An interview of Mary J. Gruskin conducted 1992 October 27, by Gail Stavitsky, for the Archives of American Art.
Gruskin discusses Midtown Galleries which she owned with her husband Alan Gruskin; various artists they represented including Waldo Peirce and Isabel Bishop; and realism and abstraction in the 1930s.
Biographical / Historical:
Mary J. Gruskin and her husband Alan Gruskin were art dealers in New York, N.Y.
These interviews are part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Art dealers -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
An interview of William Thon conducted 1992 December 15-16, by Robert Brown for the Archives of American Art, at the artist's home at Port Clyde, Maine. Thon discusses his childhood and education; early exhibitions; service in the Navy during World War II; being represented by Midtown Galleries from 1943 on; his dealers Alan and Mary Gruskin; moving to Maine; the importance to his art of Europe and his time spent at the American Academy in Rome; his painting technique; and his watercolors.
Biographical / Historical:
William Thon (1906-2000) was a painter from New York, N.Y. and Port Clyde, Maine. Studied at the Art Students League. Served as a trustee and artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome.
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 5 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for this interview provided by John W. Payson.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
The records of Midtown Galleries measure 86.82 linear feet and date from 1904 to 1997. The collection documents the operation and general administration of the business and includes artist records, exhibition material, inventories, financial records, photographs, and printed material.
Scope and Content Note:
Records of Midtown Galleries [including the addition], circa 1904-1997, comprise 86.82 linear feet on 117 microfilm reels. Records are sparse for the early years when the gallery was operated as a cooperative. As the business expanded and became profitable, recordkeeping was more systematic and thorough. Records consist of administrative correspondence, 1927-1989 and undated; exhibition records, 1934-1982 and undated; inventories and sales records, 1946-1980 and undated; financial records, 1933-1957; miscellaneous, 1934-1985 and undated; photographs, circa 1925-circa 1980; printed matter, 1932-1982 and undated; personal papers of Alan D. and Mary J. Gruskin, 1932-1983 and undated; and Papers of Francis C. Healey, 1932-1935 and undated An addition, represents scattered material, 1932-1997 and undated, that remained after the gallery closed in 1995. It includes administrative records, 1934-1995 and undated; photographs circa 1938-1988 and undated; artists records, 1932-1993 and undated; exhibitions, 1958-1993 and undated; videotapes, 1977-1988; and oversize printed matter, 1973-1977 and undated Because microfilmimg of the Midtown Galleries records was already underway when this material was received, it could not be integrated with the main portion of the collection.
Administrative correspondence is categorized as General Correspondence, Artists Correspondence, and Artists Applications. General Correspondence is with clients, collectors, museums and galleries, arts organizations, and businesses providing services to Midtown Galleries, and concerns routine business matters. Artists Correspondence contains both personal and business letters since the Gruskins were close friends of many artists represented by Midtown Galleries. Artists Applications consists of correspondence with artists seeking representation by Midtown Galleries. Both accepted and rejected artists are included in this subseries.
Exhibition records includes schedules and general correspondence about cooperative exhibitions and traveling shows. Exhibition files, arranged by title, contain correspondence concerning arrangements for each show.
Inventories include listings by artist and by warehouse location; also, lists of paintings on consignment, paintings returned to artists, loan/shipping log, and "traffic cards." Sales records include "groups totals,: artists account ledger, and sales slips.
Financial records consist of bills paid, banking records, accounting records, and tax returns with related documentation.
Miscellaneous items include manuscripts of Isabel Bishop Catalogue Raisonne and Biography by Karl Lunde and The Art of Philip Guston by Lester D. Longman. Also included are legal documents such as Act of Incorporation, partnership agreement, and leases; 32 guest registers, 1924-1985 and undated, and 15 samples of artist-designed fabrics produced by Onandoga Silk Co., 1946-1947.
Photographs of people include founders Alan D. Gruskin and Francis C. Healey, Mary J. Gruskin (Mrs. Alan D.) and many artists affiliated with Midtown Galleries. Photographs of works of art are by Midtown artists and others. Also, illustrations for Painting in the U.S.A. by Alan D. Gruskin; 2 albums of photographs of the work of Waldo Peirce, circa 1925-1930s (probably compiled by Peirce). Photographs of exhibitions include Midtown Galleries exhibitions and shows elsewhere featuring works by Midtown artists. Miscellaneous photographs include: Gruskin's Department Store (Pa.); models used by artists Julien Binford, Henry Koerner, and Doris Rosenthal; properties owned by Julien Binford and Hans Moeller; Anatol Shulkin's travel pictures of the Soviet Union; store window displays featuring Midtown artists, and fashion models at Midtown Galleries.
Printed matter includes material produced by Midtown Galleries: exhiition catalogs, 1932-1983 and undated; news releases, 1932-1983 and undated; Midtown News, 1965-1970; and miscellaneous items, 1943-1970 and undated Printed matter produced by others includes is comprised of artists files consisting mainly of newsclippings; also, articles about Midtown Galleries and the Gruskins.
