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Thomas Hess papers

Creator:
Hess, Thomas B.  Search this
Names:
Mark Rothko Foundation  Search this
Bess, Forrest, 1911-1977  Search this
Campbell, Lawrence  Search this
De Kooning, Elaine  Search this
De Kooning, Willem, 1904-1997  Search this
Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-2011  Search this
Gottlieb, Adolph, 1903-1974  Search this
Guston, Philip, 1913-1980  Search this
Kline, Franz, 1910-1962  Search this
Milles, Carl, 1875-1955  Search this
Newman, Barnett, 1905-1970  Search this
Noguchi, Isamu, 1904-1988  Search this
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Rivers, Larry, 1925-2002  Search this
Rosenberg, Harold, 1906-1978  Search this
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970  Search this
Schapiro, Meyer, 1904-  Search this
Schuyler, James  Search this
Smith, David, 1906-1965  Search this
Still, Clyfford, 1904-1980  Search this
Extent:
10 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound recordings
Drawings
Greeting cards
Illustrated letters
Paintings
Cartoons (humorous images)
Photographs
Collages
Date:
1939-1978
Summary:
The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.0 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1978. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, extensive writings and notes, artists and subject files that also include recorded conversations with artists and others, printed materials, photographic materials, and artwork.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.0 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1978. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, extensive writings and notes, artists and subject files that also include recorded conversations with artists and others, printed materials, photographic materials, and artwork.

Biographical material includes a certificate, architectural plans, investment information, invoices, publisher and loan agreements, will for Paul Stamm, and resumes. Correspondence is with members of Hess' family including his wife and children, Philip Guston, Meyer Schapiro, David Smith, James Schuyler, Forrest Bess, Elaine de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Larry Rivers, Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and others.

Writings and notes consist of manuscripts and drafts by Hess for Art News, Le Monde, Vogue, New York magazine, and other publications; Hess' senior essay and class notes; notes on Ingres, Italian artists, and travels abroad; notebooks on art and literature; and scattered writings by others.

Artists and subject files contain primarily photographs of artwork, artists, and colleaguesare mostly photographs of artwork, artists, and colleagues. Some of the files also contain printed materials, writings, notes, and other documentation. The file on Willem de Kooning includes a sound recording of a conversation between Hess, de Kooning, and Harold Rosenberg. There are also significant files on Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Carl Milles, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and the Mark Rothko Foundation Inc.

Printed materials include brochures and flyers, clippings, magazines and newspapers, press releases, travel memorabilia, and a printed scarf. Photographs are of of Hess, his wife Audrey, other family members, works of art, travel, Larry Rivers and Ad Reinhardt, and other artists and colleagues. Artwork includes drawings, paintings, collages, cartoons, and holiday cards made by Hess and his children, along with artwork by others including Audrey and Lawrence Campbell, Ad Reinhardt, and unidentified artists.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged as 7 series.

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1945-1977 (0.3 linear feet; Box 1, OV 15)

Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1945-1978 (1.0 linear feet; Box 1-2, OV 11)

Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1940-1978 (2.5 linear feet; Box 2-5, OV 12)

Series 4: Artists and Subject Files, circa 1946-1978 (4.5 linear feet; Box 5-9, OVs 13, 15-16)

Series 5: Printed Materials, 1943-1978 (0.5 linear feet; Box 9, OV 11)

Series 6: Photographic Materials, 1949-circa 1960s (0.8 linear feet; Box 9-10, OV14)

Series 7: Artwork, 1939-1978 (0.4 linear feet; Box 10, OV 11)
Biographical / Historical:
Thomas B. Hess (1920-1978) was an editor, art critic and curator who worked in New York City. He was on the staff at Art News for 26 years (1946-72). Starting as an editorial associate, he was named managing editor in 1948, then executive editor in 1954; he assumed the top editorial post in 1965 upon the death of long-time editor Alfred Frankfurter. In his critical writing from the late 1940s on, he was an influential supporter of the Abstract Expressionists. He wrote widely on other topics as well. In 1972 he left Art News after an ownership change. He then became the art critic for New York magazine (1972-78), a large-circulation weekly reaching a much larger public. (He was also, in the late '60s, a correspondent for the French daily newspaper Le Monde.)

