Gay Couple's Japanese Religious Art Entrusted to MFA, Harvard

By Sebastian Smee
A 13th-century hanging scroll is among the pair’s promised gifts to the MFA.
MASSACHUSETTS---About nine months ago, Sylvan Barnet, 88, a professor emeritus of English literature at Tufts University, was told that he had brain cancer. The doctors said that he had between six months and a year to live. His partner, William Burto — a retired chair of the English department at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell — died in 2013, aged 92, after four years of illness. Burto and Barnet met in graduate school at Harvard University in 1951. Together over the course of half a century, as they taught English, wrote textbooks, and lived in a small house in Cambridge with a third professor, the two men quietly amassed one of the finest private collections of Japanese calligraphy and religious art outside of Japan. [link]

Portrait of William Burto and Sylvan Barnet, 2003, by Sugimoto Hiroshi.