Personal papers of Mary J. and Alan D. Gruskin contain biographical information, correspondence, financial records, miscellaneous items, calendars, and writings of Alan D. Gruskin. Correspondence, 1931-1970 and undated, with family and friends concerns personal business; also, letters of condolence on the death of Alan D. Gruskin, 1970. Financial records include personal finances and documentation of gifts of artwork to institutions, with appraisals and tax information. Calendars, 1939-1983, record both personal engagements and some business appointments. Writings of Alan D. Gruskin include manuscripts and drafts of columns, short stories, a screenplay, radio broadcasts, and lecture notes from courses at Harvard.
Papers of Francis C. Healey are comprised of correspondence that relates to both gallery and ersonal business. Also included are scripts and drafts for radio broadcasts, printed matter, press releases, and proposals for radio programs.
Administrative records received with the addition include general correspondence, correspondence with clients, and correspondence regarding gifts, sales and purchases. Records concerning the sale of Midtown Galleries to John Whitney Payson include Gruskin's and Payson's inventories. Also, included is a history of the gallery.
Photographs are of the Gruskins, their friends, and country house; also, views of Midtown exhibitions, openings, artists, and individual works of art.
Artists records are comprised mainly of artists files, largely containing printed matter. Among the artists records are a file of holiday cards by various artists, many with original artwork. Also included are catalogs of group shows featuring Midtown artists at other galleries
Exhibition materials include announcements, news releases, catalogs, miscellaneous printed matter, and a guest book. A small number of these items are dated after Payson's purchase of Midtown Galleries.
Videotapes of William Palmer, Isabel Bishop, and Robert Vickrey, as well as oversize printed matter relating to Midtown artists, complement the artists records.
The collection is arranged into 10 series. A detailed explanation of the arrangement of each series is provided with the series descriptions. Each series is subdivided, often by record type, with categories usually arranged chronologically; exceptions are noted. Administrative correspondence (Series 1) is arranged alphabetically, as are many inventories sales records (Series 3). Photographs of people, exhibitions, and works of art (Series 6) are arranged alphabetically, as are the artists files and exhibition clippings portions of the printed matter (Series 7). The addition is described separately in Appendix A; and, wherever possible, reel and frame numbers of related materials received and filmed with the addition have been included in the main text's series descriptions.
Series 1: Administrative Correspondence, 1927-1989, undated (51 linear ft.)
Series 2: Exhibitions, 1932-1982, undated (4 linear feet)
Series 3: Inventories and Sales Records, 1932-1980, undated (5.3 linear ft.)
Series 4: Financial Records, 1933-1957 (3.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Miscellaneous, 1934-1985, undated (2 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1925-circa 1980 (6.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Matter, 1932-1990, undated (7.25 linear ft.)
Series 8: Personal Papers of Alan D. and Mary J. Gruskin, 1904-1990, undated (4.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Papers of Francis C. Healey, 1932-1935, undated (0.5 linear ft.)
Series 10: Addition, 1932-1997, undated (2.5 linear feet)
Alan D. Gruskin (1904-1970) hoped to become an artist, but while still a student realized that his talents were better suited to art administration than painting. Following graduation from Harvard University, he worked at a New York gallery that specialized in old masters, returning home to Pennsylvania after a year to pursue a writing career that ultimately proved unsuccessful. Gruskin returned to New York and opened Midtown Galleries at 559 Fifth Avenue in 1932. Specializing in work by living American artists, Midtown was one of a rather small number of commercial galleries in New York City that showed contemporary American art. Midtown Galleries represented academic and realist painters, and purposely avoided abstract art.
Founded during the Depression, Midtown Galleries was a shoe-string operation in its early years. Originally operated as a cooperative, Midtown Galleries' participating artists contributed to the costs and work of presenting exhibitions. Between 1932 and 1935, Gruskin served as "Art Director" of the gallery and his business partner, Francis C. Healey was "Publicity Director." Healey appears to have been responsible for weekly broadcasts on NBC radio designed to interest people in visiting the gallery. The 15-minute programs consisted of discussions with museum directors, curators, artists, writers, and musicians about a broad range of cultural topics. Copies of the scripts were offered for a dime, and the payments mailed by radio listeners bought Gruskin's meals. During this period, Gruskin lived in the gallery. After Healey's departure in 1935, Midtown Galleries ceased to be run as a cooperative.
Midtown Galleries usually represented approximately two dozen artists, and many remained with the gallery for decades. They included: Julien Binford, Isabel Bishop, Paul Cadmus, Gladys Rockmore Davis, Emlen Etting, Maurice Freedman, Dong Kingman, Oronzio Maldarelli, William C. Palmer, Waldo Peirce, Doris Rosenthal, Zoltan L. Sepeshy, Frederic Taubes, William Thon, Margit Varga, and Robert Vickrey.
