The papers of sculptor Karl Bitter date from 1887 to 1977 and measure 2.5 linear feet. The bulk of the collection consists of photographs of works of art and commemorative medals from expositions. Also found are scattered biographical information, family correspondence, two diaries, printed materials, sketchbooks, and sketches.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of sculptor Karl Bitter date from 1887 to 1977 and measure 2.5 linear feet. The bulk of the collection consists of photographs of works of art and commemorative medals from expositions. Also found are scattered biographical information, family correspondence, two diaries, printed materials, sketches, and sketchbooks.
Biographical material consists of one short biography of Karl Bitter. The bulk of the correspondence is to Bitter's children, Marietta (Mrs. Walter Abel) and Francis Bitter, and relates to the relocation of Bitter's caryatid sculptures on the St. Paul Building in New York City. There are typescripts of letters from Karl Bitter to sculptor Daniel C. French and from Marie Bitter to her children.
Two diaries from 1901 and 1909 kept by Bitter describe his trips abroad. The 1901 diary is similar to a scrapbook and was kept during his honeymoon with Marie Schevill. Their travels through France and Italy are vividly described through prose, sketches, maps, postcards, and a photo of Bitter and Marie. A 1909 diary is from Bitter's first trip back to Austria since he left for the United States. Written in the form of letters to his wife, he describes his reactions to being back in Europe, seeing his family, and sightseeing.
Scattered printed material includes a clipping, an exhibition announcement, a postcard, and reproductions of works of art by Bitter.
Photographs are of Bitter, his family and friends, studios, and sculpture. Also found are two photo albums containing many images of Bitter's sculptures throughout the country.
There are two sketchbooks and a print by Blanche Stollson. Also found are Bitter's commemorative medals from various international expositions.
This collection is arranged as 6 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1927 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 2: Family Correspondence, 1915-1958 (Box 1, 3 folders)
Series 3: Diaries, 1901-1909 (Box 1, 3; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1912-circa 1977 (Box 1, OV 7; 4 folders)
Series 5: Photographic Materials, 1887-circa 1960s (Box 1-5, OV 7; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 6: Artwork and Artifacts, circa 1890-1915 (Box 1, 3, 6; 1 linear foot)
Biographical / Historical:
Austrian-born sculptor Karl Bitter (1867-1915) was active in New York City, New York. He exhibited his works at worldwide expositions and examples of his sculpture and memorials can be found throughout the United States.
Karl Theodore Francis Bitter was born in Vienna, Austria, where he trained as a sculptor. While serving in the Austrian military in 1889, Bitter immigrated to the United States and applied for citizenship. Ultimately, Bitter settled in New York City and worked as an assistant in a home decorating firm while establishing his reputation as a sculptor. After winning a 1930 competition to design the Astor memorial bronze gates at Trinity Church, he used the funds to establish a small studio on 13th Street, which he shared with fellow sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. Bitter quickly established himself as a world-famous scuptor who also specialized in private memorials and works for public buildings.
After working as a sculptor at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and as director at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York in 1901, Bitter was named head of the sculpture programs at both the 1904 St. Louis Exposition and the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition held in San Francisco, California.
Bitter was awarded the silver medal of the Paris Exposition, 1900; the gold medal of the Pan-American Exposition, 1901; and the gold medal at the St. Louis Exposition, 1904. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Sciences, National Academy of Design, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Players' Club, Century Club, and the Architectural League.
Karl Bitter married Marie Schevill with whom he had three children. He died suddenly in 1915 after being struck by a car.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels N70-8 and N70-35) including biographical material, correspondence, and photographs. While most of these materials were later donated, the photographs remain with the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Portions of the Karl Theodore Francis Bitter papers were lent for microfilming by Bitter's daughter, Marietta Bitter Abel, in 1969. Marietta Bitter Abel, Mr. Michael Abel, and Lt. Col. Jonathon F. Abel donated most of the loaned material excluding the photographs along with additional items in several increments from 1970-2010. The commemorative medals were gifted in 1975 by Walter Hancock, a friend of Bitter's son Francis.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Karl Theodore Francis Bitter 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.