Over the years he undertook several major curatorial projects including traveling retrospectives for Willem de Kooning (1968-69) and Barnett Newman (1971), which he organized for the Museum of Modern Art. His "New York School Painting and Sculpture" appeared at the New York State Museum in Albany in 1977. Both MoMA exhibitions were accompanied by comprehensive monograph/catalogues: Willem de Kooning (1968) and Barnett Newman (1971). Hess's other books include Abstract Painting: Background and American Phase (1951, Viking); Willem de Kooning (1959, Braziller); De Kooning, Recent Paintings (1967, Walker & Co.); Barnett Newman (1969, Walker & Co.); De Kooning: Drawings (1972, New York Graphic); and The Art Comics and Satires of Ad Reinhardt (1975, De Luca Editore, Rome).

Hess became consultative chairman of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of 20th-Century Art a few months before his death from a heart attack in July 1978, age 57. Already under way were a Clyfford Still retrospective and a smaller show of recent paintings and sculptures by Ellsworth Kelly. Both exhibitions, completed by Philippe de Montebello (the Met's then new director) and Lowery S. Sims (the Met's then acting 20th-century curator) respectively, took place the year after Hess's death.

Thomas Hess was born in Rye, New York, to Gabriel Lorie Hess, a lawyer, and Helen Baer. He attended school in the United States and Switzerland. He continued his education at Yale University majoring in French 17th-century art history and literature. After graduating in 1942, Hess worked for a short period at the Museum of Modern Art under Alfred H. Barr and Dorothy Miller, before entering World War II as a pilot. In 1944 he married Audrey Stern with whom he had three children, William, Philip, and Anne Helen.
Separated Materials:
Materials on legacy microfilm reel 5028 related to Barnett Newman are photocopies. The originals are located at the Barnett New Foundation in New York City.
Provenance:
The Thomas Hess papers were donated in multiple increments from 1985 to 1987 by Hess' children, Anne Helen, William, and Philip Hess, except for a file on Barnett Newman donated by Newman's widow, who presumably had borrowed it from Hess. In 2014, additional correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, and cartoons, including some by Ad Reinhardt, were donated by Elizabeth Wolff, Hess' sister.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Artists -- Italy  Search this
Editors -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Drawings
Greeting cards
Illustrated letters
Paintings
Cartoons (humorous images)
Photographs
Collages
Citation:
Thomas Hess papers, 1939-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.hessthom
See more items in:
Thomas Hess papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-hessthom
Online Media:

Ruth Bowman papers

Creator:
Bowman, Ruth, 1923-  Search this
Names:
American Association of Museums  Search this
American Federation of Arts  Search this
Brooklyn Museum  Search this
Canadian Museums Association  Search this
Craft and Folk Art Museum  Search this
KUSC (Radio station : Los Angeles, Calif.)  Search this
Long Beach Museum of Art  Search this
Los Angeles County Museum of Art  Search this
Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Search this
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
New York University  Search this
Newark Museum  Search this
WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Albers, Josef  Search this
Anshutz, Thomas Pollock, 1851-1912  Search this
Bengelsdorf, Rosalind, 1916-1979  Search this
Bolotowsky, Ilya, 1907-1981  Search this
Burkhardt, Hans Gustav, 1904-1994  Search this
Cézanne, Paul, 1839-1906  Search this
Diller, Burgoyne, 1906-1965  Search this
Eakins, Thomas, 1844-1916  Search this
Ferren, John, 1905-1970  Search this
Holty, Carl, 1900-1973  Search this
Holtzman, Harry  Search this
Lassaw, Ibram, 1913-2003  Search this
Levine, Les, 1935-  Search this
Lipchitz, Jacques, 1891-1973  Search this
MacDonald, Duncan (Broadcaster)  Search this
Mason, Alice Trumbull, 1904-1971  Search this
McNeil, George, 1908-1995  Search this
Morris, George L. K., 1905-1975  Search this
Noguchi, Isamu, 1904-1988  Search this
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973  Search this
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Sloan, Helen Farr, 1911-2005  Search this
Wilfred, Thomas, 1889-1968  Search this
Extent:
26.7 Linear feet
21.99 Gigabytes
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Gigabytes
Photographs
Interviews
Sound recordings
Scripts (documents)
Date:
1936-2006
bulk 1963-1999
Summary:
The papers of art historian and museum educator Ruth Bowman are dated 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999, and measure 26.7 linear feet and 21.99 GB. Professional correspondence and subject files document Bowman's relationships with colleagues and reflect her interests, activities including curatorial work, and accomplishments as a museum educator. Writings and related research materials include her thesis,"Thomas Pollock Anshutz, 1851-1912" (M.A., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1971), and unfinished projects. Also found are interviews conducted by Bowman with a wide range of individuals for a variety of purposes.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of art historian and museum educator Ruth Bowman are dated 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999, and measure 26.7 linear feet and 21.99 GB. Professional correspondence and subject files document Bowman's relationships with colleagues and reflect her interests, activities including curatorial work, and accomplishments as a museum educator. Writing and related research materials include her thesis, "Thomas Pollock Anshutz, 1851-1912" (M.A., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1971), and unfinished projects. Also found are interviews conducted by Bowman with a wide range of individuals for a variety of purposes.

