Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The papers of Burt Chernow measure 21.8 linear feet and consist mainly of research materials gathered and produced in the course of writing "Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Biography," over an extensive period of close contact with the subjects, from the early 1980s until Chernow's death in 1997. Research materials for the biography include photocopies of personal documents of the Christos, hundreds of recorded interviews with Christo, Jeanne-Claude, their family members, and their associates, transcripts of interviews and research on interview subjects, other collected research material compiled chronologically, drafts of the biography written by Chernow, drafts of the biography and its epilogue produced after Chernow's death, and business records related to the book's production, which include significant correspondence with the Christos. Also found are the published German and U.S. editions of the biography, printed materials and photographs related to the book's subject matter, and fabric samples from five of the Christos' projects undertaken during Chernow's association with them.
Chernow's career as an art critic, writer, educator, and arts advocate, primarily in Southern Connecticut, is documented in Chernow's other writings, organizational records, printed materials, and photographs. Other writings include drafts of articles, lectures, exhibition reviews, and catalog essays, some of which include research material gathered on the subjects. Artists written about by Chernow include Arman, Milton Avery, Barkley Hendricks, Francisco Zuñiga, Lester Johnson, Gabor Peterdi, and Jean Woodham, among many others, and including many Connecticut artists. A recorded interview with Arman, as well as transcripts of multiple interviews with Zuñiga, are filed with these writings. Also found are many writings and lectures related to the value of visual art in public life and in elementary and higher education. Numerous lectures by Chernow about several of the Christos' large-scale projects are also found, one of which, on the Wrapped Reichstag, is recorded on video.
Organizational records document Chernow's involvement in various art education organizations, his years of teaching at Housatonic Community College, his development of the Housatonic Museum of Art collection, and his work with several local arts organizations in Westport, Connecticut, including the Westport Arts Advisory Council, the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection Committee, and the Westport Weston Arts Council. Types of documents found include correspondence, clippings, photographs, flyers, and notes.
Printed material includes many of the books written by Chernow, and monographs and magazines which included essays on specific artists by Chernow. A file of clippings about Chernow spanning his career is also found. Photographs include prints, negatives, and contact sheets, and consist mainly of photographs of artists, many of which were taken by Chernow, and many of which are signed by the artists with a personal note to the Chernows. A handful of personal photographs of the Chernows are also found.
Burt Chernow papers, 1930-2002. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' Hidden Collections grant program.
Interview with Jeanne-Claude conducted by Michael Cullen: Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce must be obtained from: Ann Chernow, 2 Gorham Avenue, Westport, CT 06880.
Burt Chernow (1933-1997) was an art historian, writer, educator, collector, and dealer who founded the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and who, upon his retirement from Housatonic Community College, became the authorized biographer of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, which he researched through close contact with the Christos from 1984 until his death in 1997.
Donated 2002 by Ann Chernow, the widow of Burt Chernow.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001