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Interview with John Button

Creator:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Gussow, Alan, 1931-1997  Search this
Type:
Sound Recording
Date:
circa 1970
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)14809
See more items in:
Alan Gussow research material for A Sense of Place, 1956-1994
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_14809

Fairfield Porter papers

Creator:
Porter, Fairfield  Search this
Names:
Hirschl & Adler Galleries  Search this
Tibor de Nagy Gallery  Search this
Brainard, Joe, 1942-  Search this
Burkhardt, Rudy  Search this
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Day, Lucien B., 1916-  Search this
Downes, Rackstraw  Search this
Elmslie, Kenward  Search this
Evergood, Philip, 1901-1973  Search this
Frielicher, Jane  Search this
Giardelli, Arthur  Search this
Guest, Barbara  Search this
Hartl, Léon, 1889-  Search this
Hess, Thomas B.  Search this
Katz, Alex, 1927-  Search this
Koch, Kenneth, 1925-  Search this
Laning, Edward  Search this
Lichtenstein, Roy, 1923-1997  Search this
Morse, Carl  Search this
Myers, John Bernard  Search this
O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966  Search this
Padgett, Ron  Search this
Porter, Ruth W., 1875-1942  Search this
Rivers, Larry, 1925-  Search this
Schloss, Edith  Search this
Schuyler, James  Search this
Shapiro, David, 1947-  Search this
Stankiewicz, Richard, 1922-  Search this
Vasilieff, Nicholas  Search this
Extent:
9.3 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Travel diaries
Sketches
Sketchbooks
Photographs
Date:
1888-2001
bulk 1924-1975
Summary:
The papers of New York-based painter, lithographer, art critic, and poet Fairfield Porter measure 9.3 linear feet and date from 1888 to 2001, with the bulk of material dating from 1924 to 1975. Papers document Porter's life and career through correspondence, writings, business records, printed materials, photographs, and artwork.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of New York-based painter, lithographer, art critic, and poet Fairfield Porter measure 9.3 linear feet and date from 1888 to 2001, with the bulk of material dating from 1924 to 1975. The collection includes a biographical chronology; certificates, awards, and diplomas; letters to Fairfield and Anne Porter; scattered outgoing correspondence; and reviews, essays, notes, poems, and translations written by Porter and others. Among the writings are poetry manuscripts written by several New York School Poets including Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch. Also found are gallery records, inventories and appraisals, financial records, exhibition catalogs, clippings, posters, and records of Anne Porter's efforts to place his collection and document and publish his work after his death. Photographs of Porter, his homes, and his family are also present, as well as sketchbooks, loose sketches, and drawings spanning his entire career.

Significant correspondence is present from the Porters' many poet friends, including Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Ron Padgett, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Carl Morse, David Shapiro, and others. Among the letters are poetry manuscripts by Koch, Morse, Schuyler, Padgett, and Shapiro. Some letters are actually written in verse, especially those from Kenneth Koch.

Artists with letters in the collection include Joe Brainard, Rudy Burkhardt, John Button, Lucien Day, Rackstraw Downes, Philip Evergood, Jane Frielicher, Arthur Giardelli, Leon Hartl, Alex Katz, Edward Laning, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Richard Stankiewicz, Nicolas Vasilieff, among others. Other art world figures represented include John Bernard Myers, curator at the Tibor de Nagy gallery (New York), and Tom Hess, editor of ArtNews. Artwork found within the correspondence includes an illustrated letter from Ron Padgett and an original print on a holiday card by Edith Schloss.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into the following nine series. See the series descriptions below for more information about the content of each series.

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1916-1975 (Box 1 and 11; 0.2 linear feet)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1918-1996 (Boxes 1-2; 1.2 linear feet)

Series 3: Writings by Fairfield Porter, 1924-1975 (Box 2; 0.6)

Series 4: Writings by Others, 1888-1992 (Boxes 2-3; 0.7 linear feet)

Series 5: Personal Business Records, 1944-1996 (Boxes 3-4; 1 linear foot)

Series 6: Anne Porter's Posthumous Projects, 1980-1988 (Box 4; 0.2 linear feet)

Series 7: Printed Materials, 1934-2001 (Boxes 4-6 and 11; 1.5 linear feet)

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1880-1990 (Boxes 6 and 11; 0.6 linear feet)

Series 9: Artwork, 1918-1975 (Boxes 7-10 and 12-17; 2.2 linear feet)
Biographical Note:
Fairfield Porter was born near Chicago in 1907, the fourth of five children of James and Ruth Furness Porter. His father was an architect, his mother a poet from a literary family, and Porter grew up in an environment where art and literature were highly valued. His father designed the family homes in Winnetka, Illinois and on Great Spruce Head Island, an island in Maine that he purchased for the family in 1912. Fairfield Porter spent summers there from the age of six, and views of the island, its structures, and neighboring towns were the subjects of many paintings.