Biographical materials consist of certificates, resumes, and a few photographs of Ruth Bowman. Correspondence concerns Bowman's professional activities and interests. Among the most frequent correspondents are: American Association of Museums, Craft and Folk Art Museum (Los Angeles), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art.

Writings by Ruth Bowman, published and unpublished, include a thesis and articles about Thomas Pollock Anshutz, catalogs for American Federation of Arts and The Newark Museum exhibitions, lectures, as well as articles about museum education and visual arts programs. Research relates to her writings about Anshutz, and to unrealized projects concerning Anshutz, Cézanne, Eakins, Picasso, and other subjects. Also found are two brief writings about Bowman.

Subject files--general subjects, artists' files, Ruth Bowman activities, and "Sunrise Semester"--contain the majority of Bowman's professional correspondence along with printed material, writings, photographs, and sound recordings. Among the most thoroughly documented general subjects are: The Brooklyn Museum's Trustees Retreat, Canadian Museums Association, a 1981 Craft Symposium, International Network for the Arts, Long Beach Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Museum Directors' Forum", New York University Art Collection, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Council for the Arts. Artists' files are comprised mainly of printed material with a small amount of correspondence and some photographs. The Les Levine file consists of the first issue of Art-Rite featuring a brief article about Levine on its cover; Thomas Wilfred's file includes information about Lumia. Ruth Bowman activities include lectures, radio and television appearances, and participation in professional events. "Sunrise Semester," a collaboration between CBS television and New York University, offered early morning courses for college credit. Ruth Bowman was the instructor for "20th Century American Art," which is documented by general information, scripts, and sound recordings of all 46 classes.

Interviews conducted by Bowman are with English museum administrators and educators; people knowledgeable about a controversial proposal for an Annenberg Fine Arts Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; guests on KUSC radio shows "Sounds of Seeing" and "Live from Trump's"; and guests on the WNYC radio program "Views on Art." Interviews with miscellaneous individuals include Josef Albers, Hans Burkhardt, Carl Holty, Isamu Noguchi, and Helen Farr Sloan. Bowman interviewed a dozen American abstract artists, including Ilya Bolotowsky, Rosalind Bengelsdorf Browne, Burgoyne Diller, John Ferren, Carl Holty, Harry Holtzman, Ibram Lassaw, Jacques Lipchitz, Alice Mason, George McNeil, George L. K. Morris, and Ad Reinhardt for a thesis on the subject, but eventually wrote on a different topic. Two interviews with Bowman were conducted by Duncan MacDonald and an unidentified interviewer.
Arrangement:
This collection is arranged as 5 series:

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1964-1984 (Box 1; 0.1 linear feet)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1963-1996 (Box 1; 0.7 linear feet)

Series 3: Writings and Related Research, 1942-1999 (Boxes 1-3; 1.5 linear feet)

Series 4: Subject Files, 1936-2006 (Boxes 3-12, 26; 9.6 linear feet)

Series 5: Interviews, 1963-1989 (Boxes 12-25; 9.2 linear feet, ER01-ER70; 21.99 GB)
Biographical / Historical:
Ruth Bowman (b. 1923) is an art historian and museum educator who worked in New York City and Los Angeles. She is known for her interest in using new communications technology for museum education, discovering Arshile Gorky's long forgotten murals at Newark Airport, and expertise in the work of Thomas Anshutz.

A graduate of Bryn Mawr College (B.A. 1944), where she had studied art history and classical archaeology, Ruth Bowman began a museum career in New York as an assistant curator at the Jewish Museum in the early 1960s. From 1963-1974 Ruth Bowman served as curator of the York University Art Collection and was involved in its transition to the Grey Art Gallery and Study Center. Bowman wrote her master's thesis on Philadelphia artist Thomas Pollock Anshutz and received a degree from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 1971. During this same period, she was a staff lecturer at The Museum of Modern Art and taught art history in divisions of New York University. She was the instructor for a "Sunrise Semester" 20th century American art course broadcast nationally on CBS.

