Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The papers of cubist painter Karl Knaths measure 8.9 linear feet and date from 1890 to 1973, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1922 to 1971. The collection includes biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, four diaries, 22 notebooks and notes on theoretical color and compositional approaches to painting, published and draft copies of essays on art, miscellaneous printed material, and 132 sketchbooks and additional artwork.
Biographical material consists of a copy of Knaths's curriculum vitae, a press release, and miscellaneous personal financial records.
Correspondence in the collection documents Knaths's relationships with family, friends, and business associates after his move to Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1919. Notable correspondents include Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, artist Joseph Meierhans, and the gallery Paul Rosenberg and Co.
The papers include three of Knaths's personal diaries (1916-1919, 1948) and a diary written by F.A. Mehler in 1890. Additional writings include lecture notes from classes that Knaths both attended and taught; 22 notebooks that explore his interest in articulating a color and compositional theory of painting; loose notes on various artists, projects, and facets of painting; several of his completed essays on art, including "Decorative Material" and "Pictorial Analysis;" and a draft of his unpublished manuscript "Ornament and Glory." Writings by others include 15 lecture transcripts from courses taught by Hans Hofmann during the 1930s, Knaths's translations of essays by Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevitch, and Carl Einstein, and a biographical essay on Karl Knaths by Paul Mocsanyi.
Printed materials in the collection include clippings, exhibition catalogs, and programs related to Knaths's one-man exhibitions and group shows, and the books, "Syracuse University Centennial Collection of Art" (1970) and "Karl Knaths: Five Decades of Painting" (1973).
The bulk of the collection consists of 132 sketchbooks and additional artwork. Sketchbooks date from the 1920s to the 1970s and document Knaths's early figurative and landscape studies and later explorations of cubist style and compositional experiments with color, line, and form. Additional artwork includes numerous color charts and diagrams that Knaths kept to inform his painting color palette; outlines of compositional works on both graphed and regular paper; loose pencil sketches and pastels of figures, landscapes, and compositional experiments; and finished paintings and prints.
Karl Knaths papers, 1890-1973, bulk 1922-1971. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2012 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website. Blank pages in bound volumes, banking and tax records, and miscellaneous printed materials have not been scanned. In many cases, only the cover, title page, and individual relevant pages have been scanned from published materials.
Location of Originals:
1 v. sketchbook, reel D81: Original returned to lender, Karl Knaths, after microfilming
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
The Archives of American Art holds one oral history interview with Karl Knaths conducted by Dorothy Seckler in 1962; a transcript of a 1968 lecture delivered by Knaths at the Provincetown Art Association in Provincetown, Massachusetts; and a 1955 video recording documenting Knaths's Cape Cod influenced artwork, directed by Jack Calderwood.
Karl Knaths (1891-1971), born Otto G. Knaths, lived and worked in Provincetown, Massachusetts and was known for his cubist style of painting.
In 1962, a selection of Karl Knaths's papers were loaned to the Archives of American Art for microfilming. Upon Knath's death in 1972, these papers, along with additional materials, were willed to the Archives. Additional material from Knaths's estate were donated by his executor, Kenneth Desmarais, in 1977 and 1980.
This site provides access to the papers of Karl Knaths in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2012. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 11,899 images.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001