Biographical / Historical
Pauline Baerwald was born in New York City in 1910, living there until her death in 2000. In 1932 she graduated from Smith College and went on to the School of Social Work at Columbia University. Pauline's father, Paul Baerwald, was a German-Jewish banker and philanthropist, as well as an executive board member of the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), an agency chartered to provide refugee services for European Jews who were victims of persecution throughout Russia and Europe. Pauline was an active volunteer with the JDC throughout World War II. After the war she was one of the founders of the National Refuge Service (later the New York Association for New Americans) as well as the Jewish Social Service Association. She also served as president of the Jewish Family Services, a predecessor agency of the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. In 1935 Pauline Baerwald married Myron "Johnny" S. Falk, Jr., and raised three children: Patricia, Michael and Nancy. Pauline, with support from Johnny, was a founder of the New Lincoln School in Manhattan, having attended the Lincoln School as a child. They maintained connection to charitable social work throughout their lives.
Myron "Johnny" S. Falk, Jr., son of Myron S. Falk, was born in New York City in 1906. In 1928 he earned a degree at Yale and a B.S. in Engineering from MIT in 1929. During World War II Johnny was a commissioned officer in the army, posted to the Pentagon ordinance section, applying his engineering and management skills to the task of munitions production. The family moved to Washington, D.C. during the war. In addition to his professional career as an investment banker with Ralph E. Samuels and Co., Johnny was a director of the New York Foundation and Hebrew Technical Institute. He was a board member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and Bennington College.
Pauline and Johnny were both introduced to Chinese art early in life. Johnny's father collected Chinese porcelain to decorate his New York home. In keeping with the taste of the times, most of his pieces were Kangxi blue and white porcelains. On his sixtieth birthday he divided his porcelains among his three children. Several years later Johnny and his sister, Mildred, gave many of those Kangxi porcelains to the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to be permanently installed, together with many other porcelains, to re-create the original appearance of the Whistler Peacock Room.
Pauline was introduced to Chinese art by her uncle, Emil Baerwald, who took her to the Metropolitan Museum to see the Bishop Collection and on visits to Yamanaka and Company on Fifth Avenue, where Mr. Shirai would take them into the private rooms to see the rarest pieces. Emil Baerwald lived in Europe, and, as an active collector of Chinese ceramics, he became acquainted with leading Chinese art collectors there, including George Eumorfopoulos and Sir Percival David. He provided introductions to collectors when Pauline and Johnny visited England in 1950.
In 1937 Pauline and Johnny made their first trip to China on Pan Am's Clipper, flying from San Francisco to Manila. It was during their first visit to China that Johnny and Pauline began buying early Chinese pottery and works of art. Pauline referred to this trip as the one trip that formed their collection. On this flight they met K.C. Chung, a consultant and friend for years to come. Pauline's uncle, Ernst Baerwald, lived in Tokyo and was well connected in the arts. Through his introductions they met significant art dealers, including Mathias Komor, who became an advisor to them.
Pauline and Johnny were contributors the founding of many Asian art organizations in America during the years following World War II and the Korean War. They participated in the establishment of the Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America in 1945, a scholarly journal which was renamed Archives of Asian Art in 1966 and continues publication today.
Pauline and Johnny were strong supporters of the Asia Society, where Johnny was a trustee. In 1971 they were among the first participants in the Japan Society and were founding members of the Friends of Japan House Gallery. Johnny was also a trustee of the Research Laboratory of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 1966 until his death. In 1950 Pauline and Johnny attended a meeting of the Oriental Ceramic Society (OCS) of London, and a few years later Johnny became the OCS representative in North America, a post he held for more than thirty years.
Johnny Falk died in 1992 and Pauline Baerwald Falk passed away in 2000, the same year the collection of approximately 700 items was assigned to Christie's.