The papers of painter, printmaker, and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn measure 14.6 linear feet and 5.88 GB and date from 1872 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-2004. Found within the papers are family and biographical materials, correspondence, writings including sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns, some in digital format, voluminous notebooks, five diaries, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, seven scrapbooks, one sketchbook and other art work, and photographs. Although the bulk of the collection documents Bernarda's work, there are materials about or created by Ben Shahn scattered throughout the collection. There is a 2.7 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2011 that includes administrative files regarding Bernarda Shahn's work on the board of Skowhegan correspondence of both Bernarda and Ben Shahn; an inventory ledger with names of works of art by Ben Shahn; a scrapbook regarding Ben Shan's work in Japan; photographs of Ben and Bernarda Shahn and images of works of art by Ben Shahn; sketchbooks and notebooks by Ben and Bernarda Shahn; and printed material.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter, printmaker, and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn measure 11.9 linear feet and 5.88 GB and date from 1872 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-2004. Found within the papers are family and biographical materials, correspondence, writings including sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns, voluminous notebooks, five diaries, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, seven scrapbooks, one sketchbook and other art work, and photographs. Although the bulk of the collection documents Bernarda's work, there are materials about or created by Ben Shahn scattered throughout the collection. There is a 2.7 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2011 that includes administrative files regarding Bernarda Shahn's work on the board of Skowhegan correspondence of both Bernarda and Ben Shahn; an inventory ledger with names of works of art by Ben Shahn; a scrapbook regarding Ben Shan's work in Japan; photographs of Ben and Bernarda Shahn and images of works of art by Ben Shahn; sketchbooks and notebooks by Ben and Bernarda Shahn; and printed material.
Biographical material includes biographical accounts for Bernarda and Ben Shahn, identification cards, membership cards, awards, appointment books and calendars, address books, and a video recording.
Correspondence is primarily between Bernarda Bryson Shahn and publishers, educational institutions, and colleagues and friends including Leo Lionni, Russell Lynes, Robert Osborn, and Warren Robbins.
There are four linear feet of notes, notebooks, typescripts, and other writings by Bernarda Bryson Shahn and others, many of which concern Ben Shahn. Included are numerous files of research notes for published and planned books about Ben Shahn, notebooks concerning art-related topics, card files of art work, lists, sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns and Gwen Knight, some in digital format, and many typescripts of writings about art and Ben Shahn, among other topics. There is also a folder of notes by Ben Shahn for the Mural for the Rural Rehabilitation Program. Five of Bernarda Shahn's diaries contain very brief daily entries and some illustrations. The 1972 diary contains much more elaborate illustrations.
The exhibition files contain letters, notes, and printed material concerning exhibitions of art work by Ben Shahn.
Personal business records include files concerning property, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, miscellaneous contracts, files concerning publishing, art price lists, and other scattered legal and/or financial records.
Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases for Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others, books including A Partridge in a Pear Tree, illustrated by Ben Shahn, and printed reproductions of art work. Seven scrapbooks also contain printed materials, notes, and photographs. Scrapbooks 1-4 document the creation of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial for which Jonathan Shahn created the large portrait bust. Scrapbooks 5-7 concern a book by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, and scrapbook 8 contains obituaries for Ben Shahn.
Art work includes a sketchbook with annotations, drawings, a portfolio of drawings, lettering designs, watercolor sketches, and layouts for publications.
Photographs are of unidentified and identified Shahn family members, Ben Shahn, Ben Shahn with friends and colleagues including Alexander Calder, Helen Hayes, Senator Jacob Javitz, and Nelson Rockefeller, Ben Shahn's studio, exhibition installations, and art work by Bernarda Bryson Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others. There are also travel photographs.
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1937-1999 (Box 1, 13; 35 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1934-2004 (Box 1-5, 13, OV 14; 3.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1946-2001 (Box 5-9; 4.0 linear feet, ER01-ER09; 5.88 GB)
Series 4: Diaries, 1965-1985 (Box 9; 5 folders)
Series 5: Exhibition Files, 1955-2000 (Box 9; 5 folders)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1932-2001 (Box 9, 10; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1904-2004 (Box 10-11, 13, OV 14-15; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1945-1978 (Box 11, 13, OV 15; 30 folders)
Series 9: Art Work, 1970-2002 (Box 11-13, OV 14; 70 folders)
Series 10: Photographs, 1872-1985 (Box 12; 34 folders)
Series 11: Unprocessed Addition, circa 1904-2004 (Box 16-19, OV 20; 2.7 linear feet)
Bernarda Bryson Shahn (1903-2004) worked primarily in New Jersey as a painter, printmaker, and illustrator. She was married to Ben Shahn and often collaborated with him.
