The Ralph Fabri papers measure 26.0 linear feet and are dated circa 1870s-1975, with the bulk of the material dated 1918-1975. Biographical information, correspondence, subject files, writings, art work, financial records, miscellaneous records, scrapbooks, printed material, a videotape of Fabri in his studio, and photographs document the professional career and personal life of the painter, printmaker, commercial artist, writer, and teacher.
Scope and Content Note:
The Ralph Fabri papers measure 26.0 linear feet and are dated circa 1870s-1975, with the bulk of the material dated 1918-1975. Biographical information, correspondence, subject files, writings, art work, financial records, miscellaneous records, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs document the professional career and personal life of the painter, printmaker, commercial artist, writer, and teacher.
Biographical information includes awards and certificates, educational records, passports and travel documents.
Almost one-half of the collection consists of Fabri's correspondence. There is correspondence with friends and relatives, as well as professional correspondence. Much of the early correspondence with friends and family is written in Hungarian and also include small watercolors by Fabri that he used as postcards to send messages to family members. A number of later letters are illustrated with drawings by Fabri and other artists. Extensive correspondence - often daily missives - records romantic liaisons with Mabel Farrar, Mina Kocherthaler, Elly von Marczell, and Mavis Elizabeth Peat, as well as the travels and careers of Hungarian opera singer Maria Samson and composer and impresario Laszlo Schawrtz. In addition, there are large numbers of Christmas cards, many with original artwork, from artist friends and former students. Professional correspondence concerns teaching, writing and publishing, commercial work, exhibitions and sales.
Subject files relate mainly to organizations and institutions in which Fabri was active, and include his correspondence and some official records (minutes, reports, financial records), and printed material. Among the organizations and institutions are: Allied Artists of America, Inc., Artists for Victory, Inc., Audubon Artists of America, Inc., National Academy of Design, and Society of American Etchers. Other subject files concern the schools where Fabri taught and publications with which he was associated.
Among the writings by Fabri are drafts and completed manuscripts of articles, books (including two unpublished titles), music and lyrics, and a few poems. Diaries (75 vols.) covering the period 1918-1975, contain almost daily entries that record in varying degrees of detail his professional and personal activities, special and mundane events, and opinions. Prior to 1939, the diaries are in Hungarian or partially in Hungarian. Heavily illustrated notes from his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts survive, along with other miscellaneous notes and 7 notebooks containing lists of concerts, operas, and plays attended by Fabri between 1912 and 1974.
Writings by other authors include the manuscript of Pastel Painting published by Stephen Csoka, said to have been written by Fabri.
Art work by Fabri includes student work, early commercial work, drawings and sketches, a few early watercolor paintings, and two sketchbooks. Work by other artists consists of a watercolor by his uncle Miklos Fabri, a pencil drawing by Laszlo Schwartz, a gouache painting by Paul Mommer, and an ink drawing by Marantz.
Financial records mainly concern banking transactions and taxes. In addition there are receipts for personal and business expenses and packages sent to family in Hungary.
Included among the miscellaneous records and artifacts are art sales and donations, six medals awarded to Fabri, and guest books. A videotape (SONY Helical Scan recording) of Fabri in his studio, made by Jerome Bona and Rick Brown that aired on NYC public access television station Channel C in 1973, is also included.
Scrapbooks (10 vols.) contain reproductions of Fabri's early commercial work, clippings, printed material, and a few photographs documenting his career.
Printed material by Fabri includes articles, books, commercial designs, reproductions, and works translated by Fabri for publication in Hungarian. Also included are issues of Today's Art containing signed and unsigned articles and editorials by Fabri, and some pieces he wrote using pseudonyms. Exhibition related items include catalogs, announcements, and invitations for Fabri's group and solo exhibitions and exhibitions of other artists. Also included are posters, and prospectuses.
Photographs are of art work, people, places, and miscellaneous subjects. People pictured are Ralph Fabri, his family (including a few ancestors), friends, and unidentified individuals and groups. Places documented include exterior views of Pension Villa-Fabri in Hungary (the family's restaurant and hotel), as well as photographs of foreign lands visited by Fabri or sent to him by friends. An item of note filed with miscellaneous subjects is a parade float titled "Give a Thought to Music," designed and constructed by Fabri. Included in ten photograph albums are views of paintings and commercial work by Fabri, various friends, his studio, the Dreiser estate in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., and group portraits of City College of New York faculty.
The collection is arranged into 10 series::
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1919-1973, undated (Box 1, OV 31; 0.2 linear ft.)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1904-1975, undated (Boxes 1-12; 11.0 linear ft.)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1941-1975, undated (Boxes 12-14, 25; 2.1 linear ft.)
Series 4: Writings, 1911-1975, undated (Boxes 14-17; 3.8 linear ft.)
Series 5: Art Work, circa 1903-1970s, undated (Boxes 17, 26; 0.4 linear ft.)