Porter attended Harvard from 1924 to 1928, studying fine art with Arthur Pope and philosophy with Alfred North Whitehead. After graduating from Harvard, Porter moved to New York City and took studio classes at the Art Students League from 1928 until 1930, studying with Boardman Robinson and Thomas Hart Benton, and immersing himself in the art and radical politics of Greenwich Village. In the 1940s, he studied at Parson's School of Design with art restorer Jacques Maroger, adopting the Maroger recipe for an oil medium in his own painting.

To further his education as an artist, Porter traveled to Europe in 1931, where he spent time with expatriate art theorist Bernard Berenson and his circle. When he returned to New York, he allied himself with progressive, socialist organizations, and like many of his contemporaries, worked at creating socially relevant art. He did artwork for the John Reed Club, a communist group; taught drawing classes for Rebel Arts, a socialist arts organization; wrote for their magazine, Arise!; and created a mural for the Queens branch of the Socialist Party. Living in the Chicago area for several years in the 1930s, he illustrated chapbooks for the socialist poet John Wheelwright's Poems for a Dime and Poems for Two Bits series. Porter's financial contributions to the radical Chicago publication Living Marxism kept it afloat for several years.

In 1932, Porter married Anne Channing, a poet from Boston, and they settled in New York. The Porters had five children, and their first son, born in 1934, suffered from a severe form of autism. In the next decade, they had two more sons, and spent three years in Porter's hometown of Winnetka, where he had his first solo exhibition of paintings. When they returned to New York in 1939, the Porters became friends with Edwin Denby, Rudy Burkhardt, and Elaine and Willem de Kooning. Porter became an earnest admirer of Willem de Kooning's artwork and was among the first to review and purchase it.

In 1949, the Porters moved to the small, seaside town of Southampton, New York. Their two daughters were born in 1950 and 1956. Like the family home on Great Spruce Head Island, Southampton became the setting of many of Porter's paintings. In fact, almost all of his mature paintings depict family homes, surrounding landscapes, family members, and friends. Porter was an individualistic painter who embraced figurative art in the late 1940s and 1950s, when abstract expressionism was the prevailing aesthetic trend. Porter once made a comment that his commitment to figurative painting was made just to spite art critic Clement Greenberg, a respected critic and ideologue who had championed abstract expressionism and denigrated realism as passé.

Porter established his reputation as a painter and as a writer in the 1950s. John Bernard Myers of the vanguard Tibor de Nagy gallery gave Porter his first New York exhibition in 1951 and represented him for the next twenty years. That same year Tom Hess, editor of ArtNews, hired Porter to write art features and reviews. Porter went on to contribute to ArtNews until 1967 and also became art editor for The Nation beginning in 1959, the same year his article on Willem de Kooning won the Longview Foundation Award in art criticism. As a critic, Porter visited countless galleries and studios, and he gained a reputation for writing about art with the understanding and vested interest of an artist, and with the same independence from fashionable ideas that he demonstrated in his artwork.

The 1950s and 1960s were prolific years for Porter's writing and art, and saw the development of his critical ideas and the maturation of his painting. Porter enjoyed an elder status among a circle of younger artists such as Jane Freilicher, Larry Rivers, and Alex Katz, and their many poet friends, now known as the New York School of Poetry: Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, and others. Porter himself wrote poetry and was published in the 1950s, sometimes alongside poems by his wife, who had been publishing poetry since the 1930s (twice in the vanguard Chicago journal, Poetry). The Porters' correspondence is laced with poems they and their friends sent back and forth, often about and dedicated to each other.

Besides his annual exhibitions at Tibor de Nagy and later Hirschl and Adler Galleries, Porter exhibited regularly at the Whitney, and had one-man exhibitions at many museums including the Rhode Island School of Design (1959), The University of Alabama (1963), Cleveland Museum of Art (his first retrospective, 1966), Trinity College (1967), the Parrish Art Museum (1971), the Maryland Institute of Art (1973), and the 1968 Venice Biennale. He also had residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1964) and Amherst College (1969). Porter died in 1975 at age 68. A full-scale retrospective of his artwork was held at the Boston Museum of Fine Art, Boston in 1983, and a study center and permanent home for his artwork was established at the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton through a donation made by Anne Porter. A posthumous collection of his poems was published by Tibor de Nagy Editions in 1985, and a catalogue raisonnée, edited by Joan Ludman, was published in 2001.

