Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Search Results

Collections Search Center
3 documents - page 1 of 1

Alexander Alland, Sr., Photoprints

Ostroff, Eugene, d. 1999 (NMAH Curator)  Search this
Salo, Matt, Dr.  Search this
Haberstich, David E., 1941-  Search this
Ahlborn, Richard E.  Search this
Alland, Alexander, Sr. (Alexander Landschaft), 1902-1989  Search this
China Daily News -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
China Daily News -- Photographs  Search this
United States. Works Progress Administration  Search this
Davis, Earl  Search this
Kaslov, Steve, ca. 1888-1949 (King of the Red Bandanna Romany Gypsies )  Search this
0.25 Cubic feet (4 boxes)
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Oral history
Audio cassettes
Virgin Islands -- 1930-1940
New York (N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Bowery (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
Chinatown (New York, N.Y.) -- 1930-1940
St. Thomas (Virgin Islands) -- 1930-1940
1985 - 1986
1930 - 1943
Scope and Contents:
This collection contains 273 silver gelatin photoprints (Series 1), most of which apparently were made during the 1930s and early 1940s, contemporaneously with the original negatives. All are 8" x 10" or slightly smaller, unmounted except for flush mounted linen on the backs of some prints. The photographs were made primarily in two locations, New York City and the Virgin Islands. The Virgin Islands pictures were made as part of a special documentary project in 1939, as described above, whereas the New York photographs stem from Mr. Alland's largely self assigned documentation of various ethnic and religious groups in New York from approximately 1932 to 1943. The projects include photographs of the "Red Bandanna" Romany Gypsy group in the Bowery, a black Jewish congregation, Mohawk Indians in Brooklyn, and other groups, which required extensive exploration, research, and photographing over periods of many days or weeks. A variety of miscellaneous ethnic and religious groups are covered in the general "Other Religions" and "Nationalities" folders. The contents of the "Judaism" folder include primarily New York sites and people, but there are also additional views of a synagogue from the Virgin Islands project.

Series 2 of the collection contains four cassette tape recordings of two interviews with Mr. Alland, three made by Richard Ahlborn (with Eugene Ostroff and Matt Salo) in 1985, and one by David Haberstich and Richard Ahlborn, June 2-3, 1986 (at which time the photographs were donated). The tapes include readings from his autobiography, personal reminiscences on his experiences as an immigrant and a photographer, and commentary on the photographs.
The collection is arranged into two series.

Series 1: Photoprints, 1930-1943

Series 2: Audiotape Cassettes, 1985-1986

The photographs are arranged topically and by nationality.
Biographical / Historical:
Alexander Alland, Sr., was born in Sevastopol, Crimea (formerly in the Soviet Union) on 6 August 1902. His last name originally was Landschaft, but he legally changed it to Alland following the birth of his son. Alland's interest in photography began at the age of twelve, when he helped a local photographer with darkroom work. He constructed his own camera from cardboard with a simple meniscus lens and exposed glass plate negatives with the device.

Toward the end of the Civil War in Russia in 1920, Alland relocated in Constantinople, Turkey, where he was hired as an apprentice by a graduate of the Vienna Academy of Photography. When the Union Nationale des Combatants Francais went on a pilgrimage to Gallipoli, a former battle zone on the Dardanelles, he was asked to accompany them in order to document events. After having his request for a pay increase refused, he left his employer two years later and opened his own portrait studio, "Photo d'Art Russe." When civil unrest threatened Constantinople in 1923, he decided to emigrate to the United States.

