The collection is arranged as seven series. Many of the series are further divided into subseries. Series 1: Artists Files, 1935-1983 (19.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-18, 51, 55-56, OVs 53, 65) Series 2: Exhibition Files, 1941-1983 (2.9 linear feet; Boxes 18-21, 51, 55, OVs 54, 66) Series 3: Correspondence Files, 1941-1983 (3.9 linear feet; Boxes 21-24, 52, 56) Series 4: Appraisal Files, 1954-1983 (0.7 linear feet; Box 24) Series 5: Sales and Inventory Records, 1946-1983 (3.9 linear feet; Boxes 25-28, 51) Series 6: General Business and Financial Records, 1946-1983 (9.3 linear feet; Boxes 28-38, 51, 56) Series 7: Betty Parsons Personal Papers, 1916-1991 (21 linear feet; Boxes 38-51, 55-64, OVs 65-67)
Access Note / Rights:
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
The Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers measure 61.1 linear feet and date from 1916 to 1991, with the bulk of the material dating from 1946-1983. Records provide extensive documentation of the gallery's operations from its inception in 1946 to its closing in 1983 and of the activities of Betty Parsons as one the leading art dealers of contemporary American Art in the latter half of the twentieth century, particularly the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Over one third of the of the collection is comprised of artists files containing correspondence, price lists, and printed materials. Additional correspondence is with galleries, dealers, art institutions, private collectors, and the media. Also found are exhibition files, exhibition catalogs and announcements, sales records, stock inventories, personal financial records, and photographs. Betty Parsons's personal papers consist of early curatorial files, pocket diaries, personal correspondence, and evidence of her own artwork, including sketchbooks, and files documenting her personal art collection.
Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers, 1916-1991, bulk 1946-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2009-2010. The bulk of the 2017-2021 additions were digitized in 2020-2021.
Materials generally not digitized include duplicates, blank pages, routine financial transactions that do not document sales of artwork, and income tax records. Only the covers and title pages for many publications, such as catalogs, pamphlets, etc., have been digitized. Betty Parsons's annotated sketchbooks were selectively digitized. Slides, transparencies, and unannotated photographs of works of art, except for those donated or transferred from 2017 on, were not digitized.
Material lent for microfilming in 1968 and 1969 on 35mm microfilm reels N68/62-N68/74 and N69/105-N69/106 is available at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Walton Family Foundation.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews with Betty Parsons, June 4-9, 1969, by Paul Cummings, and June 11, 1981 by Gerald Silk. Some of the material originally loaned for microfilming in 1968 and 1969 was not included in later donations and can be viewed on microfilm reels N68/62-N68/74 and N69/105-N69/106. Loaned materials are not described in the container listing in this finding aid.
Betty Parsons (1900-1982) was one of the leading art dealers in New York City specializing in modern art, particularly the work of the Abstract Expressionists, and an abstract painter and sculptor in her own right. She opened Betty Parsons Gallery in 1946 at 15 E. 57th St., later moving to 24 W. 57th St.
The gallery donated some records in 1974, many of which had been loaned earlier for microfilming. The bulk of the collection was donated in 1984 and 1986 by William Rayner and Christopher Schwabacher, executors of the Estate of Betty Parsons. Additional material was donated by William Rayner in 1998 and Christopher Schwabacher in 2017. Additional material was donated in 2018 by the Lee Hall estate via Carolyn Crozier and Deborah Jacobson, co-executors. Hall was Parsons's biographer and had the material in her possession at the time of Parsons's death. An additional photograph of Parons and Marie Carr Taylor by Henri Cartier-Bresson was donated in 2021 by Mary Carpenter, who inherited the photograph from her mother, Nan Thorton Jones, who received it as a gift from Taylor.
The Betty Parsons Gallery records and Betty Parsons papers in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 74,099 images.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 750 9th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001