The papers, 1878-1964 (20.5 linear feet) of museum curator, director, and art scholar William Mills Ivins (1881-1961) consist of correspondence, writings, notes, photographs, and Ivins family papers. Ivins was Curator of Prints, 1916-1946, Assistant Director, 1933-1938, and Acting Director, 1938-1940 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection contains professional and personal correspondence with art historians, art dealers, museum curators, print and book collectors, and artists concerning the history of print making, book design and illustration, print collectors and collecting, exhibitions, and museum administration. Also found are Ivins' published and unpublished writings and lectures, and notes. The collection contains some Ivins' family papers including family correspondence, genealogies, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers, 1878-1964 (20.5 linear feet) of museum curator, director, and art scholar William Mills Ivins (1881-1961) consist of personal and professional correspondence, writings, notes, photographs, and Ivins family papers. Ivins was Curator of Prints, 1916-1946, Assistant Director, 1933-1938, and Acting Director, 1938-1940 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection contains professional and personal correspondence with art historians, art dealers, museum curators, print and book collectors, and artists concerning the history of print making, book design and illustration, print collectors and collecting, exhibitions, and museum administration. Correspondence files appear to be complete, and correspondence is of substantive content. Also found are Ivins' published and unpublished writings and lectures, and notes. Of particular interest are the letters from Bernard Berenson, Paul J. Sachs, and Theodore Sizer, each of whom corresponded with Ivins freqently over extended periods about both personal and professional and matters.
Ivins' family papers include family correspondence, genealogies, and photographs. The papers of Ivin's wife, illustrator Florence Wyman Ivins (1881-1948), and the correspondence of several other relatives, can be found here augmented by family photographs.
The collection has been arranged into 7 series. The contents and organization are noted in the individual series descriptions.
Series 1: Professional and Personal Papers, circa 1908-1961 (Boxes 1-8; 6.5 linear ft.)
Series 2: Writings, circa 1910-1960 (Boxes 8-12; 4.9 linear ft.)
Series 3: Publications, 1896-1958 (Boxes 13-14; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 4: Miscellaneous, 1915, undated (Box 15; 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 5: Ivins Family Papers, 1878-1964, undated (Boxes 16-20; 4.5 linear ft.)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1890-1940 (Boxes 20-21; 1.5 linear ft.)
Series 7: Oversized Material, 1897-1950 (1 OV folder)
William Mills Ivins, Jr. (1881-1961), a lawyer, first became interested in collecting prints and illustrated books while an undergraduate at Harvard. He studied the history of printmaking through self-directed reading, by looking at prints in the major European libraries and museums, and tried his hand at many of the printmaking processes. While practicing law, he wrote articles and organized some small exhibitions of prints as early as 1908. In 1916, the Metropolitan Museum of Art appointed its first Curator of Prints to organize a Department of Prints and Drawings and to develop its small existing collection. Upon the recommendation of Paul J. Sachs who was unable to accept the position, Ivins was selected. He held the post until his retirement some thirty years later.
During his tenure as Curator of Prints, Ivins became one of the most highly-respected individuals in the profession. Under Ivins the collection grew in scope, size, and quality; he acquired materials by cultivating potential donors, and through systematic purchase of pieces not likely to come into the collection by bequest. The department's active exhibition schedule included some especially noteworthy shows, such as The Arts of the Book in 1924.
Ivins was knowledgeable and shared information by writing several books on prints and the history of printmaking, and by writing large numbers of articles for the educated layman. His articles often highlighted items in the permanent collection, and frequently appeared in the museum's Bulletin. He was interested in perspective, psychology of perception, aesthetics, mathematics and modern philosophy, and wrote on these topics, as well.
He was an accomplished speaker and was in much demand as a lecturer. Of particular note were his series on Illustrated Books of the Renaissance at the Morgan Library in 1936, and the 1950 Lowell Lectures (subsequently published under the title Prints and Visual Communication).
In addition to his curatorial duties, Ivins served as Assistant Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art between 1933 and 1938, and was its Acting Director from 1938 until 1940. Francis Henry Taylor was appointed Director in 1940, and Ivins was named to the newly created post of Counselor; failure to attain the directorship was a bitter disappointment, which many attributed to his lack of tact and generally difficult disposition.
Ivins retired in 1946, and continued to write and publish until the mid-1950's. During this period he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Yale University (1946), made an honorary fellow of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1946), named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1950), and invited to deliver the annual lectures at the Lowell Institute (1950). He died at the age of eighty in 1961, after several years of declining health.
Ivins' private collection of prints and illustrated books, which he had continued to amass through the 1930's, was partially dispersed during his lifetime through gifts to the Metropolitan Museum and to a number of university and special libraries. The portion remaining in his estate was sold at auction by Parke Bernet between 1962 and 1964.
1881 -- born to William Mills Ivins and Emma Yard Ivins, Flatbush, N.Y.
1897 -- graduation from St. Paul's School, Concord, N.H.
1901 -- graduation from Harvard (A.B.)