During his first years in the United States he worked in photo finishing businesses while engaged in home portraiture independently. He married in 1929 and a son, Alexander, Jr., was born. In the 1930s he became one of the best known photographers portraying the life of immigrants and various ethnic groups in New York. (1) In 1936 he was appointed supervisor of the Photo Mural section of the W.P.A. Federal Art Project, and worked as a free lance photographer for magazines and periodicals featuring the activities of various ethnic groups living in New York City. He specialized in making photomurals with montage techniques. (2)

In 1937 Alland became photography instructor at the American Artists' School and joined the American Artists Congress. In 1939, his first book, Portrait of New York, was published and he became president of the "Exploration Photo Syndicate" and went to the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a project to produce a pictorial record of the West Indian Islands. His photographs appeared in publications and were exhibited at the New School for Social Research and at the Schomberg Collection. In 1942 he joined the staff of Common Ground magazine as photography editor and was appointed by the National Youth Administration to supervise their photography workshop. His book American Counterpoint appeared in 1943 and was selected as "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year." The original prints from that book were exhibited at the Museum of the City of New York, which also exhibited a portfolio of his work on American Gypsies. In 1944 he became director of an agency, "Pictures for Democracy," and in 1945 his book The Springfield Plan was proclaimed another "One of the Fifty Best Books of the Year."

During World War II Alland did technical photography for the War Department, receiving a commendation for this work. After another book My Dog Rinty was published, he left New York City to establish a school of photography, combined with a school of dance directed by his wife, Alexandra, a professional dancer and choreographer. (3) He then began to exhibit his own photographs and to collect glass plate negatives and vintage prints by significant photographers. He is perhaps best known for locating a collection of Jacob Riis negatives and making them available. In 1974 Aperture published his biography, Jacob A. Riis: Photographer and Citizen4. Because of his efforts in providing the Riis negatives to the Museum of the City of New York, that institution awarded a special commemorative medal to him in 1973. The Riis book was followed by two more studies of photographers, Jessie Tarbox Beals, First Woman News Photographer (5) and Heinrich Tonnies, Cartes de Visite Photographer Extraordinaire. (6)

Retrospective exhibitions of Alland's work were held in two major Danish museums in summer 1979 and he was honored for contributions to the cultural history of Denmark. In 1991 studies for his photomural work were included in an historical survey exhibition of American photomontage at the University of Maryland at College Park. (7).


1. My text is based upon the biographical information recorded on my taped interviews with Mr. Alland in this collection, but see also Bonnie Yochelson, The Committed Eye: Alexander Alland's Photography. New York: The Museum of the City of New York, Inc., 1991.

2. Merry A. Foresta, "Art and Document: Photography of the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project," in Official Images: New Deal Photography (essays by Foresta, Pete Daniel, Maren Stange, and Sally Stein), Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1987, p. 153, based on an interview with Alland, January 1987.

3. Photographic historian Anne Peterson, contractor for three Archives Center photographic collection projects between 1986 and 1982, reports that she studied ballet as a child with Mrs. Alland.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid

7. See catalog by Cynthia Wayne, Dreams, Lies, and Exaggeration: Photomontage in America. The Art Gallery, University of Maryland at College Park, 1991 (exhibition at the gallery Oct. 21 Dec. 20, 1991).
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Carlos de Wendler Funaro Gypsy Research Collection (AC0161)

Contains additional Alland photographs. De Wendler Funaro also photographed Steve Kaslov, his family, and his Bowery coppersmith workshop.
Collection donated by Alexander Alland, June 3, 1986.
Collection is open for research.
Copyrighted material: photographs may not be reproduced without written permission from the Estate of Alexander Alland, Sr.
Synagogues -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York, N.Y.  Search this
Newspapers -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Muslims -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Minorities -- Housing -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands  Search this
Judaism -- Customs and practices  Search this
Housing -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Immigrants -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Housing -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands  Search this
Buddhism -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Catholic Church -- Liturgy  Search this
Chinese drama -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Churches -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Clergy -- 1930-1940 -- United States  Search this
Coppersmiths -- 1930-1950  Search this
Ethnic costume  Search this
Ethnic groups -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Falashas -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Fortune-tellers -- Gypsies -- 1930-1940 -- United States  Search this
Pluralism  Search this
Poverty -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands  Search this
Printing -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Protestant churches -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Religious and ecclesiastical institutions -- Photographs -- 1930-1940 -- New York N.Y.  Search this
Singers -- 1930-1950  Search this
Synagogues -- 1930-1940 -- Virgin Islands  Search this
Photographs -- 1900-1950
Oral history -- 1980-1990
Interviews -- 1980-2000
Audio cassettes -- 1980-1990
Alexander Alland, Sr., Photoprints, 1932-1943, Archives Center, National Museum of American History. Gift of the artist.
See more items in:
Alexander Alland, Sr., Photoprints
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Additional Online Media:

