Arthur Kingsley Porter

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A. K. Porter at about 25 years old, taken in 1908 by A.S. Rueff. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Arthur Kingsley Porter (1883 – presumed 1933) was an American art historian and medievalist. Porter's most significant contribution has been his revolutionary studies and insights into the spread of Romanesque sculpture. His study of Lombard architecture is also the first in its class.


Porter was born in 1883, the third son in a wealthy family in Stamford Connecticut.[1] His mother, Maria Louisa Hoyt, died when Porter was eight years old; his father, banker Timothy Hopkins Porter, was subsequently suspected of insanity.[2]

Porter attended Yale University, with the intention of studying law,[2] and graduated in 1902.[1] In 1904, however, he had "a semi-spiritual experience" in the French Coutances Cathedral and switched to art history.[2][3] He enrolled at Columbia University's School of Architecture.[1]

He married Lucy Bryant Wallace from New York.[1]

Porter returned to Yale in 1915, taking a lecturing position while working towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts.[1] During the early 1920s, Porter spent considerable time in Europe and lectured at several universities in France and Spain.[1] He joined the faculty at Harvard University in 1925 as Chair of Art History.[1] His work there was ground-breaking, especially because he ignored national lines in order to study trends in art history.[2] He traveled extensively, documenting his findings with photographs and books.[2] His wife, Lucy, organized and assisted his research.[2] Amid possible harassment for homosexuality, Porter left Harvard in 1929.[2][3]

In 1929 Porter bought the late nineteenth century Glenveagh Castle (constructed 1870–1873) in County Donegal. He spent several months there each year, learning Irish and studying archaeology and culture. He also owned a fisherman’s cottage on this island of Inishbofin,[1] which he used as a holiday home.

In 1933, he went out for a walk along the beach on Inishbofin and vanished. Other reports suggest he set off alone in his little boat and disappeared in a storm. Some insisted that Kingsley remained alive and in hiding. An inquest was inconclusive, but drowning was assumed to have been the most likely explanation.[4] Lucy continued the archeological studies after his disappearance.[2]

Selected works[edit]

  • Medieval Architecture: Its Origins and Development, with Lists of Monuments and Bibliographies (2 volumes, Baker & Taylor, 1909)
  • The Construction of Lombard and Gothic Vaults (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911)
  • Lombard Architecture (4 volumes, 1915-1919)
  • The Seven Who Slept (Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1919)
  • Romanesque Sculpture of the Pilgrimage Roads (10 vol., 1923) – "his most well known and contentious work"[1]
  • Spanish Romanesque Sculpture (2 volumes, 1928)
  • The Crosses and Culture of Ireland (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1931)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Arthur Kingsley Porter". Donegal Diaspora. Donegal Diaspora Project, Donegal County Council. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Topczewska, Ola (November 20, 2012). "Finding Harvard's Missing Legacy". The Crimson. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Harvard Crimson, Inc. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  3. ^ a b Gardner, Jan (February 9, 2013). "The mystery of Arthur Kingsley Porter". The Boston Globe. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  4. ^ Davenport, Fionn; Ver Berkmoes, Ryan (January 1, 2008). Ireland. Lonely Planet. ISBN 978-1-74104-696-0.