Gruskin worked to educate and interest the public in American art and to promote the artists he represented. In addition to countless reviews, articles, and catalog essays, he wrote three books: Painting in the U.S.A. (1946), The Watercolors of Dong Kingman and How the Artist Works (1958), William Thon: The Artist and His Technique (1964). Gruskin advocated the use of fine art in advertising and industry, obtaining commissions for his artists and at the same time assisting clients in building corporate collections. A prime example is the Upjohn Company which, at Gruskin's urging, included reproductions of paintings in "Your Doctor Speaks," a series of public service announcements. Many of the paintings were purchased subsequently, forming the basis of the Upjohn Collection. A traveling exhibition, The Upjohn Company Collection of Contemporary American Paintings, was circulated by Midtown Galleries and featured in a Life magazine article about fine art and advertising. Another example is the fabric patterns, based on paintings by several of Midtown Galleries' artists, commissioned by the Onandoga Silk Company; the fabrics were used for dresses by popular designers, with fashion shows and window displays of paintings by the participating artists at selected department stores throughout the country. Working closely with architects and interior designers, Gruskin and Midtown Galleries were innovators in the use of domestic and business settings to showcase art with Art In Interiors, a series of exhibitions held annually between 1952 and 1961.
Midtown Galleries was a pioneer in circulating traveling exhibitions to colleges and art associations in communities distant from major art museums and commercial galleries. Beginning in 1936 and or more than 35 years, Midtown Galleries circulated 8-10 shows throughout the country each year; most were group shows organized around a theme, though occasional solo exhibitions were offered. Other important exhibitions off the premises were the Central Illinois Art Exposition, 1939, and the contemporary American art exhibition at the New York World's Fair, 1964-1965. The 1939 show organized by Gruskin for the Bloomington, Illinois, Art Association was a large exhibition of American art borrowed from a variety of institutions; the very well-publicized show was heavily attended, drawing visitors from a large area of the rural Midwest, many of whom had never visited a museum or seen original art.
1932 -- established as a cooperative gallery at 559 Fifth Ave. by Alan D. Gruskin (Art Director) and Francis C. Healey (Public Relations Director); Midtown Galleries presented programs on contemporary American art broadcast by NBC radio
1934-1935 -- Tudor City Art Galleries at 8 Prospect Place, New York City, featuring works by Midtown Galleries' artists and others, administered by Gruskin and Healey
1935 -- departure of Francis C. Healey; gallery moved to 605 Madison Ave.; gallery ceased to be run as a cooperative
1936 -- began traveling exhibitions to universities, museums, and regional art associations
1939 -- Central Illinois Art Exposition (Bloomington, Ill.)
1946 -- San Francisco branch opened and closed; publication of Painting in the U.S.A. by Alan D. Gruskin
1951 -- gallery moved to 17 East 57th Street
1958 -- publication of The Watercolors of Dong Kingman and How the Artist Works by Alan D. Gruskin
1962 -- gallery moved to 11 East 57th Street
1964 -- exhibition of contemporary American art at the New York World's Fair, organized by Midtown Galleries; shown in American Interiors Pavilion, this was the only exhibit of its kind at the Fair; publication of William Thon: The Artist and His Technique by Alan D. Gruskin
1966 -- loan of Midtown Galleries' records for microfilming by the Archives of American Art; this small selection, along with many other gallery records, was donated by Mary Gruskin to the Archives between 1972 and 1991, with an additional gift in 1997
1970 -- death of Alan D. Gruskin (1904-1970); Mary J. Gruskin assumes position of Director
1972 -- first portion of Midtown Galleries' records donated to the Archives of American Art by Mrs. Gruskin
1985 -- sale of Midtown Galleries to John Whitney Payson; Bridget Moore, Director, and Mary J. Gruskin, Director Emerita
1986 -- majority of Midtown Galleries' records acquired by the Archives of American Art
1990 -- name changed to Midtown-Payson Galleries; gallery moved to 745 Fifth Ave.
1991 -- additional gift of records by Mrs. Gruskin
1992 -- records arranged, described, and prepared for microfilming
1993 -- microfilming began; continued sporadically, in small segments
1995 -- Midtown-Payson Galleries closed
1997 -- additional gift of records by Mrs. Gruskin
1999 -- microfilming completed
Midtown Galleries loaned a small number of records consisting of news releases, 1939-1966, and exhibition schedules to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1966. Subsequently, Mary J. Gruskin donated this material, along with many other gallery records, to the Archives in several installments between 1972 and 1991; an additional gift was received in 1997. The portion loaned in 1966 is now integrated with the main records and has been refilmed in sequence. Unfortunately, the addition of 1997 was received in Washington, D.C. after microfilming was well underway. The addition has been microfilmed and described separately as Series 10. Wherever possible, the main text has been annotated with reel and frame numbers for related items contained in the addition.
The collection is open for research. Patrons must use microfilm copy.
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- United States Search this
Art galleries, Commercial -- New York (State)
Midtown Galleries records, 1904-1997. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution