Avery Drawings & Archives Collections

John Barrington Bayley negatives and photographs, bulk ca. 1940s-1950s

Summary Information


John Barrington Bayley was an architect and preservationist born in 1914 in Berkeley, CA and died in 1981 in Newport, RI. After serving in WWII, he attended the American Academy in Rome where his life-long dedication to Classical architecture bloomed. From 1947-1950, he traveled widely throughout Italy and other European countries, documenting Renaissance. Neoclassical, and Antique architecture in black and white photographs. Often devoid of people, his photographs–at once eerie and stunning–animate Classical and Neoclassical architecture, interiors, furniture, and sculpture as personages in their own right. Bayley returned to the United States with an estimated 10,000 photographs, of which this collection is but a sample. Many were published in various books and periodicals, including his own Classical America. This collection is exclusively image-based. For correspondence and writings, see the Henry Hope Reed papers (linked below under Related Materials).

At a Glance

Bib ID 13890444 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Bayley, John Barrington, 1914-1981
Title John Barrington Bayley negatives and photographs, bulk ca. 1940s-1950s
Physical Description 5 document boxes
Language(s) English , Italian .

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.



Scope and Contents

Collection consists exclusively of negatives and photographs taken by Bayley, mostly during his travels in Europe.

  • Series I: Negatives and Slides

    Series I is composed of negatives, slides, and some small prints (many of which are contact prints of the negatives). The series is organized alphabetically by geographical location, with the exception of Subseries 6: Rome. Bayley spent much time in Rome and these images comprise the bulk of his oeuvre. The negatives and slides were originally housed in albums; some of these arrived rehoused in negative sleeves. The original organization and labeling has been maintained except where sites were unknown. Within Subseries 3: Italy, the files are arranged alphabetically by region or city. The majority of the Austrian images are of Vienna, whereas the French images constitute a larger regional sample.

  • Series II: Albums

    Series II is made up of a series of photo albums. Most photographs appear to be prints or cut-and-pasted contact sheets of the negatives from Series I. This series is also arranged geographically by country, with the exception of Subseries 4: Rome, which comprises the largest assortment of photographs. Also included is a subseries for unidentified photographs; these were loose album sheets, most likely from Vienna, though there appears to be some from Italy as well. Bayley labeled most of the album pages, and some of the Roman ones have more extensive commentary in both English and Italian.

  • Series III: Prints

    Series III is composed of larger scale prints, averaging around 8 inches x 10 inches. They are primarily images of Roman palazzi and two churches. Each print is labeled with the building, architect(s), and estimated date of construction.

Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Conditions Governing Use

In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Related Materials

Henry Hope Reed papers, 1911-1998, Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University: There are a number of correspondence between Reed and Bayley, as well as an obituary and biography written by Reed. Many of Bayley's articles and drafts are also included

Letarouilly, Paul. Letarouilly on Renaissance Rome: The Student's Edition. New York City: Classical America, Arthur Ross Foundation, 1984: There is an introductory biographical note by Henry Hope Reed on John Barrington Bayley.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Zachary Torres (Graduate Student Intern) in 2023.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Photograph albums Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
black-and-white photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
negatives (photographs) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Architecture -- Italy -- Rome -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cathedrals -- Italy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photography -- Italy -- Rome -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rome (Italy) -- Buildings, structures, etc Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Travel -- Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

John Barrington Bayley was born in 1914 in Berkeley, CA and grew up in San Francisco. From 1933-1937, he attended Harvard College and earned a BA in Fine Arts. Before starting a Masters of Architecture program at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, he spent a year as a draftsman at the office of Pennington, Lewis, Churchill, and Mills. While at the GSD, he met other students, such as I.M. Pei and Phillip Johnson who would become masters of the modernist movement. Nevertheless, Bayley eschewed modern design, though it would not be until his time in Paris–after visiting all of Le Corbusier's Parisian works–that he began to feel disillusioned with modernist principles. As his friend and collaborator Henry Hope Reed notes, "On his return from overseas his friends, architects, and others involved in the modern movement, would ask had he seen this or that modern building–there were few at the time–in Paris. Yes, he admitted, he had; the only thing was, there were usually distractions, such as an eighteenth century building nearby that took all his attention."