Series 6: Financial Records, 1923-1973, undated (Box 18; 0.6 linear ft.)
Series 7: Miscellaneous Records and Artifacts, 1931-1975, undated (Box 18; 0.4 linear ft.)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1911-1971 (Boxes 27-30; 1.3 linear ft.)
Series 9: Printed Material, 1910s-1973, undated (Boxes 19-23, OV 32; 4.8 linear ft.)
Series 10: Photographs, circa 1870s-1973, undated (Boxes 23-25; 1.4 linear ft.)
Painter and printmaker, commercial artist, writer, and teacher Ralph Fabri was born Fabri Reszo in Hungary in 1894. He was educated in Budapest, first studying architecture at the Royal Institute of Technology from 1912 to 1914. He then enrolled in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, from which he graduated in 1918 with a Professor's Diploma (M.A.) "for teaching drawing, painting and geometry - including descriptive and projective geometry - in schools of higher education."
Fabri arrived in New York City in 1921 and soon adopted the anglicized version of his name, Ralph Fabri. He began doing commercial design work and during the academic year of 1923/24 was enrolled as an evening student at the National Academy of Design. After becoming an American citizen in 1927, he traveled extensively in Europe. Upon returning to New York that same year, Fabri decided his financial situation was stable enough to allow him to focus his attention on fine art.
During the Great Depression, Fabri's already inadequate portrait commissions and art sales further declined and he returned to commercial work. He established a workshop known as the Ralph Fabri Studios, that designed theatrical and movie sets, window displays, and retail interiors. But Fabri found the workshop dirty and distasteful, and eventually was able to concentrate on advertising work which could be done from home. The largest clients for his pen and ink drawings were The Stamp and Album Co. of America, Inc. (for which he designed covers for stamp albums and produced illustrations for envelopes housing sets of stamps sold to collectors), Geographica Map Co., and Joseph H. Cohen & Sons (for whom he designed and illustrated mail order catalogs). Another source of income during this period was the design and construction of an addition to "Iroki," Theodore Dreiser's estate in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., for which Fabri acted as architect and contractor.
Soon after arriving in the United States, Fabri began writing art reviews and articles on art and other topics for publication in Hungarian newspapers, and began submitting similar pieces to American newspapers and periodicals. Between 1949 and 1951 Pictures on Exhibit published a series of twenty articles by Fabri on materials and techniques, and from 1952 through 1961 he was a critic for that publication. Fabri contributed many articles on a variety of topics to Today's Art, starting in 1953, the year the magazine was established. In 1961, Fabri became associate editor of that monthly periodical and was named its editor in 1970, a position he held for the remainder of his life. During his tenure, every issue of Today's Art included signed and unsigned articles and editorials by Fabri, as well as some pieces written under pseudonyms. He also worked as a book reviewer for American Artist and art editor of Funk & Wagnall's New Encyclopedia.
Fabri may be best known for his books in the how-to-do-it vein, some of which were distributed through art supply stores. Among his many books are: Learn to Draw (1945), Oil Painting: How-to-Do-It! (1953), A Guide to Polymer Painting (1966), Sculpture in Paper (1966), Color: A Complete Guide for Artists (1967), Complete Guide to Flower Painting (1968), The First Hundred Years: History of the American Watercolor Society (1969), Painting Outdoors (1969), Painting Cityscapes (1970), and Artist's Guide to Composition (1971).
For nearly three decades, Fabri taught art in New York City. He was an instructor in the life and still life classes at the Parson's School of Design from 1947 through 1949. In 1951, Fabri was appointed associate professor at City College of New York, where he taught painting and art history until retiring in 1967. In addition, he was on the faculty of School of the National Academy of Design, teaching painting, drawing, and graphics from 1964 until his death.
Fabri was an active member of many artists' organizations. He was president of the National Society of Painters in Casein, Inc., an organization founded by Fabri in 1953 (it later became the National Society of Painters in Casein and Acrylic, Inc.); he also served as president of the Audubon Artists and the Allied Artists of America, Inc. As historian of The American Watercolor Society, Fabri wrote a book length history of that organization published on the occasion of its centennial. He was the secretary and treasurer of the National Academy of Design, as well as serving on many of its committees.
Paintings and prints by Ralph Fabri have been exhibited widely in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and, to a lesser extent, in Europe. A frequent lecturer, his painting demonstrations were quite popular. Fabri received numerous honors and awards, and his work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the National Academy of Design, the Norfolk Museum of Art and Science, Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery in Budapest, and many other public and private collections.
Ralph Fabri died in New York City in February 1975.
Ralph Fabri donated his correspondence with Theodore and Helen Dreiser, 1929-1955, to the University of Pennsylvania, where it is now part of the Theodore Dreiser papers.
The Ralph Fabri papers were donated by Ralph Fabri, 1971-1974. Additional papers were the gift of his estate, 1975-1976.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
The Ralph Fabri papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.