1901-1902 -- travelled in Europe with Paul Haviland, and studied economics at University of Munich
1902-1904 -- employed by The World's Work, writing articles on economic and artistic subjects
1907 -- graduation from Columbia School of Law
1907-1916 -- practiced law in New York City: Ivins, Wolff and Houget for New York Public Service Commission, 1907-1908; Strong and Cadwallader, 1908-1909; Cravath, Henderson, and der Gersdorff, 1909-1916
1908 -- arranged first exhibition of prints, Keppel & Co,
1910 -- marriage to Florence Wyman, an illustrator
1916 -- appointed first Curator of Prints, Metropolitan Museum of Art
c. 1927-1935 -- served on editorial board of Metropolitan Museum Studies
1933-1938 -- Assistant Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art
1937 -- Morgan Library Lectures
1938 -- Honorary Curator of Prints and Drawings, Morgan Library
1938-1940 -- Acting Director, Metropolitan Museum of Art (Note: Mr. Ivins continued to act as Curator of Prints during periods when he was assigned other major administrative responsibilities at the museum)
1940 -- Counselor, Metropolitan Museum of Art
1946 -- Honorary Fellow, Metropolitan Museum of Art; retirement from Metropolitan Museum of Art; Honorary Doctorate, Yale University
1950 -- Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences; Lowell Lectures (published in 1953 under the title Prints and Visual Communication)
1961 -- death
1962-1964 -- Ivins Collection of Prints and Illustrated Books sold at auction by Parke Bernet
1977-1983 -- William M. Ivins, Jr. Papers donated to the Archives of American Art by his daughter, Barbara Ivins
The William Mills Ivins, Jr., papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by his daughter, Barbara Ivins, in several installments between 1977 and 1983.
Use of unmicrofilmed material in the holdings of the Archives of American Art requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C., facility.
Primarily records of the San Francisco Art Association (1871-1920), but also of the California School of Design (1873-1905) (briefly called the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in 1893), the Palace of Fine Arts (1915-1945), The Western Round Table on Modern Art (1949), the San Francisco Art Institute (1911-1978), the San Francisco Museum of Art (1921-1970), and the Douglas MacAgy papers (1944-1950).
REELS 1288-1289: 3 vol. containing minutes of board of trustees meetings of the Association and Institute, 1871-1915, and minutes of the meetings of the board of directors of the California School of Design, 1873-1905.
REELS 2429-2433: Historical data contains material relating to the museum. San Francisco Art Association records include correspondence; photographs; membership records; organizational and registrarial records; reports; printed material; and materials regarding the Palace of Fine Arts. San Francisco Museum of Art section includes correspondence; minutes of board meetings; reports; legal documents; clippings; and printed materials. "Western Round Table on Modern Art" conference sponsored by SFAA, April 8-10, 1949, includes letters to organizer Douglas MacAgy regarding arrangements, publicity, and comments, including several from participants Gregory Bateson, Kenneth Burke, George Boas, Marcel Duchamp, Alfred Frankenstein, Norman Bel Geddes, Robert Goldwater, Darius Milhaud, Andrew Ritchie, Arnold Schoenberg, Mark Tobey, and Frank Lloyd Wright; Abstract of Proceedings; transcripts of the meeting edited by participants; clippings; and photographs. The microfilm also includes papers of Douglas MacAgy; and correspondence, clippings, and photographs of artists' models for the San Francisco Art Institute.
REELS 4962-4963: Files, primarily correspondence, from the director, J. Nilsen Laurvik, from the 43rd (1919) and 44th (1920) San Francisco Art Association Annual Art Exhibition of the Works of American Artists, pertaining to its organization, promotion and administration; and additional material relating to the "Western Round Table on Modern Art," including transcripts from the Apr. 8th session edited by participants, some with notes and letters, and a final draft of an edited version; a scrapbook of publicity clippings on the Round Table; and 30 photographs taken during the conference.
Also included are 9 audio cassettes (copied from original Webcor wire recordings) of the entire proceedings of the "Western Roundtable."
Biographical / Historical:
The San Francisco Art Association (SFAA) was founded in 1871 and incorporated in 1889. The California School of Design was established under the auspices of SFAA in 1874, changing its name to the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art in 1893 after the Mark Hopkins mansion was given to SFAA. It became the San Francisco Institute of Art in 1907, and the California School of Fine Arts in 1917. From 1916-1924, SFAA retained the Palace of Fine Arts, which had been part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In 1921, SFAA incorporated the San Francisco Museum of Art (SFMA) into its administration although each retained autonomy. In 1961, SFAA merged with the School and was renamed the San Francisco Art Institute. A change in the constitutional by-laws officially dissolved the SFAA in 1966, leaving the SFAI and the SFMA. In 1976, SFMA changed its name to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
On April 8-10, 1949, the SFAA sponsored the Western Round Table of Modern Art, organized by Douglas MacAgy for the purpose of bringing together a representation of the best informed opinion to discuss questions about art of the day.
Lent for microfilming 1977-1987 by the San Francisco Art Institute. The sound recordings were borrowed from the San Francisco Art Institute, recorded on cassette in 1987 and then the orginal wire tapes were subsequently returned to the San Francisco Art Institute.
Patrons must use microfilm copy.
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