In 1974 Bowman and her family moved to California and she began an association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Director of Education. She attended summer courses in arts administration at Harvard University (1975) and similar training provided by the British Arts Council (1976). She taught at University of California Santa Barbara, as well as at California State University at Fullerton and Long Beach. Bowman was active in the Council of the American Association of Museums (vice president), the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (vice president), and has served as a consultant to several museums and a corporate collection.

Ruth Bowman with her friend Harry Kahn (1916-1999) developed a collection of self-portraits by 20th century American artists, which she donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 2002. Mrs. Bowman is the widow of R. Wallace Bowman and currently resides in New York City.
Provenance:
Donated by Ruth Bowman in 2004.
Restrictions:
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Rights:
Research material including correspondence, writings and notes, photographs, and printed material on Cezanne, Thomas Eakins, and Picasso: Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce requires written permission from Ruth Bowman. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Art historians -- California -- Los Angeles  Search this
Art historians -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Topic:
Art -- Study and teaching  Search this
Art, American -- 20th century  Search this
Genre/Form:
Photographs
Interviews
Sound recordings
Scripts (documents)
Citation:
Ruth Bowman papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.bowmruth2
See more items in:
Ruth Bowman papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-bowmruth2
Online Media:

Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers

Creator:
Parsons, Betty  Search this
Names:
Betty Parsons Gallery  Search this
Bess, Forrest, 1911-1977  Search this
Congdon, William, 1912-1998  Search this
Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956  Search this
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970  Search this
Extent:
61.1 Linear feet
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sketchbooks
Interviews
Video recordings
Drawings
Date:
1916-1991
bulk 1946-1983
Summary:
The Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers measure 61.1 linear feet and date from 1916 to 1991, with the bulk of the material dating from 1946-1983. Records provide extensive documentation of the gallery's operations from its inception in 1946 to its closing in 1983 and of the activities of Betty Parsons as one the leading art dealers of contemporary American Art in the latter half of the twentieth century, particularly the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Over one third of the of the collection is comprised of artists files containing correspondence, price lists, and printed materials. Additional correspondence is with galleries, dealers, art institutions, private collectors, and the media. Also found are exhibition files, exhibition catalogs and announcements, sales records, stock inventories, personal financial records, and photographs. Betty Parsons's personal papers consist of early curatorial files, pocket diaries, personal correspondence, and evidence of her own artwork, including sketchbooks, and files documenting her personal art collection.
Scope and Content Note:
The Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers measure 61.1 linear feet and date from 1916 to 1991, with the bulk of the material dating from 1946-1983. Records provide extensive documentation of the gallery's operations from its inception in 1946 to its closing in 1983 and of the activities of Betty Parsons as one the leading art dealers of contemporary American Art in the latter half of the twentieth century, particularly the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Over one third of the of the collection is comprised of artists files containing correspondence, price lists, and printed materials. Additional correspondence is with galleries, dealers, art institutions, private collectors, and the media. Also found are exhibition files, exhibition catalogs and announcements, sales records, stock inventories, personal financial records, and photographs. Betty Parsons's personal papers consist of early curatorial files, pocket diaries, personal correspondence, and evidence of her own artwork, including sketchbooks, and files documenting her personal art collection. Personal papers also include personal photographs.

Artists files, the largest and most extensive series, consist of a wide variety of documents, including biographical materials, correspondence with or related to the artist, exhibition catalogs and announcements, sales and expense invoices, clippings, price lists, and photographs of the artist, exhibitions, and artwork. The files reflect Parsons's close personal relationships with certain artists, particularly Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Barnett Newman. Extensive documentation is also found for Forrest Bess, William Congdon, Paul Feeley, Thomas George, Alexander Liberman, Seymour Lipton, Richard Pousette-Dart, Jesse Reichek, and Jack Youngerman. Historians and researchers will find these files to be an invaluable resource both in tracing Betty Parsons's role in promoting Abstract Expressionism and researching individual artists.

