The papers of Mildred Constantine measure 5.3 linear feet and are dated 1945-2009. Subject files, writings, photographs, and a scrapbook provide an overview of her curatorial work in the Architecture and Design department of the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequent activities as an independent curator, and art consultant. Especially well documented is Whole Cloth, a book written with Laurel Reuter that presents an historical overview of how artists have used cloth in their work.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Mildred Constantine measure 5.3 linear feet and are dated 1945-2008. Subject files, writings, photographs, and a scrapbook provide an overview of her curatorial work in the Architecture and Design department of the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequent activities as an independent curator, and art consultant. Especially well documented is the book Whole Cloth that she wrote with Laurel Reuter.
Correspondence, though mostly business related, often touches on personal matters since many of the artists and art world figures with whom she corresponded were also friends. Correspondents include Miguel Angel Corzo, Arthur C. Danto, Dorothy Dehner, Allen Hart (who sent more than 40 illustrated letters), Elizabeth Wilder and Donald L. Weisman. She also corresponded with many art institutions and organizations, among them the Cleveland Museum of Art, Independent International Design Conference, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of New Mexico, Ohio State University, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Estate of David Smith.
Subject files reflect Constantine's activities and interests. A large portion of this series concerns Whole Cloth, a book written with Laurel Reuter that presents an historical look at how artists have used cloth in their work. Correspondence between the two authors, with artists, institutions, and others concerns researching and writing the volume. Also documented are the successes and failures of Constantine's decade long pursuit to publish the book. Other substantive files relate to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Getty Conservation Institute, Sheila Hicks, Jack Lenor Larsen, Rhode Island School of Design, and Soviet Film Posters. Files concerning the University of the Arts' 2003 Commencement include a videocassette.
Writings by Constantine are lecture material and notes. Also found are transcripts of interviews with Constantine and writings by others. Printed material includes newspaper and magazine articles about Constantine and her career. A scrapbook of printed material and photographs documents an exhibition of Latin American posters at the Library of Congress organized by Constantine.
Photographs of people include Mildred Constantine with family, friends, artists and others at public and private events around the world. Notable photographs include: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Alfred Barr, Luis Barragan, Lou Block, Louise Bourgeois, Jagoda Buic, Elaine Lustig Cohen, Charles Coiner, James Marston Fitch, Mathias Goeritz, Ingeborg Ten Haeff, Ann d'Harnoncourt, Sheila Hicks, Richard Koch, Nancy Koenigsberg, Jack Lenor Larsen, Leo Lionni, Roberto Burle Marx, Ruth Reeves, Laurel Reuter, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ben Shahn, Massimo Vignelli, Ulfert Wilke, and Claire Zeisler. Also, there are photographs of artwork by a wide range of artists.
The Mildred Constantine papers are organized into 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1947-1997 (Boxes 1, 6; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1964-2008 (Boxes 1, 6; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1964-2008 (Boxes 2-5; 3.3 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings, 1991-2008 (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1961-2006 (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, 1993 (Box 5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, 1945 (Box 5; 1 folder)
Series 8: Scrapbook, circa 1940s (Box 6; 0.1 linear feet)
Curator and writer Mildred Constantine (1913-2008) was associated with the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design from 1943 to 1971. She then became an art consultant and independent curator, and wrote on fiber and textiles, decorative arts, photography, caricature and cartoons.
Mildred Constantine (known as "Connie") began her career at College Art Association. Hired as a stenographer in 1930, she soon was promoted to editorial assistant for Parnassus, the forerunner of Art Journal.
Constantine left the College Art Association in 1937 to study at New York University and earned BA and MA degrees. She then continued her education at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In 1940, Constantine worked in the Office of Inter-American Affairs at the Library of Congress; it was there that she met René d'Harnoncourt.
Influenced by her 1936 travels in Mexico, Constantine's first curatorial effort was an exhibition of Latin American posters. Drawn from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition was held at the Library of Congress.
At the urging of René d'Harnoncourt, The Museum of Modern Art's Architecture and Design Department hired Constantine in 1943. The majority of her 28 year tenure at the museum was spent working with the department's founder, architect Philip Johnson. As a curator during the 1950s and 1960s, Constantine's innovative exhibitions brought lesser known portions of the museum's collection to public attention. Among her exhibtions were: "Words and Images," that focused on graphic design and posters; "Polio Posters," the first Museum of Modern Art show dedicated to social issues; "Olivetti: Design in Industry;" "Signs in the Street;" and "Lettering by Hand." She also published books on Art Nouveau, contemporary package design, and other subjects.
