The Victor D. Spark papers measure 22.2 linear feet and date from circa 1830 to 1983, with the bulk of the material from 1930 to 1970. The papers document Spark's career as a New York City art dealer and appraiser who was most active from World War II through the 1970s, focusing on Old Masters paintings and 19th and early 20th century American art. Found within the papers are biographical materials, artist files, client files, financial records, legal records, printed material, and photographs.
Scope and Contents:
The Victor D. Spark papers measure 22.2 linear feet and date from circa 1830 to 1983, with the bulk of the material from 1930 to 1970. The papers document Spark's career as a New York City art dealer and appraiser who was most active during World War II up through the 1970s with a focus on Old Masters paintings as well as 19th and early 20th century American art. Found within the papers are biographical materials, artist files, client files, financial records, legal records, printed material, and photographs.
Biographical materials contain greeting cards and post cards, annotated appointment calendars, miscellaneous notes and lists, and an apartment lease.
Artists' files include photographs of artwork, artist biographies, printed materials, and some correspondence with and about the artist. Many of the photographs are annotated. Files are found for Old Masters and American artists, including James G. Clonney, Jon Singleton Copley, Jeremiah P. Hardy, Martin Johnson Heade, Rembrandt Peale, Maurice Prendergast, Everett Shinn, Thomas Sully, and many others. There is also a letter written in 1924 by Ruth Moran along with a photograph of a painting by the artist Thomas Moran, signed by him on the verso.
Extensive client files include notes, correspondence, bills, receipts, and clippings regarding sales and appraisals. Spark's clients included museums, collectors, art dealers, most of which are represented in the files. Notable clients and colleagues include Jacob S. Berliner, Charles W. Engelhard, Alfred V. Frankenstein, Hubert L. Grigaut, Charlotte W. Hardy, Robert Lehman, and Leon Medina. There are also files for many universities, businesses, museums, and galleries.
Financial records comprise the largest series in the collection and include ledgers, stock books, consignment records, scattered banking records, bills, tax documents, auction price lists, check stubs, and cancelled checks.
A small amount of legal records document two legal cases: Rauch v. IRS and Kaufman v. Phoenix (Travelers) Insurance Company for which Spark provided testimony.
Printed materials include clippings, exhibition and auction catalogs, newsletters, bulletins, a membership roster for the San Diego Arts Society, and several 19th century printed items.
Two black and white photographs are of a steam locomotive and an unidentified portraitist in his studio.
This collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1906, 1948-1981 (1.7 linear feet; Box 1-2)
Series 2: Artist Files, 1905-1983 (4 linear feet; Box 2-6, 22)
Series 3: Client Files, 1904, 1927-1981 (7.1 linear feet; Box 6-13)
Series 4: Financial Records, 1930-1981 (8.7 linear feet; Box 13-20, 22-29)
Series 5: Legal Records, 1970-1972 (0.2 linear feet; Box 20)
Series 6: Printed Materials, circa 1830-1872, 1948-1982 (0.2 linear feet; Box 20-22)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1898-circa 1940 (0.1 linear feet; Box 21)
Biographical / Historical:
Victor D. Spark (1898-1991) was a prominent New York City appraiser and art dealer who specialized in Old Masters paintings as well as 19th and early 20th century art.
Spark was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1898. When he was two years old, the Spark family moved to Harlem. His father worked in the hotel business and owned hotels in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Europe. Spark briefly attended the City College of New York before transferring to New York University, where he studied for half a year, then enlisted in the Marines Corps during World War I and served overseas for 2 years. After his discharge, Spark returned to NYU where he majored in French, an interest he acquired during his military service. After graduation, Spark married Nina and went to Europe to help his father manage a summer hotel. There, he became interested in art.
Spark returned to the U.S., continuing to work for his father until 1929. Spark was involved with decorating and furnishing the hotels and often purchased antiques, artwork, and furniture, furthering his arts interests and knowledge. He began working in a gallery, acquiring works of art and dividing the sales profits with the gallery owners. Spark had no formal art education and his taste and eye for art was gained primarily through his travels in Europe. He also had a good business sense about what might sell for profit in the U.S.
Spark made frequent art buying trips across the United States to cities such as Boston and Philadelphia and returned to New York with paintings that he sold. Spark never owned a gallery, but he occasionally held exhibits, such as one titled "101 American Painters," inside the apartment. Although Spark specialized in 19th to early 20th century American art, he also sold European art work acquired during trips to Europe following World War II.
Spark continued his work selling paintings to museums, collectors, and other art dealers, until the 1970s. He was most active from the 1930s through World War II. As a prominent dealer for over four decades, Spark came to know many luminaries of the New York art scene, such as art dealer and gallery owner Edith Halpert. Spark died in 1991.
The Archives of American Art also holds an oral history interview of Victor D. Spark conducted August 5, 1975 by Paul Cummings.
The National Gallery of Art maintains 12,000 photographs and negatives of artwork in their Victor D. Spark photograph collection.
The Victor D. Spark papers were acquired between 1954 and 1996. The first accession of 19th century printed materials and a letter by Ruth Moran was donated by Spark in 1954. The bulk of the collection was purchased jointly by the Archives of American Art and the National Gallery of Art at auction in July 1987. Subsequently, photographs of works of art documenting the collections of the National Gallery of Art were separated and retained by the National Gallery of Art. The papers remained at the Archives of American Art; three letters were later transferred to the Archives from the National Gallery of Art in 1996.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Victor D. Spark 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.
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