Exhibition files primarily document the gallery's infrequent group or themed exhibitions. Of particular note are the files on The Ideographic Picture, which was organized by Barnett Newman and included his work, as well as that of Pietro Lazzari, Boris Margo, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Theodoros Stamos, and Clyfford Still. Price lists, artist biographies and exhibition schedules are housed in the general exhibition files. Loan exhibition files provide documentation of artwork borrowed by other galleries or institutions for exhibitions, as well as shows outside of the gallery that were organized by Betty Parsons. Also found are gallery exhibition guest books, and announcements and catalogs.

Gallery correspondence is primarily with galleries and dealers, museums, arts organizations, and collectors. Scattered letters from artists are also found, although the bulk of the artists' correspondence is filed in the Artists Files. Also found here are memoranda and letters between Betty Parsons and her staff that contain detailed information concerning Parsons's schedule and gallery activities. Similar correspondence is found amongst the correspondence files within the series Betty Parsons papers.

Appraisal and conservation files include correspondence, appraisal invoices, forms, and appraisal requests and other information from the Art Dealers Association of America, and conservation invoices and reports. The majority of the appraisal records contain information about the specific works of art, including artist, title, date, current owner and the estimated value at the time of the request. Conservation records document conservation treatments undertaken by outside conservators to gallery stock.

Sales, purchases, stock and inventory are well documented in the sales and inventory records. The records provide detailed information about individual sales, prices of individual pieces of artwork, consignments, and loans. Most sales records also include detailed information about the buyer and are a valuable resource for provenance research. Files documenting the general administration, routine business operations, and financial transactions (not individual sales) of the gallery are housed in the general business and financial records. These records include ledgers, receipts, tax records, and banking records. There is some limited information about works of art scattered amongst the receipts and in the "in/out slips" files. Legal records house general legal documents and those concerning specific lawsuits. Of particular note is the file detailing the lawsuit between Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis over the fifth floor of 24 West 57th Street.

The remainder of the collection consists of Betty Parsons's personal papers which document her career prior to opening her own gallery, her work as an artist, and her personal art collection.

Some information about Parsons's work prior to opening her own gallery is found in the early curatorial files she retained from her curatorial and administrative work at the Wakefield Gallery and the Mortimer Brandt Gallery. Clippings, correspondence, announcements, exhibition lists and exhibition files are found. For both positions, she kept only the exhibition files for a small group of exhibitions organized around a specific theme, the most notable being the exhibition of Pre-Columbian Sculpture at the Wakefield Gallery.

Biographical materials include copies of her biography, family genealogies, photographs of Parsons, interviews with Colette Roberts and WYNC radio, memberships, photographs, and ephemera, including a collection of programs and invitations from events that she attended. Throughout her life Parsons gave generously of her time to various cultural and charitable institutions and was awarded for her contributions. There are also a number of files that document her speaking engagements, her participation as a juror in numerous juried exhibitions, charitable work, and awards that she received.

Parsons's personal correspondence files reflect how deeply Parsons's life was intertwined with the gallery. There are letters from museum directors, dealers, artists seeking representation, and personal letters from artists with whom she had close personal relationships, most notably Larry Bigelow, Alexander Calder, William Condon, and Ad Reinhardt. There are also letters from the English artist Adge Baker, with whom Parsons was romantically involved. Correspondence also includes several files of postcards and Christmas cards.

Pocket diaries and engagement calendars, spanning from 1933-1981, record social engagements, meetings, vacations, and telephone numbers. Also found are circa two linear feet of notebooks and sketchbooks, many of which are annotated with addresses, poetry, journal entries, and other observations of people, places, and travels. Writings by others include writings about Betty Parsons or the Betty Parsons Gallery, such as Lawrence Alloway's unpublished typescript titled "An American Gallery" and other topics.

Printed material consists of exhibition announcements and catalogs, art magazines, and newspaper and magazine clippings about Betty Parsons, her family and acquaintances, artists, and other art related topics, coupled with a miscellaneous selection of clippings, and a video recording, on topics that presumably captured Parsons's attention.

Personal art work records document Betty Parsons's career as an artist through inventories, group and solo exhibitions files, price lists, appraisals, sales and consignment invoices. Photographs are primarily reproductions of her works of art, although there are scattered photographs of exhibition installations.

Betty Parsons's private art collection files document her extensive personal collection of art that included works by Jackson Pollock, Agnes Martin, Romare Bearden, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko, in addition to Amlash sculpture from ancient Persia and primitive sculpture from New Hebrides. These files include inventories, lists, exhibition records, sales and purchase invoices, and photographs. There are also files for donations and loans from Parsons's personal collection to museums and fund raising auctions for several non-profit institutions.