Bernarda Bryson was born on March 7, 1903 in Athens, Ohio, the daughter of the owner-editor of newspaper The Athens Morning Journal. After receiving early drawing and painting lessons from her mother, Bryson attended a private girls' school where she continued her studies in art and art history.
At Ohio University, Bryson majored in philosophy and attended art classes in which David Smith was a classmate. She later attended the Cleveland Art School where she studied printmaking.
Following graduation, Bryson taught etching and lithography at the art school of the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art. She also wrote for The Ohio State Journal and became editor of community paper The South Side Advocate. While in New York City to interview Diego Rivera, she met Ben Shahn who was assisting Rivera in painting the mural at Rockefeller Center. Bernarda Bryson and Ben Shahn were married in 1935.
Bernarda Bryson Shahn moved to New York and helped organize the Artists' Union and exhibited at the Whitney Gallery on Eighth Street. She then went to Woodstock to study lithography with Bolton Brown and was invited to set up a lithographic shop for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn executed illustrations for Harper's Magazine, Scientific American and Fortune in addition to random assignments from Life, Sports Illustrated and other publications. She illustrated many books including Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice as well as writing and illustrating her own books Gilgamesh, The Twenty Miracles of Saint Nicolas, and The Zoo of Zeus. Following the death of her husband in 1969, she wrote and designed a large monograph Ben Shahn, published by Abrams.
In the mid-1970s, Bernarda Bryson Shahn won further recognition when she returned to painting.
Bernarda Bryson Shahn died on December 12, 2004 in Roosevelt, New Jersey.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral histories with Bernarda Bryson Shahn, one completed in 1983 by Liza Kirwin and another in 1995 by Pamela Meecham. The Archives also holds the Ben Shahn papers.
Donated 1983 by Bernarada Bryson Shahn and in 2005 and 2011 by Bernarda Brsyon Shahn estate via Jonathan Shahn and Abigail Shahn, co-executors.
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Bernarda Bryson Shahn 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.
John Kinard provides an introduction to the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum (ANM) and the Sixth Anniversary Seminar. As the keynote speaker, Edmund Barry Gaither provides his thoughts on museums: the concept of the museum and its intentions, particularly the roles of specialty museums; the desirable museum scene; and neighborhood museums and their unique potential. Louise Hutchinson, ANM historian, presents the history of Anacostia with a slideshow. Zora Martin-Felton, ANM education specialist, talks about the importance of community engagement in the evolution of a museum and its exhibits, working with children in the community, working with docents, and the current ANM exhibit about Africa. Gregory Reynolds, former member of ANM's Youth Advisory Council, provides his thoughts on the evolution of ANM and the Youth Advisory Council; ANM staff and board of directors; and the relationship of ANM to the community of Anacostia. Warren M. Robbins, founder of Museum of African Art, discusses the functions of museums; and museums' past preoccupation with objects and current preoccupation with public interest. Theresa Jones talks about the relevancy of ANM to community action agencies, and how ANM has served community action agencies. Finally, David Challinor talks about traditional museums, and Stanley J. Anderson speaks about the community based, or neighborhood, museum. A question and answer session follows each group of speakers.
Seminar. Part of Conference Recordings. AV003071: part 1. AV003056: part 2. AV000792: part 3. AV000788: part 4. AV003054: part 5. Presentations often continue onto the following recording. Dated: 19730921 and 19730922. AV003054: undated.
Title transcribed from physical asset.
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Some items are not accessible due to obsolete format and playback machinery restrictions. Please contact the archivist at email@example.com.
