The papers of New York painters and teachers Josef Presser and Presser's wife Agnes Hart measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1913 to 1980, with the bulk of the material from 1940 to 1980. The collection documents their personal and professional lives as artists and educators and consists of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, teaching files, printed material, and scattered photographs. The collection also includes writings, personal business records, and artwork by Presser.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of New York painters and teachers Josef Presser and Agnes Hart measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1913 to 1980, with the bulk of the material from 1940 to 1980. The collection documents their personal and professional lives as partners, artists, and educators and consists of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, teaching files, printed material, and scattered photographs. The collection also includes writings, personal business records, and artwork by Presser.
The collection is divided into two series. Series 1 consists primarily of Presser's papers from 1913 to his death in 1967, and Hart's correspondence dating from 1967 to 1977 regarding the management of his estate. Biographical material includes an address book, curriculum vitae, family history, and personal identification records. Presser's personal correspondence is with family and friends, including the artists Charles Hopkinson and Vera Fraser. Business related correspondence is with various collectors, galleries, museums, art associations, and art schools. There is also correspondence related to Presser's law suit against the New York Port Authority, and Presser and Hart's real estate purchases in Hurley and Woodstock, New York. Hart's correspondence concerns Presser's estate and artwork after his death, including letters related to the organization of Presser's memorial exhibition in 1968.
Writings by Presser include essay fragments, 4 notebooks, and numerous note fragments. His teaching files include memoranda, syllabi, and class assignments from his tenure at New York University from 1947 to 1952. There are also memoranda from the New York School of Visual Arts and the Prospect Hill School. Personal business records include bank registers, artwork sales records, and receipts from his residency in Paris in the 1960s.
Printed material consists of bulletins, clippings, and exhibition announcements and catalogs related to Presser's career. There are also draft and final versions of Presser's memorial exhibition catalog, and a copy of the 1951 conference Artist and the Museum sponsored by the Artists Equity Association and the Woodstock Artists Association.
Artwork consists of loose sketches, artwork on postcards and printed material, and 9 sketchbooks dating from the 1950s to 1960s. Photographic material includes photographs of Presser with friends and family, and photographs of his studio and artwork. There are also 4 photographs of the artist Abraham Walkowitz dating from the 1940s.
Agnes Hart's papers documenting her own career are arranged in Series 2 and date from 1930 to 1980. Biographical materials include two engagement calendars, curriculum vitae, consignment lists, and critiques. Her correspondence with family and friends includes letters from artist Lucile Blanch, journalist Agnes Smedley, and Yaddo director Elizabeth Ames. Business correspondence is with galleries, collectors, art associations, and art schools.
Teaching files include employment contracts, class catalogs, newsletters, and photographs from Hart's tenure at the Art Students League (1965-1975), and class catalogs and memoranda from Dalton Schools and Parnassus Square. Printed material includes bulletins, clippings, and exhibition announcements and catalogs related to Hart's career. There are also draft and final versions of the 1956 Yasuo Kuniyoshi memorial exhibition catalog. Additional photographic material consists of a photograph of the Central Cown Art Center, a gallery Hart managed in 1937.
The collection is arranged as 2 series:
Series 1: Josef Presser, 1913-1977 (3 linear feet; Boxes 1-3, Box 5)
Series 2: Agnes Hart, 1930-1980 (1.3 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
Josef Presser (1909-1967) lived and worked primarily in New York City as a painter, educator, and lecturer.
Presser was born in Lublin, Poland and immigrated with his family to Boston, Massachusetts in 1913. He showed an early affinity for art and, at the age of 12, was accepted to the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts on a four year scholarship. After completing his education, he spent several years traveling in Europe and visited the major museums of France, Italy, and Belgium before returning to America in 1931. Upon his return, Presser opened his first solo New York show at the Montross Gallery in 1931, moved to Philadelphia, painted murals as part of the Works Progress Administration program, and began receiving private commissions. By the mid-1930s, Presser was exhibiting regularly in solo shows in Philadelphia and had began accepting teaching positions. While lecturing at Iowa State University, Presser met his future wife and artist, Agnes Hart, who he married in 1941.
After moving to New York City in 1940, Presser continued to exhibit in New York galleries throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and eventually accepted teaching positions at New York University, Queens College, Cooper Union, and the Brooklyn Museum Art School, among others. Though he was familiar with the work of the abstract expressionists, Presser is known primarily for his figurative paintings featuring women, children, clowns, and horses, with the latter two subjects inspired by circuses he had traveled with in Europe. In 1940, Presser and Hart purchased studio space in Woodstock, New York where they exhibited as members of the Woodstock Artists Association. Presser's solo shows include exhibitions at Contemporary Arts Gallery, Associated American Artists Galleries, and the Vera Lazuk Gallery.
In 1965, Presser went on an extended trip abroad to Paris, and continued working until his death in 1967.
Agnes Hart (1912-1979) was born in Meridan, Connecticut and studied art at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida and at Iowa State University. Hart was a prolific painter and printmaker of abstract forms and urban landscapes. In 1948 and 1949, she received fellowships as a guest painter at the Yaddo Foundation and exhibited her first solo show in New York City at the RoKo Gallery in 1948. She continued to exhibit regularly at New York City galleries into the 1970s, and also accepted several teaching positions, including a ten year tenure with the Art Students League of New York. She continued to paint and teach until her death in 1979.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel N69-1) including original clippings and exhibition announcements. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
The papers of Josef Presser were lent for microfilming by Agnes Hart in 1968. Excluding certain printed material, Hart later donated the bulk of these papers and additional Presser materials in 1977 and 1979. Hart donated her papers in 1978. Frances Hitchcock, Hart's sister, gave additional material in 1981.
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 Josef Presser and Agnes Hart 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.