Letters are almost all incoming and are written almost exclusively to May Rosenberg. The bulk of the letters are from publishers regarding writing submitted by May Rosenberg for publication, with Henry Volkening of Russell & Volkening, Inc., being most prominently represented. They reveal details about the market for Rosenberg's work and hence the tastes and sensitivities of audiences at that time.
Also of significance are letters from June Wayne relating to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Inc., which Wayne established in 1960 with funding from the Ford Foundation. These three folders of letters document May Rosenberg's friendship with Wayne, and her involvement with the workshop. They record Wayne's request that Rosenberg write in a freelance capacity for the organization, as it's occasional "esthetic spokesman," and her request that Rosenberg write about Louise Nevelson's fellowhip, which took place at the workshop in 1968. The letters also document how Rosenberg was invited to appear in a KCET Television segment as a guest of June Wayne at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1972. Also found are letters relating to Rosenberg's writing about the workshop published in Craft Horizons.
Copies of only a handful of letters written by May Rosenberg which are found in the collection, are housed with Wayne's letters. In addition to providing details about the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, these four letters also reveal some of the opinions of the two correspondents on general matters including art, writing, and feminism. One letter from Rosenberg reveals how she drew on her social experiences in the art world as source material, and delivers an incisive criticism of the "round of boredoms" that constituted Rosenberg's Fourth (of July?) experience. She describes introducing newcomers to her friends in the art community and how they quickly come to feel like entitled insiders and begin to patronize her: "I intend to use this material which is very curious—the swift progression from being a social responsibility to being a condescending patronizing insider is a part of the art scene which must be reckoned with. These characters consider themselves the real artists and they no longer need the practicing writer or painters beyond the preliminary stage." Rosenberg's commentary provides witty and razor sharp insights from a writer who moved in the orbit of some of the most successful artists of the time, in addition to the commanding physical and intellectual presence of her art critic and theorist husband.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
The Harold and May Tabak Rosenberg 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.
Harold and May Tabak Rosenberg papers, circa 1880-1985, bulk 1940s-1970s. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.