Finally, the personal financial records provide information about the Parsons's family finances and her personal financial success as an art dealer. In addition to her own investments, Parsons inherited shares in family investments through the estates of her parents, J. Fred Pierson, Jr. and Suzanne Miles Pierson, and younger sister, Emily Rayner. Real estate files include correspondence, utility bills, receipts, area maps, and land plots for houses in Sheepscot, Maine and St. Maartens, Netherlands Antilles. Tax returns, ledger worksheets, receipts, banking statements, deposit slips, and cancelled checks are among the other financial records.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged as seven series. Many of the series are further divided into subseries.

Series 1: Artists Files, 1935-1983 (19.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-18, 51, 55-56, OVs 53, 65)

Series 2: Exhibition Files, 1941-1983 (2.9 linear feet; Boxes 18-21, 51, 55, OVs 54, 66)

Series 3: Correspondence Files, 1941-1983 (3.9 linear feet; Boxes 21-24, 52, 56)

Series 4: Appraisal Files, 1954-1983 (0.7 linear feet; Box 24)

Series 5: Sales and Inventory Records, 1946-1983 (3.9 linear feet; Boxes 25-28, 51)

Series 6: General Business and Financial Records, 1946-1983 (9.3 linear feet; Boxes 28-38, 51, 56)

Series 7: Betty Parsons Personal Papers, 1916-1991 (21 linear feet; Boxes 38-51, 55-64, OVs 65-67)
Historical Note:
Betty Parsons (1900-1982) was one of the leading art dealers in New York City specializing in modern art, particularly the work of the Abstract Expressionists, and an abstract painter and sculptor in her own right. She opened Betty Parsons Gallery in 1946 at 15 E. 57th St., later moving to 24 W. 57th St.

The history of the Betty Parsons Gallery is inextricably bound to the life and experiences of its founder. Betty Parsons was born Betty Bierne Pierson on January 31, 1900 in New York City. She enjoyed a privileged childhood, which included vacation homes in Newport and Palm Beach. Her only formal education was a five-year stint at the prestigious Chapin School from 1910-1915, where she met many of the women who would become life-long friends and supporters. In the spring of 1920, she married Schuyler Livingston Parsons from one of New York's oldest families. The marriage ended after only three years and the couple traveled to Paris where they could obtain a divorce on the grounds of incompatibility. She retained her married surname and purchased a house on the rue Boulard in Paris, where she remained for ten years, pursuing studies in painting and sculpture.

Financial constraints forced Parsons to return to the United States in 1933. She first traveled west to California, but it was her return to New York in 1935 that marked the start of her career as an art dealer. Her first opportunity to connect with the New York art world came after a successful exhibition of her watercolors at the Midtown Galleries where the owner, Alan Gruskin, noted Parson's faithful and wealthy group of supporters and offered her work installing exhibitions and selling paintings on commission. Her work for the Midtown Galleries led to a second position in the Park Avenue gallery of Mary Sullivan, one of the founders of the Museum of Modern Art. Here, Parsons learned the business of running a gallery. By 1940 Parsons was ready to take on more independent responsibility and agreed to manage a gallery within the Wakefield Bookshop. In this job, she exercised full curatorial control by selecting artists and organizing exhibitions. She championed then unknown contemporary American artists and the gallery's roster soon included Saul Steinberg, Hedda Sterne, Alfonso Ossorio, Joseph Cornell, Walter Murch, and Theodore Stamos. Although the majority of the exhibitions were solo shows, there were a few group shows and themed exhibitions, such as Love in Art (1941) and Ballet in Art (1942). Under Parson's direction, the gallery hosted an important exhibition of Pre-Columbian sculpture, curated by Barnett Newman.

When the owners of the Wakefield Bookshop decided to close the gallery late in 1944, Mortimer Brandt, a dealer who specialized in Old Master paintings and drawings, offered her a position as head of the newly created contemporary section of his gallery. Many of the artists who had shown with Parsons at the Wakefield Gallery followed her to her new gallery, where they were joined by Ad Reinhardt, Boris Mango, and Hans Hofmann. While the exhibitions garnered attention from the press and the interest of contemporary artists, the contemporary section was not a financial success and Brandt opted to close his gallery in 1946.

