An interview of Edith Halpert conducted 1962-1963, by Harlan Phillips, for the Archives of American Art.
Halpert speaks of her childhood in Russia and growing up in New York City; working at Bloomindale's, Macy's, Stern Brothers, and Cohen Goldman; her marriage to artist Sam Halpert, his health, and living in Paris in 1925; becoming an art student at the Academy of Design and feeling that Leon Kroll was an excellent art teacher until he began to correct her drawings; when George Bridgman thought she was ruining his class; the Lincoln Square Arcade, when she and Ernest Fiener and Robert Brackman would rent Conan's studio evenings and bring in instructors; how Newman Montross influenced her more than anybody about showing her art that she loved; burning all of her work because Kroll said she had no talent; receiving a painting from John Marin; her friendship and working relationship with Abby Rockefeller and other family members.
She recalls opening the Downtown Gallery, in Greenwich Village, in 1926; a brief history of modern art; many artists helping decorate the new Daylight Gallery in 1930 and the first show being called "Practical Manifestations of Art"; meeting Robert and Sonia Delaunay in France; when she refused to allow Ezra Pound to speak at one of the gallery lectures because of his anti-Semite remarks and William Carlos Williams and Ford Madox Ford argued with her over it; experiencing jealousy and professional attacks from other dealers; the successful "Pop" Hart show and book in 1929; the "Thirty-three Moderns" show in 1930 at the Grand Central Galleries; the Jules Pascin show in 1930; in America, most of the art buyers supporters of culture were women, until the WPA and World War II, when it became fashionable for men to be involved; Ambroise Vollard's advice on selling art; handling the frustrations of working in the art field; friendships with Stuart Davis,Charles Sheeler, and Ben Shahn; how artists work through dry periods in their creativity and the "Recurrent Image" show; a discussion on modern art galleries of New York City, such as Daniel, Knoedler, Ferargil, the New Gallery, 291, the Grand Central, Kraushaar, and Montross; her travels through Pennsylvania and Maine for good examples of folk art for the gallery; the "The Artist Looks at Music" show; the non-competitive spirit of the early modern American artists; of being saved financially in 1940 by selling a William Harnett painting to the Boston Museum and then renting new space for the gallery.
Also, Mitchell Siporin bringing Halpert and Edmund Gurry to Mitchell Field during World War II for a camouflage show and consequently Downtown Gallery artists and others were enlisted in the camouflage corps for the U.S. Air Force; Charles Sheeler and his wife find Halpert a house in Newtown, Conn.; her decision in 1933 to push folk art for acquisition by the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri; her great concern about what to do with her folk art literature collection; dismay and that no one writes about the history of folk art and those responsible for its creation and popularity; Louis Stern hiring her to organize a municipal exhibit in Atlantic City, N.J., with Donald Deskey designing the furniture and Holger Cahill managing the publicity; Joe Lillie helping her meet Fiorello La Guardia and Joe McGoldrick in 1934 about a municipal show in New York City, but it is moved to Radio City Music Hall through Nelson Rockefeller; the "Salons of America" show; wanting articles written about art for love rather than art for investment; working with Aline Saarinen on her book, "Proud Possessors;" letters from Stuart Davis, William Zorach and others that hurt her feelings; enjoying giving educational lectures and considering retirement because of ill health; the desire to write a book on the history of trade signs in folk art; feeling that the young artists are being ruined by too much support without working for it; planning to write a book entitled, "Unsung Heroes," about artists brave enough to experiment; organizing a show in Russia at her own expense; later representing the U.S. in art at the "American National Exposition"; the agitators and success of the exposition; Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe.
Halpert also recalls Juliana Force, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Buckminster Fuller, George Luks, Edsel Ford, Max Weber, Danny Diefenbacker, Hamilton Easter Field, Frank Stella, Glenn Coleman, Margaret Zorach, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, Henry Mercer, Romany Marie, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Mellon, Charles Pollet, Alex Brook, Lunca Curass, Dorothy Lambert, Duncan Candler, Frank Rhen, Louis Rittman, Bea Goldsmith, Arthur Craven, Robert Frost, Philip Wittenberg, Caesar de Hoke, Richard deWolfe Brixey, Seymour Knox, Walt Kuhn, Elisabeth Luther Cary, Charles Locke, Duncan Fergusson, Mrs. Solomon Guggenheim, Bob Tannahill, David Thompson, Marsden Hartley, Erwin Barrie, Robert Laurent, Conger Goodyear, Henry McBride, Edward Hopper, Charles Daniel, William Merritt Chase, Charles Hopkinson, Thomas Hart Benton, Frank Crowninshield, Alfred Barr, Lord Duveen, Jacob Lawrence, John Marin Jr., Karl Zerbe, Franz Kline, Arthur Dove, Julian Levy, Jack Levine, Valentine Dudensing, Peggy Bacon, Stefan Hirsch, Gertrude Stein, Isamu Noguchi, Jasper Johns, Chaim Soutine, B. K. Saklatwalla; Fernand Leger, Pablo Picasso, Ben Shahn, Charles Demuth, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Edward Steichen, Carl Sandburg, Clement Greenberg, and others.
