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Leon Polk Smith papers, 1938-1997

Creator:
Smith, Leon Polk, 1906-1996  Search this
Subject:
Galloway, David D.  Search this
Jamieson, Robert  Search this
Johnson, Ray  Search this
Horsely, Lucile  Search this
Danto, Arthur Coleman  Search this
Gego  Search this
Buck, Robert T.  Search this
Humblet, Claudine  Search this
Brooklyn Museum  Search this
Butler Institute of American Art  Search this
Galerie Denise René  Search this
Meyers/Bloom Gallery  Search this
Washburn Gallery (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum  Search this
East Central Oklahoma State University  Search this
Di Laurenti Gallery  Search this
Type:
Scrapbooks
Interviews
Video recordings
Topic:
Painters  Search this
Painting, Abstract  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA_CollID)6162
(DSI-AAA_SIRISBib)216395
AAA_collcode_smitleon
Theme:
Lives of American Artists
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_coll_216395
Online Media:

Leon Polk Smith papers

Creator:
Smith, Leon Polk, 1906-1996  Search this
Names:
Brooklyn Museum  Search this
Butler Institute of American Art  Search this
East Central Oklahoma State University  Search this
Galerie Denise René  Search this
Meyers/Bloom Gallery  Search this
Washburn Gallery (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum  Search this
Buck, Robert T.  Search this
Danto, Arthur Coleman, 1924-  Search this
Galloway, David D.  Search this
Gego  Search this
Humblet, Claudine, 1946-  Search this
Jamieson, Robert  Search this
Johnson, Ray, 1927-  Search this
Extent:
7.2 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Photographs
Transcripts
Video recordings
Scrapbooks
Essays
Interviews
Date:
1938-1997
Summary:
The papers of New York abstract painter Leon Polk Smith measure 7.2 linear feet and date from 1938 to 1997. The papers consist of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, interview transcripts and an interview video recording, writings, financial records for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc., printed material, photographic material, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.
Scope and Contents note:
The papers of New York abstract painter Leon Polk Smith measure 7.2 linear feet and date from 1938 to 1997. The papers consist of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, interview transcripts and an interview video recording, writings, financial records for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc., printed material, photographic material, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.

Biographical material includes official affidavits, certificates, passports, expense receipts, and a travel expense notebook. A curriculum vitae, family history, and medical records are also included in the series.

Correspondence, both business and personal, comprises the bulk of the collection. This includes correspondence between Smith and his life companion, Robert Jamieson; art critics Arthur C. Danto, Claudine Humblet, and David Galloway; and artists Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt) and Ray Johnson. Business correspondence relates to Smith's various gallery and museum exhibitions, loans, and sales. There is extensive correspondence between Smith and the Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Di Laurenti Gallery, Edition and Galerie Hoffmann, Galerie Denise Rene, Meyers/Bloom Gallery, Washburn Gallery, and the Wilhelm-Hack Museum. The business subseries also includes correspondence between Smith and his alma mater, East Central University, formerly known as Oklahoma State University.

Interviews consist of six typewritten transcripts of interviews conducted with Smith over the course of his professional career from 1950 to 1993, a 1995 video interview of museum director Robert T. Buck discussing the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of Leon Polk Smith for the television program National Arts, and a 1965 interview transcript with gallery owner Lucile Horsley.

Writings include sixteen published and unpublished scholarly essays on Smith and his work. The series also includes notes and a brief artist's statement by Smith regarding the pros and cons of modern art galleries.

Financial records are 1978-1989 federal income tax filings and routine tax preparation and payment receipts for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc. Smith's personal filing records from 1987-1989 are also included in this series.

Printed material consists of two books, including the Brooklyn Museum's monograph Leon Polk Smith: American Painter, newspaper clippings reviewing Smith's work, and exhibition announcements and catalogs of Smith's museum and gallery shows from 1941 to 1997.

A scrapbook contains newspaper clippings documenting Smith's years as an educator and artist in Oklahoma in the 1930s and 1940s.

Photographs are of Smith and his acquaintances circa 1930-1960, and a representative selection of photographs and color slides of Smith's artwork from 1939 to 1960.
Arrangement note:
The collection is arranged as 8 series:

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1938-1994 (Box 1, OV 10; 11 folders)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1939-1997 (Boxes 1-5, 9, OV 10; 5 linear feet)

Series 3: Interviews, 1950-1995 (Boxes 5-6; 8 folders)

Series 4: Writings, 1963-1996 (Box 6; 13 folders)

Series 5: Financial Records, 1979-1990 (Box 6; 15 folders)

Series 6: Printed Material, 1941-1997 (Boxes 6-7, 9; .5 linear feet)

Series 7: Scrapbook, 1930-1940 (Box 8; 1 folder)

Series 8: Photographic Material, 1930-1990 (Box 8; 8 folders)
Biographical/Historical note:
Leon Polk Smith (1906-1996) worked primarily in New York City as a painter, educator, and lecturer. He is considered one of the founders of the hard edge style of minimalist abstract art.

Smith was born in Chickasha, Indian Territory one year before its formal incorporation into the Oklahoma Territory. Both of his parents were of Cherokee ancestry and he was raised in a small farming community that included Cherokee and Choctaw Indians. After receiving his teaching degree in 1934, Smith worked as an educator in rural Oklahoma communities and, at the same time, took the opportunity to introduce arts programs to local schools. In 1936, he enrolled in Columbia University's Teachers College to pursue a graduate degree in arts education and began painting full time. That summer, he visited the Albert E. Gallatin Gallery of Living Art at New York University, where he was first introduced to the work of the European modernists Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp, and most importantly, Piet Mondrian.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Smith accepted university teaching positions at Rollins College in Florida, and New York University and Mills College of Education in New York. During this time, Smith moved beyond his early explorations of neo-plasticism and began to paint in a more hard edge style, typified by geometric lines, curving shapes of color, and the use of tondo (disk shaped) canvases. In 1958, Betty Parson's Section Eleven Gallery showcased his new work in two one-man exhibitions, which introduced him to a wider audience of museum curators and art collectors. In the 1960s, Smith's work was included in two of his most important group exhibitions, The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art (1965) and Systemic Painting at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1966). In 1995, the Brooklyn Museum curated Leon Polk Smith: American Painter, a retrospective exhibition of Smith's career.

Smith produced works exploring shapes and lines, minimalist use of color, and modularity well into the 1990s and exhibited at a number of affiliated galleries, including the Stable Gallery, Galerie Chalette, Galerie Denise Rene, Washburn Gallery, and ACA Galleries. Smith died in 1996 in his home in Manhattan, at the age of 91.
Provenance:
The papers of Leon Polk Smith were donated by the artist's partner, Robert Jamieson, in 1998 and 2002.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Rights:
The Leon Polk Smith 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.
Topic:
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Painting, Abstract -- United States  Search this
Art galleries, Commercial  Search this
Genre/Form:
Photographs
Transcripts
Video recordings
Scrapbooks
Essays
Interviews
Citation:
Leon Polk Smith papers, 1938-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.smitleon
See more items in:
Leon Polk Smith papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-smitleon
Online Media:

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