The Morris Louis and Morris Louis Estate papers measure 17.8 linear feet and date from circa 1912-2007, with the bulk of the material dating from 1965-2000. The collection documents Morris Louis' career as a Color Field painter and founding participant in the Washington Color School, as well as the subsequent administration of his estate by his wife Marcella Brenner. Found within Morris Louis' papers are biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, scattered financial records, notes, writings, printed materials, and a canvas sample. The Morris Louis Estate papers include records of gallery exhibitions, mostly André Emmerich Gallery; artwork inventories; legal records concerning the lawsuit Bernstein v. Brenner; financial records of the sale of Louis' artwork; printed materials; writings about Louis; photographs of exhibition installations and artwork; and project files which include documentation of film projects by Robert Pierce Productions, a catalog raisonne, documentation of PBS documentaries, video recordings of the exhibition "Morris Louis Now", and numerous sound recordings of interviews with artists discussing Morris Louis conducted by Anita Faatz.
Scope and Contents:
The Morris Louis and Morris Louis Estate papers measure 17.8 linear feet and date from circa 1912-2007, with the bulk of the material dating from 1965-2000. The collection documents Morris Louis' career as a Color Field painter and founding participant in the Washington Color School, as well as the subsequent administration of his estate by his wife Marcella Brenner. Found within Morris Louis' papers are biographical materials, correspondence, photographs, scattered financial records, notes, writings, printed materials, and a canvas sample. The Morris Louis Estate papers include records of gallery exhibitions, mostly André Emmerich Gallery; artwork inventories; legal records concerning the lawsuit Bernstein v. Brenner; financial records of the sale of Louis' artwork; printed materials; writings about Louis; photographs of exhibition installations and artwork; and posthumous project files which include documentation of film projects by Robert Pierce Productions, a catalog raisonne, PBS documentaries, video recordings of the exhibition "Morris Louis Now", and numerous sound recordings of interviews with artists, many with transcripts, discussing Morris Louis and conducted by Anita Faatz.
Within the Morris Louis papers (circa 3 linear feet) are scattered biographical materials for Morris Louis and Marcella Brenner. Correspondence is with family friends, artists, and galleries, the bulk of which consists of photocopies. Of note are letters from Helen Frankenthaler, Clement Greenberg, Leonard Bocour, Kenneth Noland, and Anne Truitt. Business records include lists of artwork, receipts for art supplies, and scattered tax records. Six notebooks belonging to Morris Louis contain miscellaneous notes about students, studio rental payments, addresses, travel expenses, and a short list of paintings. There is one notebook of Marcella Brenner's containing notes about expenses and addresses. Also found are printed materials, one canvas sample, and one embossing stamp. Photographs are of Morris Louis, Marcella Brenner, and the Bernstein family.
The majority of the collection (circa 15 linear feet) consists of records created and maintained by Marcella Brenner in the course of managing Louis' estate and posthumous exhibitions and projects. There are numerous gallery exhibition records for many posthumous and retrospective exhibitions between 1965 through 2002, including those held at the Andre Emmerich Gallery, the Hirshhorn Museum, and numerous other U.S. and international galleries and museums. Louis' artwork is documented in highly detailed inventory lists and cards. Legal records document the lawsuit brought by the Bernstein family against Marcella Brenner which began in 1964 and ended in 1970 in favor of Brenner. Financial records document sales.
Printed materials include clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, and other miscellaneous materials. Writings include essays about Louis and manuscript copies of the book Trustee for the Human Race: Litigation over the Morris Louis Paintings written by Ruth S. Blau under contract for Marcella Brenner. Photographs are primarily of artwork depicted in exhibition installations. Project files are found for several posthumous documentary film projects and a catalog raisonne, and include a series of audio recordings of interviews of 27 artists conducted by Anita Faatz in 1970-1971. Artists interviewed include Clement Greenberg, Leonard Bocour, Andre Emmerich, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, and many others.
This collection is arranged as 2 series.
Series 1: Morris Louis Papers, circa 1910s-1998 (2.9 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
Series 2: Morris Louis Estate Papers, 1947-2007 (14.9 linear feet; Boxes 3-19, OV 20)
Biographical / Historical:
Morris Louis (1912-1962) was one of the earliest American Color Field painters, and, along with other Washington, D.C., painters, formed the movement known as the Washington Color School.
Born in Baltimore, M.D., to Russian immigrants Louis Bernstein and Cecelia Luckman, Morris Louis attended the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts from 1927-1932 and served as president of the Baltimore Artists' Association in 1935. During the Depression, he worked in New York City on the steering committee of the Easel Division of the Federal Arts Projects of the Works Project Administration (WPA). He exhibited Broken Bridge at the WPA Pavilion of the New York World's Fair in 1939.
In 1947, Louis married Marcella (Siegel) Brenner, and moved to Silver Spring, Maryland, a close suburb of Washington, D.C., where he taught private art classes and continued painting, using his apartment bedroom as a studio. In 1948, Louis participated in the Maryland Artists, 16th Annual Exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and began using Leonard Bocour's Magna acrylic paint, which he would use exclusively for the rest of his painting career.
In 1952, Morris Louis and Marcella Brenner moved to Washington, D.C. and set up a studio in his home where he would complete his most notable canvases. He began teaching at the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts and met artist Kenneth Noland who was also exploring Color Field painting. Through Noland, Louis met art critic Clement Greenberg in 1953, and they visited artist studios in New York City to study abstract expressionist works, including those by Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline. Louis and Noland were greatly influenced by Frankenthaler's staining technique, and Louis began experimenting with staining methods upon his return to Washington. Clement Greenberg became a life-long advocate for Louis and, in 1954, included Louis in the seminal group exhibition, "Emerging Talent," organized by Greenberg for the Kootz Gallery. In 1960, Andre Emmerich became his dealer in the United States and Lawrence Rubin represented him in Paris.