The papers of New York City sculptor and teacher Chaim Gross measure 21.1 linear feet and date from 1920-2004. The collection provides comprehensive documentation of Gross's career through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence with family, artists, writers, galleries, museums, educational institutions, and religious and philanthropic organizations, writings, personal business records, extensive printed and published material including motion picture film and video recordings of four documentaries, one hundred and fifteen sketchbooks spanning the bulk of Gross's career, and photographs of Gross, his family, many friends and colleagues from the art world, his studio, personal art collection, and works of art. An unprocessed addition of three sketchbooks was donated in 2020.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of New York City sculptor and teacher Chaim Gross measure 21.1 linear feet and date from 1920-2004. The collection provides comprehensive documentation of Gross's career through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence with family, artists, writers, galleries, museums, educational institutions, and religious and philanthropic organizations, writings, personal business records, extensive printed and published material including motion picture film and video recordings of four documentaries, one hundred and fifteen sketchbooks spanning the bulk of Gross's career, and photographs of Gross, his family, many friends and colleagues from the art world, his studio, personal art collection, and works of art.
Biographical material includes records collated to document awards and honors given to Gross documenting the recognition he received for his lifelong achievements in the last two decades of his career, including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design. The series also includes Gross's birth certificate printed in 1920, some biographical notes and resumes prior to the 1970s, documentation of Gross's business and personal contacts through addresses and business cards, and a motion picture film of a documentary about Gross, Art and the Model, made in 1976 by Thea Bay and edited by Bob Worth.
Personal and professional correspondence constitutes the largest series in the collection and documents all aspects of Gross's prolific career including: personal letters from friends and family such as daughter Mimi Gross and Red Grooms; professional correspondence with galleries, museums, and other art institutions including the Jewish Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Whitney Museum of American Art; correspondence documenting commissions, loans, and sales of Gross's artwork through galleries including Forum Gallery; and correspondence with synagogues including International Synagogue, Temple Sharaay Tefila, and Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh, and multiple other Jewish organizations such as Hadassah and State of Israel Bonds. Correspondence also documents publications by and about Gross including letters from Abe Lerner, the Jewish Publication Society of America, Chaim Potok, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; Gross's work as a teacher including at the Educational Alliance and the New School for Social Research; and the significance of Gross's personal collection of African art through correspondence with Warren M. Robbins, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, and others. Gross's work for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project and Treasury Relief Project, as well as for the 1939 World's Fair, is also documented in this series and includes contracts and correspondence with Ed Rowan.
Correspondence includes many letters from artist friends and colleagues including Isabel Bishop, Peter Blume, Eliot Elisofon, Eugenie Gershoy, Milton Hebald, Lewis Jacobs, Karl Knaths, Arnold Newman, Elias Newman, Saul Rosen, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Nicholas Sperakis, William and Marguerite Zorach, and many others. Writers and scholars who corresponded with Gross include Samuel French Morse, Jack C. Rich, Shea Tenenbaum, Roberta Tarbell, and others.
Writings primarily consist of a partial draft of Gross's book The Technique of Wood Sculpture but also include a copy of his first published article in 1938 in the American Federation of Arts Magazine of Art, and a few short writings by Gross on other artists. Writings by others include a memoir of Gross's boyhood written by his brother, poet Naftoli Gross.
Gross's personal business records are scattered, as many transactional records are included with his correspondence. They do include lists of Gross's artwork and his personal art collection, two agreements for rights to use his work, appraisals of twelve of his works of art, and receipts of consignments, sales, loans, and gifts of artwork.
Printed material is a comprehensive and substantial record of Gross's exhibitions, and his prolific engagement in the arts and his community throughout his long career. This series includes announcements and catalogs for many of his exhibitions, brochures and programs for art organizations for which he exhibited, taught, donated to, or was otherwise represented in, notably the Educational Alliance, the New School for Social Research, the Sculptors Guild, Inc., and numerous other private and public museums, galleries, and institutions. Also found is circa one linear foot of clippings about Gross that span his career from newspapers, magazines, and journals, including some Hebrew and Yiddish publications. The series also houses video recordings of the documentaries Tree Trunk to Head and A Sculptor Speaks, and an NBC broadcast of an interview with Gross entitled The Two Chaims, as the motion picture film, A Sculptor Speaks.
