John Taylor Arms, printmaker, lecturer, illustrator, and administrator, was born in Washington, D.C. on 19 April 1887. He first studied law at Princeton University but transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture, earning a Masters Degree in 1912. He studied with Ross Turner, D.A. Gregg, and Felton Brown. For five years after his graduation Arms worked for the architectural firms Carrere and Hastings, and Clark and Adams before establishing his own architectural firm of which he was a partner.
A gift of an etching kit from his wife, Dorothy, changed the course of his life. He produced his first etching in 1915 and in his lifetime he made 441 prints, mostly etchings. Arms became one of the most famous printmakers of the first half of the twentieth century. He is mostly noted for his etchings of medieval architecture but subjects of his earliest works included ships, sailboats, airplanes, rural landscapes, and the streets, buildings, and bridges of New York.
Arms' exhibition history was lengthy beginning in 1927 and continuing to 1952. He was given an honorary M.A. degree from Wesleyan University in 1939, and he was a member of the National Academy; Canadian Painters, Etchers and Engravings; Royal Society Painters, Etchers and Engravers; Society of American Graphic Artists (served as the society's president); National Institute of Arts and Letters; American Federation of Arts; American Artists Professional League; Architectural League of New York; Southern States Art League; Audubon Artists; Southern Print Makers; American Color Print Society; North Shore Art Association; Washington Water Color Club; Chicago Society of Etchers; and the Cleveland Print Club.
He authored Hand-Book of Print Making and Print Makers in 1934 and illustrated Churches of France and Hills Town and Cities of Northern Italy by Dorothy Arms.
He was an activist for printmaking and assisted in assembling exhibitions of American graphic art to be shown in Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Rome; he was editor of the Print Department of Prints Magazine; and he lectured on the techniques, history and value of original prints. He also served as the president of the Tiffany Foundation in 1940.
The New York Public Library is the major repository of Arms' work, but is it also represented in the Museum of Fine Art Boston, the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fogg Museum of Art at Harvard, the Library of Congress, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.
John Taylor Arms died in New York City on October 15, 1953.