This biography relies heavily on information found in Justin Spring's biography of Porter, Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art (Yale University Press, 2000).
Related Material:
The Archives of American Art holds an oral history of Fairfield Porter conducted by Paul Cummings in 1968.
Provenance:
The papers of Fairfield Porter were given to the Archives of American Art by the artist's wife, Anne Porter, in five separate accessions between 1977 and 1997.
Restrictions:
The bulk of this collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.
Rights:
The Fairfield Porter 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.
Topic:
Works of art  Search this
Painters -- New York (State) -- Southampton  Search this
Art critics -- New York (State) -- Southampton  Search this
Painting, Modern -- 20th century  Search this
Poets  Search this
Lithographers -- New York (State)  Search this
Genre/Form:
Travel diaries
Sketches
Sketchbooks
Photographs
Citation:
Fairfield Porter papers, 1888-2001 (bulk 1924-1975). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.portfair
See more items in:
Fairfield Porter papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-portfair
Additional Online Media:

John Button letter to Gerald Langston Fabian

Creator:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Fabian, Gerald Langston  Search this
Subject:
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1959 July 15
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)12117
See more items in:
John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian, 1950-1982
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_12117
Additional Online Media:

John Button letter to Gerald Langston Fabian

Creator:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Fabian, Gerald Langston  Search this
Subject:
Button, John  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
29 June 1960
Topic:
Preliminary sketches  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)12118
See more items in:
John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian, 1950-1982
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_12118

Interview with John Button

Creator:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Gruen, John Jonas, 1926-2016  Search this
Type:
Sound Recording
Place:
New York, N.Y.
Date:
1971 January 14
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)19410
See more items in:
John Jonas Gruen and Jane Wilson papers, 1936-2009
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_19410

John Button papers, 1964-2004

Creator:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Subject:
Cohan, Zara  Search this
Ansen, Alan  Search this
Porter, Katherine Anne  Search this
Orlovsky, Peter  Search this
Burton, Scott  Search this
Freilicher, Jane  Search this
O'Hara, Frank  Search this
Ginsberg, Allen  Search this
Fabian, Gerald Langston  Search this
Fondren, Hal  Search this
Davis, Bette  Search this
Porter, Fairfield  Search this
LeSueur, Joe  Search this
Weaver, Helen  Search this
Schuyler, James  Search this
Topic:
Painters  Search this
Photographs  Search this
Poems  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)15869
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)294986
AAA_collcode_buttjohn
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_294986

Great South Bay, (painting)

Painter:
Button, John 1929-1982  Search this
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Type:
Paintings
Owner/Location:
University of Rochester Memorial Art Gallery 500 University Avenue Rochester New York 14607 Accession Number: 98.216
Date:
1956
Topic:
Waterscape--Bay  Search this
Control number:
IAP 37390479
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_471549

John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian

Creator:
Fabian, Gerald Langston  Search this
Names:
Button, John, 1929-1982  Search this
Extent:
0.6 Linear Feet
Type:
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Date:
1950-1982
Summary:
The John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian measure 0.6 linear feet and date from 1950 to 1982. The collection consists primarily of correspondence from painter John Button to Gerald Fabian. Also included are letters from Fabian to Button, as well as printed material.
Scope and Contents:
The John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian measure 0.6 linear feet and date from 1950 to 1982. The collection consists primarily of correspondence from painter John Button to Gerald Fabian. Also included are letters from Fabian to Button, as well as printed material.
Arrangement:
Due to the small size of this collection the papers are arranged as one series.

Series 1: John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian, 1950-1982, (Boxes 1-2; 0.6 linear feet)
Biographical / Historical:
John Button (1929-1982) was an American artist well known for his paintings of city-scapes and associated with New York School artists like Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, and Alex Katz. Born in San Francisco, California, Button attended the University of California, Berkeley and the California School of Fine Arts. In the early 1950s he moved to New York. He taught at the School of Visual Arts from 1965 until 1982. Button's work was included in numerous solo and group exhibitions and is held in collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum, the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, and many others.

Gerald Langston Fabian (1924-2012) was a poet, actor, educator, and activist. He grew up in Montana, served in the Pacific with the Navy during World War II, and lived most of his life in San Francisco, California. He was a friend of painter, John Button.
Related Materials:
Also found in the Archives of American Art are the John Button papers, 1964-2004.
Provenance:
The John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian were donated to the Archives of American Art by Gerald L. Fabian in 1990.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Topic:
Painters -- California  Search this
Art -- Collectors and collecting -- California -- San Francisco  Search this
Citation:
John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian, 1950-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.fabigera
See more items in:
John Button letters to Gerald L. Fabian
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-fabigera

John Button / exhibition and catalogue prepared by Robert M. Doty ; with essays by Bill Berkson and Robert Rosenblum

Author:
Button, John 1929-1982  Search this
Doty, Robert M  Search this
Berkson, Bill  Search this
Rosenblum, Robert  Search this
Currier Gallery of Art  Search this
Subject:
Button, John 1929-1982 Exhibitions  Search this
Physical description:
[72] p. : chiefly col. ill. ; 21 x 23 cm
Type:
Books
Date:
1989
C1989
Call number:
N40.1.B9866 D7 1989
N40.1.B9866D7 1989
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_sil_425654

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