The papers of Mildred Constantine measure 5.3 linear feet and are dated 1945-2009. Subject files, writings, photographs, and a scrapbook provide an overview of her curatorial work in the Architecture and Design department of the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequent activities as an independent curator, and art consultant. Especially well documented is Whole Cloth, a book written with Laurel Reuter that presents an historical overview of how artists have used cloth in their work.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Mildred Constantine measure 5.3 linear feet and are dated 1945-2008. Subject files, writings, photographs, and a scrapbook provide an overview of her curatorial work in the Architecture and Design department of the Museum of Modern Art, and subsequent activities as an independent curator, and art consultant. Especially well documented is the book Whole Cloth that she wrote with Laurel Reuter.
Correspondence, though mostly business related, often touches on personal matters since many of the artists and art world figures with whom she corresponded were also friends. Correspondents include Miguel Angel Corzo, Arthur C. Danto, Dorothy Dehner, Allen Hart (who sent more than 40 illustrated letters), Elizabeth Wilder and Donald L. Weisman. She also corresponded with many art institutions and organizations, among them the Cleveland Museum of Art, Independent International Design Conference, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of New Mexico, Ohio State University, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Estate of David Smith.
Subject files reflect Constantine's activities and interests. A large portion of this series concerns Whole Cloth, a book written with Laurel Reuter that presents an historical look at how artists have used cloth in their work. Correspondence between the two authors, with artists, institutions, and others concerns researching and writing the volume. Also documented are the successes and failures of Constantine's decade long pursuit to publish the book. Other substantive files relate to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Getty Conservation Institute, Sheila Hicks, Jack Lenor Larsen, Rhode Island School of Design, and Soviet Film Posters. Files concerning the University of the Arts' 2003 Commencement include a videocassette.
Writings by Constantine are lecture material and notes. Also found are transcripts of interviews with Constantine and writings by others. Printed material includes newspaper and magazine articles about Constantine and her career. A scrapbook of printed material and photographs documents an exhibition of Latin American posters at the Library of Congress organized by Constantine.
Photographs of people include Mildred Constantine with family, friends, artists and others at public and private events around the world. Notable photographs include: Magdalena Abakanowicz, Anni Albers, Alfred Barr, Luis Barragan, Lou Block, Louise Bourgeois, Jagoda Buic, Elaine Lustig Cohen, Charles Coiner, James Marston Fitch, Mathias Goeritz, Ingeborg Ten Haeff, Ann d'Harnoncourt, Sheila Hicks, Richard Koch, Nancy Koenigsberg, Jack Lenor Larsen, Leo Lionni, Roberto Burle Marx, Ruth Reeves, Laurel Reuter, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ben Shahn, Massimo Vignelli, Ulfert Wilke, and Claire Zeisler. Also, there are photographs of artwork by a wide range of artists.
The Mildred Constantine papers are organized into 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1947-1997 (Boxes 1, 6; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1964-2008 (Boxes 1, 6; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1964-2008 (Boxes 2-5; 3.3 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings, 1991-2008 (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1961-2006 (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, 1993 (Box 5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, 1945 (Box 5; 1 folder)
Series 8: Scrapbook, circa 1940s (Box 6; 0.1 linear feet)
Curator and writer Mildred Constantine (1913-2008) was associated with the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design from 1943 to 1971. She then became an art consultant and independent curator, and wrote on fiber and textiles, decorative arts, photography, caricature and cartoons.
Mildred Constantine (known as "Connie") began her career at College Art Association. Hired as a stenographer in 1930, she soon was promoted to editorial assistant for Parnassus, the forerunner of Art Journal.
Constantine left the College Art Association in 1937 to study at New York University and earned BA and MA degrees. She then continued her education at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In 1940, Constantine worked in the Office of Inter-American Affairs at the Library of Congress; it was there that she met René d'Harnoncourt.
Influenced by her 1936 travels in Mexico, Constantine's first curatorial effort was an exhibition of Latin American posters. Drawn from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition was held at the Library of Congress.
At the urging of René d'Harnoncourt, The Museum of Modern Art's Architecture and Design Department hired Constantine in 1943. The majority of her 28 year tenure at the museum was spent working with the department's founder, architect Philip Johnson. As a curator during the 1950s and 1960s, Constantine's innovative exhibitions brought lesser known portions of the museum's collection to public attention. Among her exhibtions were: "Words and Images," that focused on graphic design and posters; "Polio Posters," the first Museum of Modern Art show dedicated to social issues; "Olivetti: Design in Industry;" "Signs in the Street;" and "Lettering by Hand." She also published books on Art Nouveau, contemporary package design, and other subjects.