Sketchbooks provide a unique visual record of Gross's development and the shifting focus of his subject matter from 1933 to right before his death in 1991. They record his early subjects of acrobatic models, family bonds, and landscapes, and the emergence of darker "fantasy" drawings in the wake of the Holocaust and World War II which brought the news of the murder of his brother and sister and her family by the Nazis. The sketchbooks document Gross's travels abroad during the 1960s, and his incorporation of Jewish iconography and Old Testament themes in the 1960s and 1970s. They also illustrate how the constant theme of the celebration of the human form persisted in his work to the end of his life.
Photographs of people and events, although only measuring 0.7 linear feet, provide a rich visual record of Gross's life and his professional and personal relationships from the time he arrived in the United States in 1920 to the late 1980s. The earliest photographs picture Gross with his brothers and with new friends at the Educational Alliance including Moses and Raphael Soyer, Peter Blume, and Elias Newman. There are many photographs of Gross working in his studios, and at the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, photographs taken at parties, exhibition openings, receptions, and other events, and photographs of Gross's art collection and exhibition installations. Photographs picture artists such as Hyman Brown, Jose de Creeft, Joseph Hirsch, Moses Soyer, and Raphael Soyer; and gallery owners and collectors including Bella Fishko, Joseph Hirshhorn, Sidney Janis, and Warren M. Robbins. The series also houses photographs of works of art, primarily sculpture, executed by Gross between 1922 and 1987.
An unprocessed addition of three sketchbooks was donated in 2020.
The collection is arranged as eight series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1920-circa 1991 (0.35 linear feet; Box 1, FC23)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1926-1997 (8.75 linear feet; Boxes 1-9, 22)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1938-circa 1980s (0.25 linear feet; Boxes 9-10)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1936-1982 (0.25 linear feet; Box 10)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1925-2004 (3.7 linear feet; Boxes 10-14, 22, FC 24)
Series 6: Sketchbooks, 1933-1991 (6.1 linear feet; Boxes 14-19, 22)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1921-circa 1990s (1.5 linear feet; Boxes 20-22)
Series 8: Unprocessed Addition, 1949-1951 (0.2 linear feet; Box 25)
Biographical / Historical:
New York City sculptor and teacher Chaim Gross (1904-1991) is considered one of America's foremost sculptors, known for his semi-abstract bronzes celebrating the human form, and his pioneering work in direct wood carving. Gross taught for over fifty years at the Educational Alliance Art School and for forty years at the New School for Social Research.
Born in 1904 in Wolowa, Galicia, in what is now the Ukraine, Gross studied at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest in 1919 and at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna in 1920 before immigrating to New York in 1921. He attended the Lower East Side Educational Art School in New York City from 1921-1927 where he began lifelong friendships with artists Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Peter Blume and other important twentieth century artists. Gross also studied with Elie Nadelman at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design and Robert Laurent at the Art Students League. He began teaching at the Educational Alliance in 1927 where his students included Louise Nevelson.
Gross married Renee Nechin in 1932 and they had two children, Yehuda and Miriam (Mimi). Mimi Gross is a New York-based artist who was married to artist Red Grooms from 1963-1976.
Gross's first solo exhibition was held at Gallery 144 in New York City in 1932, and he began to develop a reputation as a major contemporary sculptor when he joined the Federal Art Project in 1934 and won a commission from the Treasury Department competition for art works for public buildings in 1936. His projects included relief panels for the Federal Trade Commission building in Washington, D. C., and a large-scale family group for the France Overseas and Finnish Buildings at the 1939 New York World's Fair. In 1938 Gross founded the Sculptors Guild with William Zorach and served as the guild's first president. His work began to be acquired by major American museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art which in 1939 awarded Gross a $3000 purchase prize for his wood sculpture of circus performer Lillian Leitzel.
In 1938 filmmaker Lewis Jacobs produced a thirty minute film, Tree Trunk to Head, of Gross carving a wood sculpture of Renee Gross in his studio. Lewis subsequently produced a seventeen minute film, The Sculptor Speaks, of Gross working in his studio in 1957. That same year Gross published an influential how-to book The Technique of Wood Sculpture, featuring photographs by Eliot Elisofon.