Using $1000 of her own money and an additional borrowed $4000, Parsons sublet the space that previously housed Mortimer Brandt's contemporary section, on the fifth floor of 15 East 57th Street, and opened the Betty Parsons Gallery.

In many respects the early years of the Betty Parsons Gallery were the most vital, as it was during the period of 1947-1951 that the gallery became linked with the Abstract Expressionists and the history of post-WWII American Art. In an unpublished history of the gallery, noted art critic Lawrence Alloway stated that the significance of the gallery's early exhibitions ranks with Durand-Ruel's Impressionists exhibitions or Kahnweiler's shows of the Cubists. Betty Parsons Gallery quickly became one of the most prestigious galleries in New York City associated with new American Art of all styles. Her close friend Barnett Newman organized the gallery's inaugural exhibition of Northwest Coast Indian Art and he soon began to exhibit his own work at the gallery. When Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery closed, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, and Mark Rothko joined Parsons' growing stable of artists. Although Parsons continued to promote and exhibit many of the artists whom she had previously discovered, these four artists dominated this period. Newman, Pollock, Still, and Rothko worked closely together, holding themselves apart from the other artists somewhat. They were actively involved in the curatorial process and often hung their own shows. For these artists, the exhibition itself was an artistic act of creation.

Parsons provided a supportive environment and allowed her artists enormous freedom in planning and designing their exhibitions. She was not, however, an aggressive salesperson. During this early period the gallery ledgers document sales to an impressive array of museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, as well as important collectors such as Edward Root and Duncan Phillips. Nevertheless, the art that the gallery promoted was not yet widely accepted. Sales were few, prices were low and the business would not turn a profit for several years. Meanwhile, there was mounting pressure from Pollock, Newman, Still, and Rothko to drop some of the other artists from Parsons' stable and focus all resources on them. They wanted to be promoted to a larger audience and have their work sold at higher prices, but Parsons enjoyed discovering new artists and did not want to be restricted in this endeavor. The year 1951 marks the last time that Pollock's drip paintings or the monumental works of Newman, Rothko or Still were shown at the Betty Parsons Gallery.

In the following years the Betty Parsons Gallery continued to attract a diverse group of talented artists. Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Tuttle, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jack Youngerman had their first New York exhibitions at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Parsons opened Section Eleven in 1958, a short-lived annex to the main gallery, so that she could promote younger, less well-known artists. It closed in 1960 due to the administrative difficulties in running two essentially separate galleries.

In 1962, Sidney Janis, another prominent art dealer, started proceedings to evict Parsons from the floor that they shared on 15 East 57th Street. The Betty Parsons Gallery moved to 24 West 57th Street in 1963, where it remained until it closed in 1983, following Parsons' death the preceding year. Throughout the gallery's history, Parsons continued to promote faithful artists such as Hedda Sterne and Saul Steinberg, who had been with her from the beginning and to seek out new talent, both for her main gallery and for other venues, such as the short-lived Parsons-Truman Gallery, which she opened in 1974 with former Parsons Gallery director Jock Truman to show works on paper by emerging artists.

In addition to being an art dealer, Betty Parsons was a respected artist and collector. With her connoisseur's eye and connections, Parsons amassed an impressive private collection of art. She bought her first piece while an art student in Paris in the 1920s, a small gouache by Zadkine, but did not begin acquiring works in earnest until she was established as an art dealer. Partial inventories of her personal collection show that the majority of her collection contained works by artists associated with the gallery. Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, and Kenzo Okada were among the artists represented. Many were gifts from the artists, such as an ink drawing by Jackson Pollock, inscribed "For Betty." Selections from her collection appeared in small museums across the United States, including a traveling exhibition organized by Fitch College, New York, in 1968. In her role as a promoter of contemporary American art, Parsons lent generously from her collection, particularly to the federal Art in the Embassies Program. Throughout her life she also donated works to a variety of museums, most notably, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark.

