Sylvester Rosa Koehler

Sylvester Rosa Koehler (11 February 1837 Leipzig - 15 September 1900 Littleton, New Hampshire) was a German-born American author, and the first curator of prints at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


His grandfather was a musician and composer of note, and his father an artist. Koehler emigrated to the United States in 1849 after he had received the rudiments of a classical education. He moved to the Boston area in 1868, residing for a time in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and became a technical manager at L. Prang and Company for 10 years.[1] He edited the American Art Review while it existed (1879–1881). He commissioned original etchings for it.[2]

He made many contributions on art to periodicals in the United States and Europe. He published translations of von Betzold's Theory of Color, edited by Prof. Edward C. Pickering (Boston, 1876), Lalanne's Treatise on Etching, with notes (1880), and was the author of Art Education and Art Patronage in the United States (1882), and Etching, an Outline of its Technical Processes and its History, with Some Remarks on Collections and Collecting (New York, 1885). Koehler wrote the text for Original Etchings by American Artists (1883), Twenty Original American Etchings (1884) and American Art (in press, 1887). He also edited the United States Art Directory and Year Book for 1882 and 1884. In 1887, he was engaged in writing a history of color painting.

Through his work on the American Art Review, his writings, and exhibitions he organized, he helped foster a revival of etching in the United States in the 1880s.[2] He became acting curator for the prints department at the MFA, Boston, in 1885 and regular curator in 1887.[1] He was curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian in Washington, D. C., from 1886 to 1900.[2] He gave a series of eight lectures on "Engraving" for the Lowell Institute's 1893-94 season.[3] He willed his considerable library and print collection to the MFA.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 Helen Wright (1928–1990). "Koehler, Sylvester Rosa". Dictionary of American Biography. V, Part 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 485–486.
  2. 1 2 3 Corley, Erin. "A Finding Aid to the Sylvester Rosa Koehler Papers, 1833-1904 (bulk 1870-1890)". Retrieved 22 February 2010.
  3. Harriet Knight Smith, The history of the Lowell Institute, Boston: Lamson, Wolffe and Co., 1898.


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