Much of Gross's early work focused on performers such as acrobats and dancers, family groups, and the mother and child bond. The bulk of his work was in wood, particularly hardwoods with a dark or pronounced grain. In the 1940s, after hearing that his brother Pincus and sister Sarah and her family had been murdered by the Nazis, Gross devoted time daily to sketching in his notebooks, producing a visual diary of the emotional trauma involved in processing their horrific fate and navigating his own grief. A collection of the drawings was published in Chaim Gross: Fantasy Drawings (Beechurst Press) in 1956. Gross carved My Sister Sarah – in Memoriam (no. 36) in 1947 and made the first of seven trips to Israel in 1949.
By the late 1950s Gross was working less in direct carving and was focusing primarily on modeling in plaster on an armature for casting in bronze. In 1957 and 1959 he traveled to Rome, Italy, and worked with the Nicci Foundry. Bella Fishko began representing Gross's work after establishing Forum Gallery in New York City in 1961. After 1947 Gross had begun to incorporate more Jewish iconography and Old Testament themes into his work, designing and casting large scale menorahs for synagogues such as Temple Sinai in Pittsburgh and the Menorah Home for the Aged in Brooklyn during the 1960s. He executed six bronze panels, entitled Six Days of Creation, for Temple Sharaay Tefila in New York City in 1964, and Ten Commandments for the International Synagogue at Kennedy Airport in 1970-1971. In 1973 Gross illustrated The Book of Isaiah, published by the Jewish Publication Society of America.
Gross was active in many art-related and philanthropic organizations throughout his life and was the recipient of numerous awards, honors, and honorary degrees. He was elected to membership of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964, became an Academician at the National Academy of Design in 1983, and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1984. A solo exhibition Chaim Gross: Sculpture and Drawings, was held at the Smithsonian's National Collection of Fine Arts in 1974. In 1977 Gross had three retrospective exhibitions at the Lowe Art Museum at the University of Miami, the Montclair Art Museum, and the Jewish Museum in New York City. Scholar Roberta Tarbell wrote a key essay on Gross for the Jewish Museum exhibition.
In addition to being a professor of sculpture and printmaking at the Educational Alliance Art School and the New School for Social Research, Gross taught at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, the art school of the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Students League.
Gross had begun collecting African sculpture in the 1930s and was later introduced by art critic Frank Getlein to Warren M. Robbins, who established the Museum of African Art in 1964. Gross gave Robbins several pieces for the museum and connected him with other individuals whose private collections of African art Robbins learned would be key to the success of the museum. A selection from Gross's renowned collection was exhibited at the Worcester Art Museum in The Sculptor's Eye: The African Art Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Chaim Gross in 1976.
The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation was created in 1974 at 526 LaGuardia Place, the historic Greenwich Village townhouse which Chaim and Renee Gross purchased in 1962 and renovated to include studio and gallery space with living quarters above. Three years after Gross's death in 1991, the Renee and Chaim Gross foundation opened to the public with a memorial exhibition of the sculptor's work. 526 LaGuardia Place continues to house an extensive collection of Gross's artwork, a photographic archive, and Gross's personal art collection. Gross's work is represented in major museums throughout the United States and abroad, with the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden housing the largest collection of his sculpture in a public museum.
Additional Chaim Gross papers are held by Syracuse University.
The Archives of American Art also holds an oral history interview of Chaim Gross conducted 1964 September 1 by Dorothy Seckler and an oral history interview of Chaim Gross conducted 1981 May 26-27 by Milton Wolf Brown.
The Archives of American Art holds the microfilm (Reels D115a, 924, and 925) of ten record books, 1926-1975, containing rough drawings of artworks, dimensions, titles, dates, materials, production locations, and information regarding owners. The record books were returned to the donor after microfilming and are not described in the collection container inventory.
The Chaim Gross papers were given to the Archives of American Art in a series of accessions by Chaim Gross from 1963-1983. Thirteen postcards were given by Mrs. Irving Marantz in 1975. Mimi Gross donated eight letters and two envelopes in 2005. Additional papers were donated by the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in 2016 via Susan Fisher, executive Director, and in 2017 and 2020 by the Foundation via Sasha Davis, Interim Director and Curator of Collections.
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 Reference Services for more information.
One folder of letters, Box 3, Folder 63: permission to reproduce for purposes of publication requires written permission from Mimi Gross.