Parsons frequently claimed that her desire to pursue a career as an artist stemmed from a visit to the Armory Show when she was thirteen. In her late teens, after pressuring her father for art lessons, she studied with the sculptor Gutzon Burglum of Mount Rushmore fame. In Paris, she continued her studies first with Antoine Bourdelle, whose sculptures she had admired at the Armory Show, and later with Ossip Zadkine. The first exhibition of her work, figurative watercolors and sculptures, took place in Paris in 1927. As she matured as an artist, her art became more abstract. Her late works were painted wood sculptures that she pieced together from wood that she found near her studio in Long Island. Parsons's work was exhibited in more than thirty solo exhibitions, including, Betty Parsons; Paintings, Gouaches and Sculpture, 1955-1968, at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. During her lifetime, she would not allow her works to be shown in her own gallery. Shortly after she died of a stroke in 1982, In Memoriam, Betty Parsons: Late Sculptures, opened at the Betty Parsons Gallery.
Related Material:
Also found in the Archives of American Art are oral history interviews with Betty Parsons, June 4-9, 1969, by Paul Cummings, and June 11, 1981 by Gerald Silk.
Separated Material:
Some of the material originally loaned for microfilming in 1968 and 1969 was not included in later donations and can be viewed on microfilm reels N68/62-N68/74 and N69/105-N69/106. Loaned materials are not described in the container listing in this finding aid.
Provenance:
The gallery donated some records in 1974, many of which had been loaned earlier for microfilming. The bulk of the collection was donated in 1984 and 1986 by William Rayner and Christopher Schwabacher, executors of the Estate of Betty Parsons. Additional material was donated by William Rayner in 1998 and Christopher Schwabacher in 2017. Additional material was donated in 2018 by the Lee Hall estate via Carolyn Crozier and Deborah Jacobson, co-executors. Hall was Parsons's biographer and had the material in her possession at the time of Parsons's death. An additional photograph of Parons and Marie Carr Taylor by Henri Cartier-Bresson was donated in 2021 by Mary Carpenter, who inherited the photograph from her mother, Nan Thorton Jones, who received it as a gift from Taylor.
Restrictions:
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.

Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Rights:
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Occupation:
Gallery owners -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Art dealers -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
Topic:
Women art dealers  Search this
Women artists  Search this
Abstract expressionist  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sketchbooks
Interviews
Video recordings
Drawings
Citation:
Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers, 1916-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
AAA.parsbett
See more items in:
Betty Parsons Gallery records and personal papers
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-parsbett
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt postcard to Samuel J. Wagstaff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Wagstaff, Samuel J., 1921-1987  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1965 Aug. 12
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)15178
See more items in:
Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_15178
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt postcard to Samuel J. Wagstaff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Wagstaff, Samuel J., 1921-1987  Search this
Subject:
Riley, Bridget  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1964 July 23
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)15179
See more items in:
Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_15179
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt letter to Bertha Schaefer

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Schaefer, Bertha, 1895-1971  Search this
Subject:
Johnson, Crockett  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1966 June 6
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)16502
See more items in:
Bertha Schaefer papers and gallery records, 1909-1975, bulk 1940-1965
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_16502

George Rickey letter to Ad Reinhardt

Creator:
Rickey, George, 1907-2002  Search this
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Subject:
Reinhardt, Ad  Search this
Rickey, George  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
196? May 28
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)17060
See more items in:
Ad Reinhardt papers, 1927-1968
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_17060
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt postcard to Barbara Mason

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Mason, Barbara  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1951 September 20
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)22727
See more items in:
Ad Reinhardt postcards to Barbara Mason, 1951-1957 and undated
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_22727
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt postcard to Barbara Mason

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Mason, Barbara  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1954 November 8
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)22728
See more items in:
Ad Reinhardt postcards to Barbara Mason, 1951-1957 and undated
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_22728
Online Media:

Satirical sketch for an artist strike

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Type:
Artworks
Date:
1961
Topic:
Art galleries, Commercial  Search this
Art market  Search this
Art patrons  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)515
See more items in:
Ad Reinhardt papers, 1927-1968
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_515

Ad Reinhardt birthday card to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1955 Feb. 3
Topic:
Illustrated letters  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5631
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5631
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt Valentine to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1955 Feb. 18
Topic:
Illustrated letters  Search this
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5632
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5632
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1955 June 2
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5633
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5633
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1955 August 25
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5634
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5634
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1955 July 8
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5635
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5635
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1957 February 25
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5636
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5636
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1957 May 2
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5637
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5637
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1957 July 18
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5639
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5639
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1957 September 17
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5640
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5640
Online Media:

Ad Reinhardt to Selina Trieff

Creator:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967  Search this
Trieff, Selina, 1934-2015  Search this
Type:
Correspondence
Date:
1958 March 12
Record number:
(DSI-AAA)5643
See more items in:
Selina Trieff papers, 1951-1981
Data Source:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:AAADCD_item_5643
Online Media:

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