Leon Polk Smith papers

Smith, Leon Polk, 1906-1996  Search this
Brooklyn Museum  Search this
Butler Institute of American Art  Search this
East Central Oklahoma State University  Search this
Galerie Denise René  Search this
Meyers/Bloom Gallery  Search this
Washburn Gallery (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum  Search this
Buck, Robert T.  Search this
Danto, Arthur Coleman, 1924-  Search this
Galloway, David D.  Search this
Gego  Search this
Humblet, Claudine, 1946-  Search this
Jamieson, Robert  Search this
Johnson, Ray, 1927-  Search this
7.2 Linear Feet
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Video recordings
The papers of New York abstract painter Leon Polk Smith measure 7.2 linear feet and date from 1938 to 1997. The papers consist of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, interview transcripts and an interview video recording, writings, financial records for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc., printed material, photographic material, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.
Scope and Contents note:
The papers of New York abstract painter Leon Polk Smith measure 7.2 linear feet and date from 1938 to 1997. The papers consist of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, interview transcripts and an interview video recording, writings, financial records for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc., printed material, photographic material, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.

Biographical material includes official affidavits, certificates, passports, expense receipts, and a travel expense notebook. A curriculum vitae, family history, and medical records are also included in the series.

Correspondence, both business and personal, comprises the bulk of the collection. This includes correspondence between Smith and his life companion, Robert Jamieson; art critics Arthur C. Danto, Claudine Humblet, and David Galloway; and artists Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt) and Ray Johnson. Business correspondence relates to Smith's various gallery and museum exhibitions, loans, and sales. There is extensive correspondence between Smith and the Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Di Laurenti Gallery, Edition and Galerie Hoffmann, Galerie Denise Rene, Meyers/Bloom Gallery, Washburn Gallery, and the Wilhelm-Hack Museum. The business subseries also includes correspondence between Smith and his alma mater, East Central University, formerly known as Oklahoma State University.

Interviews consist of six typewritten transcripts of interviews conducted with Smith over the course of his professional career from 1950 to 1993, a 1995 video interview of museum director Robert T. Buck discussing the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of Leon Polk Smith for the television program National Arts, and a 1965 interview transcript with gallery owner Lucile Horsley.

Writings include sixteen published and unpublished scholarly essays on Smith and his work. The series also includes notes and a brief artist's statement by Smith regarding the pros and cons of modern art galleries.

Financial records are 1978-1989 federal income tax filings and routine tax preparation and payment receipts for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc. Smith's personal filing records from 1987-1989 are also included in this series.

Printed material consists of two books, including the Brooklyn Museum's monograph Leon Polk Smith: American Painter, newspaper clippings reviewing Smith's work, and exhibition announcements and catalogs of Smith's museum and gallery shows from 1941 to 1997.

A scrapbook contains newspaper clippings documenting Smith's years as an educator and artist in Oklahoma in the 1930s and 1940s.

Photographs are of Smith and his acquaintances circa 1930-1960, and a representative selection of photographs and color slides of Smith's artwork from 1939 to 1960.
Arrangement note:
The collection is arranged as 8 series:

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1938-1994 (Box 1, OV 10; 11 folders)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1939-1997 (Boxes 1-5, 9, OV 10; 5 linear feet)

Series 3: Interviews, 1950-1995 (Boxes 5-6; 8 folders)

Series 4: Writings, 1963-1996 (Box 6; 13 folders)

Series 5: Financial Records, 1979-1990 (Box 6; 15 folders)

Series 6: Printed Material, 1941-1997 (Boxes 6-7, 9; .5 linear feet)

Series 7: Scrapbook, 1930-1940 (Box 8; 1 folder)

Series 8: Photographic Material, 1930-1990 (Box 8; 8 folders)
Biographical/Historical note:
Leon Polk Smith (1906-1996) worked primarily in New York City as a painter, educator, and lecturer. He is considered one of the founders of the hard edge style of minimalist abstract art.