Using thinned Magna paint and unstretched, unprimed canvases, Louis created his works by rotating the canvas as the paint moved across and soaked in. Between 1958 and 1962 Louis produced three major series of paintings—the Veils, the Unfurleds, and the Stripes. Each series numbered more than one hundred canvases. Louis never documented his exact painting methods and would not allow anyone to watch him work, including his wife. His own worst critic, Louis destroyed many of his paintings that did meet his standards, including a large number of his earliest works and many created between 1954 and 1957. He also designated numerous surviving works for destruction prior to his death.
Louis was diagnosed with lung cancer on July 1, 1962 and died a few months later. The Andre Emmerich Gallery held a previously scheduled exhibition as planned, a month following Louis' death, as a memorial exhibition.
Also found at the Archives of American Art are the Marcella Brenner journals, 1962-2000. The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) also holds papers of Morris Louis and the Morris Louis Estate in their Morris Louis Study Collection.
The Morris Louis and Morris Louis Estate papers were donated by Marcella Brenner in several installments in 1976, 1986, and 1988. Subsequent donations in 2009 and 2012 were donated by Marcella Brenner via Ann M. Garfinkle, Executor. The Anita Faatz interviews were donated in 1976 by Marcella Brenner.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. Research Center. Many of the audio recordings and transcripts of interviews with 26 artists conducted by Anita Faatz in 1970-1971 are access restricted and written permission is required from the person interviewed. Please contact reference services for more information. Any use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The Morris Louis and Morris Louis Estate 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.
The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko measure 34.6 linear feet and date from 1957-1986. The records document the case brought by the New York State Attorney General's Office as cross-petitioner to the case brought by Rothko's daughter Kate, against the executors of Rothko's estate, Frank Lloyd and the Marlborough Gallery, for mismanagement and self-dealing. There are also records related to Harrow's writings about the case. Lastly, included in the collection are materials relating to art law issues in connection with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Scope and Contents:
New York State Attorney General Gustave Harrow's records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko consist of legal and other documentation of the state's case in connection with the Mark Rothko Estate and Foundation, from Surrogate Court through appeals, as well as from Harrow's writings about the case, both during and after the trial. Various trial documents include affidavits, briefs, EBTs (examination before trial) trial transcripts, motions, depositions, notes and clippings, and miscellaneous records related to the case and post-trial activities. Also found are reference materials, Harrow's writings in connection with the case.
Unrelated to the Rothko case are Harrow's research materials for possible legal actions by the state in connection with Walter Annenberg's proposed donation of a Communication Center to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and with other issues including donations, object authenticity and the Packard Collection.
The collection is arranged in 7 series.
Series 1: General Files, 1957-1981, undated
Series 2: Motions, 1971-1979, undated
Series 3: Decisions, 1970-1979, undated
Series 4: Appeals Documents, 1972-1979, undated
Series 5: Miscellaneous Case and Post-Trial files, 1972-1984, undated
Series 6: Reference Materials, Notes and Writings, 1970-1986
Series 7: Metropolitan Museum of Art / Walter Annenberg Etc., 1971-1981, undated
Biographical / Historical:
Gustave Harrow was a New York State Assistant Attorney General, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program in Arts Administration at NYU. Abstract Expressionist Artist Mark Rothko died on February 25, 1970 leaving the bulk of his estate, including 798 paintings (the greater part of his life's work) to the Mark Rothko Foundation which he had created shortly before his death. His daughter Kate [Rothko Prizel] brought suit against the estate executors and Marlborough Gallery for self-dealing, fraud, and conspiring with Marlborough owner, Frank Lloyd to waste the assets of the estate. The state of New York Attorney General's Office, represented by Harrow, joined the case as a cross-petitioner on behalf of the people of New York's interest as beneficiaries of the charitable Foundation. The case resulted in the return of most of the paintings, the removal of the executors (accountant Bernard Reis, artist Theodoros Stamos, and anthropology professor Morton Levine), and a $9.2 million judgment against them and Frank Lloyd. The case had a lasting effect on laws dealing with artists' estates, and Harrow was instrumental in framing a bill that aimed at reducing fraud in the fine arts market. Harrow wrote about the Rothko Estate case in several articles and in the 1979 book Art, the Artist, and the Consequences of Rothko: Lasting Legal Impressions from the Estate of Great Artist.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the Mark Rothko Foundation records, 1976-1987; Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987.
The Archives of American Art interviewed multiple artists as part of the Mark Rothko and His Times Oral History Project. Many of the interviews reference Rothko and his work, and relationships with the artist.
The Legal records relating to Richard Serra v. United States General Services Administration et al., 1985-1987 contains documentation of another lawsuit handled by Gustave Harrow.
Another small collection (11 items) of Mark Rothko papers were loaned to the Archives for microfilming on reel 3135. The papers were in the possession of George Carson, husband of Rothko's ex-wife Edith Carson. Carson gave the papers to the Mark Rothko Foundation and gave the Archives of American Art permission to microfilm them. The microfilm is available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan but are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko were donated to the Archives of American Art by Marilynn Karp March 23, 1996. Mr. Harrow had deposited the papers with Ms. Karp, a colleague of Harrow's at New York University where he was an adjunct professor.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recording with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference services for more information.
The Gustave Harrow legal records relating to the Estate of Mark Rothko 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.
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