In 1971, Constantine left the Museum of Modern Art to become an independent curator and art consultant. Exhibitions included "Frontiers in Fiber: The Americans," and "Small Works in Fiber" with Jack Lenor Larsen. Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life, Constantine's book on the photographer, actress, model, and political activist, appeared in 1974. That same year, she and Alan Fern produced Revolutionary Soviet Film Posters that focused on works from the 1920s. Her last published work, Whole Cloth, was written with Laurel Reuter and published in 1997. Constantine continued to research and write, and at the time of her death was working on a large, international survey of the study of thread.
Mildred Constantine and Ralph W. Bettelheim (1909-1993) were married for 50 years. They had two daughters, Judith and Vicki.
Mildred Constantine died from heart failure on December 10, 2008, at home in Nyack, New York.
Oral history interviews with Mildred Constantine were conducted for the Archives of American Art by Harlan Phillips, 1965 October 15, and by Paul Cummings, 1976 May 3-1976 August 26.
The papers were donated to the Archives in 2009 by Mildred Constantine's daughters, Judith Bettelheim and Vicki McDaniel.
Use of origininal material requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Mildred Constantine 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.
The records of Midtown Galleries measure 86.82 linear feet and date from 1904 to 1997. The collection documents the operation and general administration of the business and includes artist records, exhibition material, inventories, financial records, photographs, and printed material.
Scope and Content Note:
Records of Midtown Galleries [including the addition], circa 1904-1997, comprise 86.82 linear feet on 117 microfilm reels. Records are sparse for the early years when the gallery was operated as a cooperative. As the business expanded and became profitable, recordkeeping was more systematic and thorough. Records consist of administrative correspondence, 1927-1989 and undated; exhibition records, 1934-1982 and undated; inventories and sales records, 1946-1980 and undated; financial records, 1933-1957; miscellaneous, 1934-1985 and undated; photographs, circa 1925-circa 1980; printed matter, 1932-1982 and undated; personal papers of Alan D. and Mary J. Gruskin, 1932-1983 and undated; and Papers of Francis C. Healey, 1932-1935 and undated An addition, represents scattered material, 1932-1997 and undated, that remained after the gallery closed in 1995. It includes administrative records, 1934-1995 and undated; photographs circa 1938-1988 and undated; artists records, 1932-1993 and undated; exhibitions, 1958-1993 and undated; videotapes, 1977-1988; and oversize printed matter, 1973-1977 and undated Because microfilmimg of the Midtown Galleries records was already underway when this material was received, it could not be integrated with the main portion of the collection.
Administrative correspondence is categorized as General Correspondence, Artists Correspondence, and Artists Applications. General Correspondence is with clients, collectors, museums and galleries, arts organizations, and businesses providing services to Midtown Galleries, and concerns routine business matters. Artists Correspondence contains both personal and business letters since the Gruskins were close friends of many artists represented by Midtown Galleries. Artists Applications consists of correspondence with artists seeking representation by Midtown Galleries. Both accepted and rejected artists are included in this subseries.
Exhibition records includes schedules and general correspondence about cooperative exhibitions and traveling shows. Exhibition files, arranged by title, contain correspondence concerning arrangements for each show.
Inventories include listings by artist and by warehouse location; also, lists of paintings on consignment, paintings returned to artists, loan/shipping log, and "traffic cards." Sales records include "groups totals,: artists account ledger, and sales slips.
Financial records consist of bills paid, banking records, accounting records, and tax returns with related documentation.
Miscellaneous items include manuscripts of Isabel Bishop Catalogue Raisonne and Biography by Karl Lunde and The Art of Philip Guston by Lester D. Longman. Also included are legal documents such as Act of Incorporation, partnership agreement, and leases; 32 guest registers, 1924-1985 and undated, and 15 samples of artist-designed fabrics produced by Onandoga Silk Co., 1946-1947.
Photographs of people include founders Alan D. Gruskin and Francis C. Healey, Mary J. Gruskin (Mrs. Alan D.) and many artists affiliated with Midtown Galleries. Photographs of works of art are by Midtown artists and others. Also, illustrations for Painting in the U.S.A. by Alan D. Gruskin; 2 albums of photographs of the work of Waldo Peirce, circa 1925-1930s (probably compiled by Peirce). Photographs of exhibitions include Midtown Galleries exhibitions and shows elsewhere featuring works by Midtown artists. Miscellaneous photographs include: Gruskin's Department Store (Pa.); models used by artists Julien Binford, Henry Koerner, and Doris Rosenthal; properties owned by Julien Binford and Hans Moeller; Anatol Shulkin's travel pictures of the Soviet Union; store window displays featuring Midtown artists, and fashion models at Midtown Galleries.
Printed matter includes material produced by Midtown Galleries: exhiition catalogs, 1932-1983 and undated; news releases, 1932-1983 and undated; Midtown News, 1965-1970; and miscellaneous items, 1943-1970 and undated Printed matter produced by others includes is comprised of artists files consisting mainly of newsclippings; also, articles about Midtown Galleries and the Gruskins.
Personal papers of Mary J. and Alan D. Gruskin contain biographical information, correspondence, financial records, miscellaneous items, calendars, and writings of Alan D. Gruskin. Correspondence, 1931-1970 and undated, with family and friends concerns personal business; also, letters of condolence on the death of Alan D. Gruskin, 1970. Financial records include personal finances and documentation of gifts of artwork to institutions, with appraisals and tax information. Calendars, 1939-1983, record both personal engagements and some business appointments. Writings of Alan D. Gruskin include manuscripts and drafts of columns, short stories, a screenplay, radio broadcasts, and lecture notes from courses at Harvard.
Papers of Francis C. Healey are comprised of correspondence that relates to both gallery and ersonal business. Also included are scripts and drafts for radio broadcasts, printed matter, press releases, and proposals for radio programs.
Administrative records received with the addition include general correspondence, correspondence with clients, and correspondence regarding gifts, sales and purchases. Records concerning the sale of Midtown Galleries to John Whitney Payson include Gruskin's and Payson's inventories. Also, included is a history of the gallery.
Photographs are of the Gruskins, their friends, and country house; also, views of Midtown exhibitions, openings, artists, and individual works of art.
Artists records are comprised mainly of artists files, largely containing printed matter. Among the artists records are a file of holiday cards by various artists, many with original artwork. Also included are catalogs of group shows featuring Midtown artists at other galleries
Exhibition materials include announcements, news releases, catalogs, miscellaneous printed matter, and a guest book. A small number of these items are dated after Payson's purchase of Midtown Galleries.
Videotapes of William Palmer, Isabel Bishop, and Robert Vickrey, as well as oversize printed matter relating to Midtown artists, complement the artists records.
The collection is arranged into 10 series. A detailed explanation of the arrangement of each series is provided with the series descriptions. Each series is subdivided, often by record type, with categories usually arranged chronologically; exceptions are noted. Administrative correspondence (Series 1) is arranged alphabetically, as are many inventories sales records (Series 3). Photographs of people, exhibitions, and works of art (Series 6) are arranged alphabetically, as are the artists files and exhibition clippings portions of the printed matter (Series 7). The addition is described separately in Appendix A; and, wherever possible, reel and frame numbers of related materials received and filmed with the addition have been included in the main text's series descriptions.
Series 1: Administrative Correspondence, 1927-1989, undated (51 linear ft.)
Series 2: Exhibitions, 1932-1982, undated (4 linear feet)
Series 3: Inventories and Sales Records, 1932-1980, undated (5.3 linear ft.)
Series 4: Financial Records, 1933-1957 (3.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1934-1985, undated (2 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1925-circa 1980 (6.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Matter, 1932-1990, undated (7.25 linear ft.)
Series 8: Personal Papers of Alan D. and Mary J. Gruskin, 1904-1990, undated (4.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Papers of Francis C. Healey, 1932-1935, undated (0.5 linear ft.)
Series 10: Addition, 1932-1997, undated (2.5 linear feet)
Alan D. Gruskin (1904-1970) hoped to become an artist, but while still a student realized that his talents were better suited to art administration than painting. Following graduation from Harvard University, he worked at a New York gallery that specialized in old masters, returning home to Pennsylvania after a year to pursue a writing career that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Gruskin returned to New York and opened Midtown Galleries at 559 Fifth Avenue in 1932. Specializing in work by living American artists, Midtown was one of a rather small number of commercial galleries in New York City that showed contemporary American art. Midtown Galleries represented academic and realist painters, and purposely avoided abstract art.
Founded during the Depression, Midtown Galleries was a shoe-string operation in its early years. Originally operated as a cooperative, Midtown Galleries' participating artists contributed to the costs and work of presenting exhibitions. Between 1932 and 1935, Gruskin served as "Art Director" of the gallery and his business partner, Francis C. Healey was "Publicity Director." Healey appears to have been responsible for weekly broadcasts on NBC radio designed to interest people in visiting the gallery. The 15-minute programs consisted of discussions with museum directors, curators, artists, writers, and musicians about a broad range of cultural topics. Copies of the scripts were offered for a dime, and the payments mailed by radio listeners bought Gruskin's meals. During this period, Gruskin lived in the gallery. After Healey's departure in 1935, Midtown Galleries ceased to be run as a cooperative.
Midtown Galleries usually represented approximately two dozen artists, and many remained with the gallery for decades. They included: Julien Binford, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Gladys Rockmore Davis, Emlen Etting, Maurice Freedman, Dong Kingman, Oronzio Maldarelli, William C. Palmer, Waldo Peirce, Doris Rosenthal, Zoltan L. Sepeshy, Frederic Taubes, William Thon, Margit Varga, and Robert Vickrey.
Gruskin worked to educate and interest the public in American art and to promote the artists he represented. In addition to countless reviews, articles, and catalog essays, he wrote three books: Painting in the U.S.A. (1946), The Watercolors of Dong Kingman and How the Artist Works (1958), William Thon: The Artist and His Technique (1964). Gruskin advocated the use of fine art in advertising and industry, obtaining commissions for his artists and at the same time assisting clients in building corporate collections. A prime example is the Upjohn Company which, at Gruskin's urging, included reproductions of paintings in "Your Doctor Speaks," a series of public service announcements. Many of the paintings were purchased subsequently, forming the basis of the Upjohn Collection. A traveling exhibition, The Upjohn Company Collection of Contemporary American Paintings, was circulated by Midtown Galleries and featured in a Life magazine article about fine art and advertising. Another example is the fabric patterns, based on paintings by several of Midtown Galleries' artists, commissioned by the Onandoga Silk Company; the fabrics were used for dresses by popular designers, with fashion shows and window displays of paintings by the participating artists at selected department stores throughout the country. Working closely with architects and interior designers, Gruskin and Midtown Galleries were innovators in the use of domestic and business settings to showcase art with Art In Interiors, a series of exhibitions held annually between 1952 and 1961.
Midtown Galleries was a pioneer in circulating traveling exhibitions to colleges and art associations in communities distant from major art museums and commercial galleries. Beginning in 1936 and or more than 35 years, Midtown Galleries circulated 8-10 shows throughout the country each year; most were group shows organized around a theme, though occasional solo exhibitions were offered. Other important exhibitions off the premises were the Central Illinois Art Exposition, 1939, and the contemporary American art exhibition at the New York World's Fair, 1964-1965. The 1939 show organized by Gruskin for the Bloomington, Illinois, Art Association was a large exhibition of American art borrowed from a variety of institutions; the very well-publicized show was heavily attended, drawing visitors from a large area of the rural Midwest, many of whom had never visited a museum or seen original art.
1932 -- established as a cooperative gallery at 559 Fifth Ave. by Alan D. Gruskin (Art Director) and Francis C. Healey (Public Relations Director); Midtown Galleries presented programs on contemporary American art broadcast by NBC radio
1934-1935 -- Tudor City Art Galleries at 8 Prospect Place, New York City, featuring works by Midtown Galleries' artists and others, administered by Gruskin and Healey
1935 -- departure of Francis C. Healey; gallery moved to 605 Madison Ave.; gallery ceased to be run as a cooperative
1936 -- began traveling exhibitions to universities, museums, and regional art associations
1939 -- Central Illinois Art Exposition (Bloomington, Ill.)
1946 -- San Francisco branch opened and closed; publication of Painting in the U.S.A. by Alan D. Gruskin
1951 -- gallery moved to 17 East 57th Street
1958 -- publication of The Watercolors of Dong Kingman and How the Artist Works by Alan D. Gruskin
1962 -- gallery moved to 11 East 57th Street
1964 -- exhibition of contemporary American art at the New York World's Fair, organized by Midtown Galleries; shown in American Interiors Pavilion, this was the only exhibit of its kind at the Fair; publication of William Thon: The Artist and His Technique by Alan D. Gruskin
1966 -- loan of Midtown Galleries' records for microfilming by the Archives of American Art; this small selection, along with many other gallery records, was donated by Mary Gruskin to the Archives between 1972 and 1991, with an additional gift in 1997
1970 -- death of Alan D. Gruskin (1904-1970); Mary J. Gruskin assumes position of Director
1972 -- first portion of Midtown Galleries' records donated to the Archives of American Art by Mrs. Gruskin
1985 -- sale of Midtown Galleries to John Whitney Payson; Bridget Moore, Director, and Mary J. Gruskin, Director Emerita
1986 -- majority of Midtown Galleries' records acquired by the Archives of American Art
1990 -- name changed to Midtown-Payson Galleries; gallery moved to 745 Fifth Ave.
1991 -- additional gift of records by Mrs. Gruskin
1992 -- records arranged, described, and prepared for microfilming
1993 -- microfilming began; continued sporadically, in small segments
1995 -- Midtown-Payson Galleries closed
1997 -- additional gift of records by Mrs. Gruskin
1999 -- microfilming completed
Midtown Galleries loaned a small number of records consisting of news releases, 1939-1966, and exhibition schedules to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1966. Subsequently, Mary J. Gruskin donated this material, along with many other gallery records, to the Archives in several installments between 1972 and 1991; an additional gift was received in 1997. The portion loaned in 1966 is now integrated with the main records and has been refilmed in sequence. Unfortunately, the addition of 1997 was received in Washington, D.C. after microfilming was well underway. The addition has been microfilmed and described separately as Series 10. Wherever possible, the main text has been annotated with reel and frame numbers for related items contained in the addition.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.
The Midtown Galleries records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. 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.
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Midtown Galleries records, 1904-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution