection