Dr. John Alexander Pope, 76, director emeritus of the Freer Gallery of Art and a specialist in Far Eastern porcelain, died yesterday at his home in Washington after a stroke.
As director of the Freer, which opened in 1923 and is part of the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Pope was responsible for one of the principal collections of oriental art in the western world. It is notable for its Chinese ceremonial bronzes, its Persian minatures, its Chinese paintings and its Japanese screens.
The Freer gallery was begun by Charles Lang Freer, who was a friend of the American artist James McNeill Whistler. Whistler persuaded Freer to go to the Far East, and consequently the Freer contains not only a notable collection of Eastern art, but one of the leading collections of art by Whistler.
Dr. Pope's own reputation as a scholar and an authority on art rests on his researches on Chinese and Japanese ceramics. He made significant contributions to the gallery's collection of Chinese blue and white procelains of the Ming Dynasty.
In 1956, he published "Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine," a study of artifacts in the possession of Shah Abbas of Persia.
Dr. Pope joined the Freer in 1943 as an associate in research. He was named an assistant director in 1946. He became director in 1962 and held that post until 1972, when he retired. He then became director emeritus and research curator of eastern ceramics.
In addition to "Chinese Porcelains from the Ardebil Shrine," he was the author of more than 70 works on oriental art. He also collaborated on two catalogues of ancient Chinese bronzes in the Freer. They appeared in 1946 and 1967.
In 1971 he received the first Gold Medal of the Oriental Ceramic Society of London for his "distinguished contribution to the study of Oriental art." He was presented with the Royal Order of the Northern Star by the King of Sweden in 1966.
He was an adviser on oriental art to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and a member of the Oriental Ceramic Society, the Cosmos Club and the Century Association.
Dr. Pope was a native of Detroit. He earned a bachelor's degree at Yale University and master's and doctoral degrees in Chinese studies and fine art at Harvard.
He was an officer in the Marine Corps in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II.
Dr. Pope taught courses on Asian art for two years at Columbia University before joining the Freer.
Survivors include his wife, Annemarie, of Washington; a son, John A. Jr. of New York City; a daughter, Sara Pope Cooper of Alexandria; a brother, Gustavus D., of Salisbury, Conn., and five grandchildren.