In 1971, Constantine left the Museum of Modern Art to become an independent curator and art consultant. Exhibitions included "Frontiers in Fiber: The Americans," and "Small Works in Fiber" with Jack Lenor Larsen. Tina Modotti: A Fragile Life, Constantine's book on the photographer, actress, model, and political activist, appeared in 1974. That same year, she and Alan Fern produced Revolutionary Soviet Film Posters that focused on works from the 1920s. Her last published work, Whole Cloth, was written with Laurel Reuter and published in 1997. Constantine continued to research and write, and at the time of her death was working on a large, international survey of the study of thread.
Mildred Constantine and Ralph W. Bettelheim (1909-1993) were married for 50 years. They had two daughters, Judith and Vicki.
Mildred Constantine died from heart failure on December 10, 2008, at home in Nyack, New York.
Oral history interviews with Mildred Constantine were conducted for the Archives of American Art by Harlan Phillips, 1965 October 15, and by Paul Cummings, 1976 May 3-1976 August 26.
The papers were donated to the Archives in 2009 by Mildred Constantine's daughters, Judith Bettelheim and Vicki McDaniel.
Use of origininal material requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Mildred Constantine 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.
2.5 Linear feet ((partially microfilmed on 2 reels))
Scope and Contents:
Drawings, caricatures, scrapbooks, correspondence, photographs, writings, and printed material.
REELS 723-724: Two scrapbooks, 1919-1935 and 1935-1966, containing clippings, exhibition catalogs, and printed materials; and 128 letters from artists, galleries, and art organizations, including American Artists Congress, Associated American Artists Gallery, Thomas Hart Benton, Paul Cadmus, Philip Evergood, Emily Genauer, Julian Levi, Gregorio Prestopino, Zoltan Sepeshy, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, William Zorach, and others.
UNMICROFILMED: Caricatures and portrait drawings by Smith of Jack Chain, Francis Criss, Stuart C. Edie, Philip Evergood, Ernest Fiene, Eugenie Gershoy, Chaim Gross, Nathan Halper, [?] Hunt, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Julian Levi, Reginald Marsh, Jan Matulka, Concetta Scaravaglione, Irving Stone, Chuzo Tamotzu, and unidentified others. Also included is a self-portrait.
ADDITION: Ca. 40 letters; photographs, including Smith, other artists, and Woodstock, NY; draft manuscript for Smith's book, "Art and the Artist and You" (includes copy photographs of illustrations for the book); writings; exhibition catalogs and related printed material; and clippings. Ca. 35 of the letters were previously lent and microfilmed on reels 723-724.
Biographical / Historical:
Watercolor painter; New York, N.Y.
Material on reels 723-724 lent for microfilming 1974 by David Loeffler Smith, Smith's son. He subsequently donated the 2 scrapbooks and some correspondence from the loan, along with additional unmicrofilmed material, in 1983 and 1994.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Watercolorists -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
Series 1: Correspondence, 1932-1977 is arranged alphabetically by correspondent. In 1965, Marx gave the Library of Congress a portion of his correspondence with well-known personages. The majority of the correspondence in this collection dates from the post World War II era (Marx's early correspondence is located at the Library of Congress.) This series includes correspondence from well-known persons, fans, admirers and friends. There is an extensive amount of correspondence with the screenwriter Nunnally Johnson. The series includes letters concerning public relations, Walt Disney caricatures of the Marx Brothers, The Grouchophile permission letters, unidentified correspondence and one letter from Chico Marx to Gummo Marx.
Series 2: Publications, Manuscripts and Print Articles by Marx, 1930-1958, undated is arranged chronologically with circa and undated material placed before the book manuscripts. This series contains written material by Groucho Marx excepting scripts and sketches. The series includes articles written by Marx for national magazines, various speeches and manuscripts for three of Marx's books.
Series 3: Scripts and Sketches, 1939-1959, undated, is arranged alphabetically with television scripts and sketches placed before full-length movie and theatre scripts. This series contains television, motion picture and theatre scripts and sketches, monologues, and related written material pertaining to works starring or featuring Marx. It also contains scripts for the one theatrical play written by Marx, A Time for Elizabeth.