Smith was born in Chickasha, Indian Territory one year before its formal incorporation into the Oklahoma Territory. Both of his parents were of Cherokee ancestry and he was raised in a small farming community that included Cherokee and Choctaw Indians. After receiving his teaching degree in 1934, Smith worked as an educator in rural Oklahoma communities and, at the same time, took the opportunity to introduce arts programs to local schools. In 1936, he enrolled in Columbia University's Teachers College to pursue a graduate degree in arts education and began painting full time. That summer, he visited the Albert E. Gallatin Gallery of Living Art at New York University, where he was first introduced to the work of the European modernists Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, and most importantly, Piet Mondrian.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Smith accepted university teaching positions at Rollins College in Florida, and New York University and Mills College of Education in New York. During this time, Smith moved beyond his early explorations of neo-plasticism and began to paint in a more hard edge style, typified by geometric lines, curving shapes of color, and the use of tondo (disk shaped) canvases. In 1958, Betty Parson's Section Eleven Gallery showcased his new work in two one-man exhibitions, which introduced him to a wider audience of museum curators and art collectors. In the 1960s, Smith's work was included in two of his most important group exhibitions, The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art (1965) and Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1966). In 1995, the Brooklyn Museum curated Leon Polk Smith: American Painter, a retrospective exhibition of Smith's career.

Smith produced works exploring shapes and lines, minimalist use of color, and modularity well into the 1990s and exhibited at a number of affiliated galleries, including the Stable Gallery, Galerie Chalette, Galerie Denise Rene, Washburn Gallery, and ACA Galleries. Smith died in 1996 in his home in Manhattan, at the age of 91.
The papers of Leon Polk Smith were donated by the artist's partner, Robert Jamieson, in 1998 and 2002.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Leon Polk Smith 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.
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Painting, Abstract -- United States  Search this
Art galleries, Commercial  Search this
Video recordings
Leon Polk Smith papers, 1938-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
Leon Polk Smith papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
Additional Online Media:

Gilbert Rohde Collection, 1930-1944

Rohde, Gilbert 1894-1944  Search this
De Pree, D. J  Search this
Ross, Phyllis  Search this
Rohde, Gilbert 1894-1944  Search this
Herman Miller Furniture Co  Search this
Atwater Kent Manufacturing Company  Search this
John Widdicomb Company  Search this
Rohm and Haas Company  Search this
Hudson Motor Car Company  Search this
Haywood-Wakefield Company  Search this
Gebrüder Thonet  Search this
Kroehler (Firm)  Search this
Troy Sunshade  Search this
New York University Industrial Design Department  Search this
Cooper-Hewitt Design Archive  Search this
Federal Art Project  Search this
Century of Progress International Exposition (1933-1934 : Chicago, Ill.)  Search this
New York World's Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Physical description:
3.25 cu. ft
Mixed archival materials
Commercial catalogs
United States
Industrial design  Search this
Furniture design  Search this
Interior decoration  Search this
Art deco  Search this
Office furniture  Search this
Children's furniture  Search this
Clocks and watches--Design and construction  Search this
Bakelite  Search this
Plexiglas  Search this
Lucite  Search this
Acrylic  Search this
Bentwood furniture  Search this
Modernism (Aesthetics)  Search this
Modular coordination  Search this
Furniture showrooms  Search this
Design education  Search this
Design for living  Search this
Merchandising  Search this
Display of merchandise  Search this
Restrictions & Rights:
Unrestricted research use onsite by appointment. Permission of staff required to photograph materials.
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries

Modify Your Search


Narrow By