Bayley was stationed in Paris during WWII. Seriving in the Army Corps of Engineers, he adapted civilian buildings to military use. While in France, he met Charles Mauricheau-Beaupré, then director of the Château de Versailles, who granted Bayley unrestricted access to the entire estate. It was perhaps this encounter that served as a catalyst for Bayley's bold request to explore palazzi, villas, and churches in Italy with limited restrictions. However, likley Bayley's social connections also played a significant role in facilitating this opportunity. These connections may have opened doors, giving Bayley the necessary access and permissions to freely roam and explore these historic sites across Italy.

After completing his service, Bayley returned to the United States and worked for a year at McMillen Inc. Interior Decorators while also working on the centennial edition of Town and Country. This was not his first experience working for a publication, nor would it be his last. Bayley edited a student magazine at the GSD and he would later co-found, edit, and write for Classical America. In the 1960s and 1970s, he would also collaborate with other architects, historians, and institutions to publish a number of his photographs and sketches, most notably in William R. Ware' American Vignola, Paul Letarouilly's Letarouilly on Renaissance Rome, Christopher Tunnard's City of Man, and Margarete Scherer's The Wonders of Rome. Often, he also wrote the captions, and in 1976, he composed the introduction to an edition of American Vignola.

However, this collection is composed primarily of photographs Bayley took from 1947-1951 while at the American Academy in Rome on the GI Bill. While at first he found Rome to be "no Paris," he quickly grew to love the city and admire its plethora of Antique, Classical, Renaissance, and Neoclassical architecture. He became an adamant proponent of classicism, which he thought was the style best suited for the articulation of Man's genius. He believed the other styles distorted Man's form, with modernism completely disposing of its central position. He believed "the paradigm of art is the human form," and that the human form "conveys great moral truths." For these reasons, he disparaged primitivism, abstract art, and modern architecture. For example, he wrote a particularly scathing piece on a Frank Lloyd Wright proposal for a building on the Venetian Canal. While at the Academy, he also worked for the American Department of State designing an embassy in Rome and a consulate in Naples.

After his travels, he returned to Cambridge, MA and established Bayley-Owens Pictures with Charles Owens to sell prints of the negatives to art history departments and museums. This endeavor lasted until 1953 when he moved to New York City. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Bayley worked as a draftsman for a number of firms while also lecturing on Roman architecture at Yale, the Architecture League, Parsons, the GSD, RISD, and the Fine Arts Institute of New York. He also exhibited his photographs and sketches at the Architecture League and Bodley Gallery. His architectural oeuvre includes Union Congregational Church, the Lutheran Church, Trinity School, First Presbyterian Church, and St. Peter's Church in New York City under the employment of Hubart Upjohn and Thomas M. Ball Architects, and the Customs House under Eggers and Higgins. He also worked for Alfred Easton Poor Architects. Many of the sketches he exhibited at his shows, like "Classical Brooklyn," "NY Improved," and "Lincoln Center Reconsidered" were completed in the office after hours. He also proposed a new West front for the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Nonetheless, his most notable work was the Neoclassical expansion of the Frick Collection in collaboration with H.A. Van Dyke and Frederick Poehler from 1973-1975.

In 1963, Bayley was hired by the newly established Landmarks Preservation Commission to photograph buildings and neighborhoods to be considered for landmark status. He worked in this position until 1967 and returned from 1970-1972. While here, he helped to design a new wing for Gracie Mansion. Additionally, he gave tours of Neoclassical architecture in New York City.

In 1969, Bayley and Henry Hope Reed established Classical America as an organization dedicated to promoting classical design and its accompanying publication. Bayley served as its president and editor until 1978 and worked out of his home in Hunter's Point, Queens. His writing could be caustic but he possessed an acute intellect, and his personal correspondence reveals a sarcastic, witty, and humorous personality.

In 1978, Bayley moved to Newport, Rhode Island where he continued to do some writing on the promotion of classical architecture. He died on 21 December 1981.