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1923-1978 is arranged chronologically and contains sixteen scrapbooks spanning Marx's career from his first Broadway success, I'll Say She Is to the year after his death. Of particular interest are the early scrapbooks for the Marx Brothers career, a scrapbook spanning the years 1934-1958 complied by Marx himself for his daughter Melinda, a photographic scrapbook compiled by the staff of Life magazine documenting a 1963 magazine layout of Marx and his then wife Eden Hartford Marx. There is also a scrapbook devoted to Chico Marx's brief career as a bandleader in the mid-late 1940s.
Series 5: Music,circa 1930-1975, undated is arranged alphabetically and includes original music manuscripts written by Marx and songs for Marx's shows and motion pictures and unidentified manuscripts perhaps written by Marx, his friends, his daughter Melinda or her music teacher. It also includes commercially produced sheet music purchased by Marx, copies of songs featured in Marx's motion pictures, music from "Minnie's Boys the theatrical production based on the Marx Brothers and their mother, an autographed copy of "Stay Down Here Where You Belong" by Irving Berlin, songs written by Marx published commercially, and Marx's copy of a collection of songs by Gilbert and Sullivan.
Series 6: Publicity, ca. 1911-1977 contains theatre programs, motion picture reviews, newspaper clippings both foreign and domestic, record album covers, a book cover and one poster of the Marx Brothers. There are items related specifically to Chico Marx. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series 7: Artwork and Photographs, 1911-1976, undatedis arranged according to subject matter and includes artwork, features cartoons and caricatures of the Marx Brothers by various artists including the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer art department and Hirschfield, sketches of the Marx Brothers by Sheila Smith, Peggy Jacobs, Bridget Crowe and Mark E. Williams (all probably fans of the Marx Brothers), various candid photographs, publicity photographs and studio portraits of Marx, his brothers, his immediate family, correspondence and related images and photographic negatives and transparencies.
Series 8: Personal and Family Documents, 1925-1975, undated contains documents relating to Marx's personal life and his brothers Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, and his daughter Melinda. Of particular interest is Marx's copy of the transcript of his divorce deposition from Eden Hartford Marx, two proclamations from the City of Los Angeles and a portfolio cover made for him by his daughter Melinda. This series is arranged chronologically.
Series 9: Audiovisual, 1929-1970 includes home movies of Groucho, brothers Harpo and Chico, and Groucho's wife and children as well as film and kinescope copies of television programs featureing Groucho as the star or guest.
The collection is organized into 9 series.
Series 1: Correspondence,1932-1977
Series 2: Publications, Manuscripts, and Print Articles by Groucho Marx, 1930-1958, undated
Series 3: Scripts and Sketches, 1939-1959, undated
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1923-1978
Series 5: Music, circa 1930-1975, undated
Subseries 5.1: Original Music Manuscrpts
Subseries 5.2: Commercially Produced Sheet Music and Collections
Series 6: Publicity, circa 1911-1977
Series 7: Artwork and Photographs, 1911-1976, undated
Subseries 7.1: Artwork
Subseries 7.2: Photographs
Subseries 7.3: Photographic Negatives and Transparencies
Series 8: Personal and Family Documents, 1925-1978, undated
Series 9: Audiovisual
Subseries 9.1: Moving Images
Subseries 9.2: Sound Recordings
Biographical / Historical:
One of 20th century America's most enduring comics and cultural icons was Groucho Marx. Julius Henry Marx, better known as Groucho, was born in New York City on October 2, 1890. He was the third of five sons born to Minna and Samuel Marx. Minna's brother, Al Shean, was a part of the well-known vaudeville team, Gallagher and Shean.
The Marx family consisted of five boys: Leonard (Chico), Arthur (Harpo), Julius (Groucho), Milton (Gummo) and Herbert (Zeppo). The family lived in the Yorkville section of New York City. Groucho had a high soprano singing voice and his first job was singing in the choir of an Episcopal church. He joined Gus Hall and his vaudeville troupe when he was eleven. Groucho attended P.S. 86 but never went beyond the 7th grade. Minna organized the Three Nightingales with Groucho, Gummo and a girl singer. The girl was eventually replaced by a boy tenor and Harpo joined the troupe. The name of the group was changed to The Four Nightingales. Minnie acted as the group's manager. The group became known as the Marx Brothers with everyone except Gummo taking part in the act. The family moved to Chicago ca. 1904 where their grandfather lived.