Biographical / Historical:
Edith Halpert (1900-1970) was an art dealer from New York, N.Y.
Originally recorded on 7 tape reels. Reformatted in 2010 as 27 digital wav files. Duration is 32 hrs., 27 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art 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 others. The transcript was microfilmed in 1996.
Correspondence with dealers, artists, museums, publishers, photography studios, and others regarding art purchases, loans, and Shaw's collection; and 16 v. of scrapbooks containing photographs, letters, and biographical information on artists. Much of the correspondence with artists relates to Shaw's requests for the information which was then used in the scrapbooks. Also included is one volume compiled in 1947 outlining the contents of the scrapbooks.
REELS 1124-1125: 16 vol. of scrapbooks, 1864-1930, relating to artists represented in Shaw's collection, containing letters, many from artists, photographs of artists and their work, biographical data, clippings and articles, and comments on their work; and 1 v., "Notes: Edwin C. Shaw Collection of Paintings," compiled in 1947, and annotated "Used at Women's Art League Meeting at Miss Shaw's in 1947 by Mrs. [Jane S.] Barnhardt, who compiled it, and then given to the Art Institute Library," containing an outline of the contents of the 16 v. of scrapbooks.
Artists represented in the scrapbooks include J. Carroll Beckwith, Frank W. Benson, Ralph Blakelock, Emil Carlsen, William Merritt Chase, Timothy Cole, Elliott Daingerfield, Cyrus B. Dallin, Charles Davis, Warren Davis, Gleb Derujinsky, Charles M. Dewey, Thomas W. Dewing, Paul Dougherty, Frank Duveneck, Charles Eaton, Frederick Frieseke, George Fuller, Lillian Genth, Childe Hassam, Charles Hawthorne, William Morris Hunt, George Inness, John Johansen, Isidore Konti, John La Farge, William Lathrop, Frederick MacMonnies, Hermon A. MacNeil, Willard Metcalf, Herman Dudley Murphy, J. Francis Murphy, A. Phimister Proctor, Henry Ward Ranger, William Ritschel, Felix Russmann, Albert P. Ryder, Eugenie F. Shonnard, Lars Gustaf Sellstedt, Elliot Torrey, Dwight Tryon, Helen M. Turner, John Twachtman, Elihu Vedder, Bessie P. Vonnoh, Robert Vonnoh, Horatio Walker, J. Alden Weir, Frederick Ballard Williams, Henry Wolf and "The Ten."
REEL 4597: Correspondence, ca. 1916-1941, concerning art acquisitions with dealers Erwin S. Barrie of Grand Central Art Galleries; Thomas Whipple Dunbar; Frederic Newlin Price and T.H. Russell of Ferargil Galleries; W. Frank Purdy of the Gorham Co. Dept. of Sculpture and later the School of American Sculpture; D.H. Hatfield of Hatfield & Clark; Thomas Gerrity of M. Knoedler & Co.; Robert Macbeth, Robert McIntyre and Henry Miller of the Macbeth Gallery; Albert Milch of E.& A. Milch, Inc.; Newman Montross of Montross Gallery; J.E. Batts of the Thurber Art Galleries; Robert C. Vose of R.C. & N.M. Vose and Vose Galleries, and their frame shop, Carrig-Rohane; Howard Young of Howard Young Galleries; and J.W. Young; correspondence with artists and/or their families requesting the artist's portrait, biographical information and background, including letters from Elliot Daingerfield, Charles Dewey, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, John C. Johansen, Willard Leroy Metcalf, Hervey W. Minns, Hermann Dudley Murphy, A.P. Proctor, Eugenie Shonnard, Elliot Torrey, Dwight W. Tryon, Helen M. Turner, and Horatio Walker, and the families of J. Carroll Beckwith, George Inness, Lars Gustaf Sellstedt, John Henry Twachtman and J. Alden Weir; correspondence with the Dayton Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art regarding works lent for exhibition; with publisher Frederic Fairchild Sherman; with photography studios; and other miscellaneous correspondence.
Biographical / Historical:
Art collector; Akron, Ohio. Shaw, a BF Goodrich executive and avid collector of post-Civil War American art, was one of the founders of the Akron Art Institute, now the Akron Art Museum.
Lent for microfilming 1976 and 1992 by the Akron Art Museum. Shaw bequethed his art collection and papers to the Museum, then named the Akron Art Institute.
The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.