The Bertha Schaefer papers and gallery records measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1909-1975, with the bulk of the material dating from 1940-1965. The collection documents the Bertha Schaefer Gallery as well as Bertha Schaefer, the interior designer, through correspondence with artists and galleries, artist files, client files, exhibition material, printed material, financial material, biographical material, photographs, and six scrapbooks.
Scope and Contents:
The Bertha Schaefer papers and gallery records measure 4.6 linear feet and date from 1909-1975, with the bulk of the material dating from 1940-1965. The collection documents the Bertha Schaefer Gallery as well as Bertha Schaefer, the interior designer, through correspondence with artists and galleries, artist files, client files, exhibition material, printed material, financial material, biographical material, photographs, and six scrapbooks. Also found here are oversized blue prints and sketched plans of interior design projects, as well as a number of oversized photographic prints and stereo slides. Correspondence contains handwritten notes by many notable artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, and Fernando Zobel, with a bulk of the letters from Balcomb Greene.
Separated into three series, the Bertha Schaefer Gallery records document the artists represented by and function of the Bertha Schaefer Gallery. The Bertha Schaefer papers pertain to Bertha Schaefer as an interior designer through a large number of photographic materials and client files. Six scrapbooks document artists Will Barnet, Ben-Zion, Balcomb Greene, and Nicolai Vasilieff, as well as the Bertha Schaefer gallery and the New Bertha Schaefer Gallery.
This collection is arranged as 3 series. Records are generally arranged by material type and chronologically thereafter.
Series 1: Bertha Schaefer Gallery Records, 1909-1971 (0.8 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Bertha Schaefer Papers, 1914-1971 (2.6 linear feet; Boxes 1-3, 6-7, OV 8-9)
Series 3: Scrapbooks, 1944-1975 (1.2 linear feet; Boxes 3-5)
Biographical / Historical:
Bertha Schaefer (1895-1971) was an interior designer and director of the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in New York, New York. Schaefer was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi to Emil and Julia (Marx) Schaefer. She received her B.A. on June 1, 1914 from Mississippi State College for Women, and received a diploma for interior decorating from the Parsons School of Design in New York City. In 1924, after living in Paris for 5 months, she opened Bertha Schaefer Interiors in New York. In 1944, she opened the Bertha Schaefer Gallery of Contemporary Art, which featured American and European paintings and sculpture. "The Modern House Comes Alive" (1947-1948) is one of the key exhibitions she created. Schaefer designed furniture for Joe Singer of M. Singer and Sons Furniture Company in New York, 1950-1961.
Schaefer won design awards from the Museum of Modern Art (1952) and the Decorators Club of New York (1959). In 1958, she was given an award of recognition from the U.S. Department of State for her gallery's assistance in the American program for the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, and an outstanding achievement in interior design award from the American Institute of Interior Designers. She was a member of several design organizations, including: the American Institute of Decorators, the Home Lighting Forum, the Illuminating Engineers Society, the American Federation of the Arts, and the Art Dealers Association of America. She was the president of the Decorators Club of New York from 1947-1948 and 1955-1957.
Schaefer was one of the first people to use fluorescent lighting in domestic spaces, with Percy Block as her first client, in 1939. In honor of Edison's birthday in 1953, she designed a bathroom for General Electric, applying new developments in lighting. She died on May 24, 1971, after which the gallery was renamed the New Bertha Schaefer Gallery.
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Bertha Schaefer conducted by Paul Cummings, April 20-22, 1970.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming. Reel N69-115 is comprised of papers concerning Alfred H. Maurer, including a scrapbook about Maurer from 1946 to 1969. Reel N70-60 contains material concerning Hale Woodruff, including correspondence, sketches and drawings, articles, photographs, catalogs, announcements, clipping, notes kept while a student of Diego Rivera, and a scrapbook. Lent material was returned to the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
The Bertha Schaefer papers and gallery records were donated in several installments from 1969 to 1974 by Bertha Schaefer and Bertha Schaefer Gallery Inc. She also loaned material for microfilming in 1970. Paul Creamer donated three scrapbooks from the Bertha Schaefer Gallery and the New Bertha Schaefer Gallery in 1979. Additional material was donated in 1984 by Syracuse University.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.