Walter Conrad Arensberg

(1878-1954 / United States)

Biography of Walter Conrad Arensberg

Walter Conrad Arensberg (April 4, 1878 – January 29, 1954) was an American art collector, critic and poet. His father was part owner and president of a crucible steel company. He majored in English and philosophy at Harvard University. With his wife Louise (1879-1953), he collected art and supported artistic endeavors.

Between 1913 and 1950 the couple collected the works of Modern artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Charles Sheeler, Walter Pach, Beatrice Wood, and Elmer Ernest Southard, as well as Pre-Columbian art. They donated their collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art including correspondence, ephemera, clippings, writings, personal and art collection records, and photographs documenting the couple's art collecting activities as well as their friendship with many important artists, writers and scholars.

Intrigued with writer Francis Bacon, particularly the aspects of alchemy, cryptography, Rosicrucianism, and, inevitably, the Shakespeare-Bacon debate, the Arensbergs researched his work. In 1937 they established the Francis Bacon Foundation in Los Angeles intending to promote "research in history, philosophy, science, literature, and art, with special reference to the life and works of Francis Bacon" and in 1954 endowed it with funds and their collection of Baconiana. The Foundation's library was transferred to the Huntington Library in 1995.

Arensberg's work The cryptography of Shakespeare (1922) claims to find acrostics and anagrams in the published works of Shakespeare which reveal the name of Bacon. In The secret grave of Francis Bacon and his mother in the Lichfield chapter house (1923) and The Shakespearean mystery (1928) he used a "key cipher" to find further messages connected with the Rosicrucians. Analysis by William Friedman and Elizebeth Friedman[ shows that none of the methods has cryptographic validity.

Several volumes of his Symbolist-influenced verse were also published, including 1914's Poems and 1916's Idols. His poem Voyage a l'Infini was anthologized by Edmund Clarence Stedman. Updates

Voyage A L'Infini

The swan existing
Is like a song with an accompaniment

Across the grassy lake,
Across the lake to the shadow of the willows,
It is accompanied by an image,
-- as by Debussy's
"Reflets dans l'eau".

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