The brothers toured the South and Midwest performing a vaudeville skit called, "Fun in Hiskule". It is noted that the comedy act began in Nacogdoches, Texas. The Marx Brothers first big success came in 1919 with their vaudeville act entitled "Home Again". In 1920, they were booked into the Palace Theatre in New York City and played there for thirteen months. They were later banished from the circuit due to a contract violation - they had accepted employment without Albee's permission. Groucho married Ruth Johnson on February 4th, 1920 and divorced her in July 1942. They had one daughter, Miriam and one son, Arthur born in 1921.
In 1923, they toured with the show, "I'll Say She Is", a collection of vaudeville routines that Groucho had written in collaboration. The show ran on Broadway for thirty-eight weeks. On December 8, 1925, the brothers (using their nicknames professionally for the first time) opened on Broadway in "The Cocoanuts". The play was written expressly for them by George S. Kaufman and Morris Ryskind with music by Irving Berlin. The brothers made a silent film circa 1924 called "Humor Risk" but it was never released. "Animal Crackers" opened on October 23, 1928. It was in this show that Groucho created one of his most famous characters, Captain Spaulding, the African explorer. Groucho was by this time paired with Margaret Dumont, stooge and foil, whom Groucho claimed never, really understood the Marx Brothers comedy.
On the strength of their success in "The Cocoanuts", they were signed to a film contract. In 1929, they made the film version of "The Cocoanuts" while performing "Animal Crackers" on the stage. Their mother, Minna Marx died the same year. The following year they starred in the film version of "Animal Crackers". Both films were made in New York City. In 1931, Groucho moved to Hollywood where The Marx Brothers made thirteen films. The brothers signed with Paramount Pictures and made "Monkey Business" (1931), "Horsefeathers" (1932) and "Duck Soup" (1933) while at the studio. In 1933, Zeppo left the troupe and Samuel Marx died.
In February 1934, Groucho and Chico teamed up in a radio program called, "Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel", about characters who were comic lawyers. In March 1934, they replaced Ethel Waters on a weekly radio series sponsored by the American Oil Company. In 1935, the brothers starred in "A Night at the Opera" for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a film produced by Irving Thalberg and a sequel, "A Day at the Races" (1937). In addition to working for MGM, the brothers starred in "Room Service" (1938) for the RKO studio.
The brothers discontinued the act in September 1941 but reunited for the film "A Night in Casablanca" (1946) and "Love Happy" (1949). Groucho found work as a solo artist making films for RKO, Warner Brothers and Paramount. In March 1943, the Pabst Blue Ribbon Brewery sponsored a half-hour variety show on CBS starring Groucho. Groucho married his second wife, Catherine "Kay" Gorcey in July 1945, they had one daughter Melinda. They divorced in 1951. Groucho continued to guest on many radio shows and continued to be at his peak when ad-libbing. John Guedel created "You Bet Your Life" for Groucho in October 1947. The show aired over the ABC radio network. It moved to CBS and in 1950 it was purchased by NBC and ran on television until 1961. The show ran for a total of four years on radio and eleven years on television. Groucho won radio's Peabody Award as best comedian on radio in 1948; an Emmy award in 1951; and the Motion Picture Daily Annual TV poll from 1951-1954.
Groucho was also musical. He played the guitar, but never as part of his shows. He was also an author and a playwright. He wrote the stage play, "A Time for Elizabeth", in 1948 with Norman Krasna. The play ran for eight days on Broadway but had longer runs in summer stock. In July 1954, Groucho married his third and final wife Eden Hartford. They divorced in December of 1969. In 1967, Simon and Schuster published excerpts from letters Groucho had donated to the Library of Congress in 1965. The book was entitled The Groucho Letters. Groucho authored other books, Groucho and Me (1959) his autobiography, The Secret Word is Groucho (1976) with Hector Arce and The Grouchophile (1976).
Groucho retired in 1961 but in 1972 with the help Erin Fleming, his companion and manager since 1969, he toured in a solo act. The show entitled, "An Evening with Groucho" played Carnegie Hall in New York City in May 1972. Groucho was made a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972. In 1974, Groucho received an honorary Academy Award (Oscar) for the contribution of the Marx Brothers to the art of film. Marx died on August 19th, 1977.
Collection donated by Julius H. (Groucho) Marx, through the Estate of Groucho Marx, August 5, 1987.
Collection is open for research. Reference copies of audiovisual materials must be used.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.