The Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985 comprise 6.4 linear feet of correspondence, writings, miscellaneous records, printed material, and photographs documenting Wagstaff's professional and personal relationships with artists and photographers, his career as an art curator, and his position as an important collector of paintings and photographs. Correspondence with artists and others such as curators, arts organizations, galleries, and museums, reflects the diversity of contemporary American art and includes individuals associated with the abstract expressionist, Fluxus, pop, earth, conceptual, and minimalist art movements.
Scope and Content Note:
The Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985, comprise 6.4 linear feet of correspondence, writings, miscellaneous records, printed material, and photographs documenting Wagstaff's professional and personal relationships with artists and photographers, his career as an art curator, and his position as an important collector of paintings and photographs.
Correspondence with artists and others such as curators, arts organizations, galleries, and museums reflects the diversity of contemporary American art and includes individuals associated with the abstract expressionist, Fluxus, pop, earth, conceptual, and minimalist art movements. Wagstaff's importance as a collector and curator and his generosity to and interest in artists is evident from the large number of invitations to view and critique work, requests for fellowship and grant recommendations, and thank you notes from artists to whom he extended financial or moral support. Among the most prolific correspondents found here are: Dan Basen, George Brecht, James Lee Byars, Walter de Maria, Mark Di Suvero, Albert Fine, Dan Flavin, Ann Halprin, Grace Hartigan, Charles James, Philip Johnson, Ray Johnson, Doreen and Robert Manning, Agnes Martin, Gordon Newton, Claes Oldenburg, Ad Reinhardt, Dieter Rot, Alan Saret, Richard Tuttle, May Wilson, and Andy Warhol.
Writings by Wagstaff consist of "Looking at Modern Art" prepared for the Trinity College Reading Program, and an untitled, undated piece about multiplicity in art. Among the writings by other authors are Bruce Bennard's "The Photographer Rediscovered," "Pop Art" by Henry Geldzahler, and "Collecting Photographs" by Bonnie Barrett Stretch.
Miscellaneous records are drawings by Bruce Kleinsmith, a print by Harold Paris and artists' resumes. Also included is a costume consisting of a stuffed devil's tail and two red silk caps connected by a long sash, all in a matching red silk bag.
Among the printed material are books, exhibition catalogs and prospectuses, periodicals, press releases, reproductions, and a variety of other printed items relating to photography and art.
Photographs consist largely of copy prints and a small number of original prints. Also included are a few images of exhibition installations and other miscellaneous subjects. There are no portraits of Samuel J. Wagstaff among the photographs of people. Identified individuals include: Bella Abzug, Peter Allen, Michael Collins, Angela Davis, Candy Darling, Wendell Ford, Joseph Hirshhorn, W. A. Huffman, David Love, Marc Miller, Bettie Ringma, and Andy Warhol.
The collection is arranged into 5 series.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1932-1986 (Boxes 1-3, 8, OV 9-10; 2.5 linear ft.)
Series 2: Writings, 1961-1983 (Box 3; 0.2 linear ft.)
Series 3: Miscellaneous Papers and Artifacts, 1970s-1980s (Box 3; 0.2 linear ft.)
Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1914-1988 (Boxes 3-8, OV 11; 3.2 linear ft.)
Series 5: Photographs, 1975-1982 (Boxes 7-8; 0.1 linear ft.)
Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr. (1921-1987), the son of a lawyer from an old New York family and fashion artist Olga Piorkowska, was born in New York City. A graduate of Yale University, he was an ensign in the Navy and took part in the D-day landing at Omaha Beach.
Following World War II, Wagstaff studied Renaissance art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. A David E. Finley art history fellowship took him to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. in 1959. He served as curator of contemporary art at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., from 1961 to 1968, where he coordinated sculptor Tony Smith's first museum show in 1966. In 1971, during Wagstaff's tenure as curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts (1968-1971), he presented Michael Heizer's installation Dragged Mass Geometric on the grounds of the museum.
In addition to his curatorial work, Samuel J. Wagstaff was a noted collector. Originally, he was a fairly influential collector of avant-garde paintings. After seeing the exhibition "The Painterly Photograph" and meeting photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff became convinced that photographs were the most unrecognized and, possibly, the most valuable works of art. He moved to New York and began selling his collection of paintings, using the proceeds to begin his photography collection and concentrating on 19th century American, British, and French examples. Then, influenced by his lover, photographer Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff's taste veered toward the daring, and he began to depart from established names in search of new talent. His collection was soon recognized as one of the finest private holdings in the United States. An exhibition of his photographs was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., in 1978, and A Book of Photographs from the Sam Wagstaff Collection was published to accompany the show that toured the country.
The photograph collection was sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, Calif., in 1984, for a reported $5 million. Wagstaff then focused his attention on collecting 19th century American silver, and a selection from that collection was exhibited at the New York Historical Society in 1987.
Samuel J. Wagstaff died in New York City on January 14, 1987, from pneumonia, a complication of HIV infection.
Samuel J. Wagstaff donated his papers between 1976 and 1986.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
The Samuel J. Wagstaff 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.
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This collection consists of approximately 1.87 cubic feet of historical maps and photographs collected by Dieter Gröschel. The maps, which are various sizes, date from approximately 1884 to 1941 and were produced in Germany, France, and England. They show parts of Russia; Germany; France; Belgium; Holland; Bavaria; and Africa; and many have hand-drawn notations including battle lines, locations of troops, etc. Some of the maps are linen-backed and designed for use in an aircraft. The collection also contains numerous black and white historical photographs including aerial photographs of Germany and France taken in 1917 and 1918; photographs of personnel, facilities, and operations relating to Feldflieger-Abteilung Nr. 5 which date from 1915 to 1918; aerial photographs taken in 1918 of Flanders and Zeebrugge by Karl Keppler and Max Greiner of Fliegerabteilung 291 (A); a French set of 32 black and white aerial photographs on ten pages, with interpretation, used for training observers in World War I; an unbound German World War I album containing black and white photographs and post cards; and a photo album belonging to a paymaster of the Jagdstaffelschule I during World War I. The album, which measures approximately 14 x 10 inches, is linen-covered and contains photographs of the front-lines in France and Italy; personnel, including members of the Lothringisches Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 144; aircraft, including crashes; and personal family photographs relating to the album's creator. Aircraft depicted in these photographs include an Albatros D Series Fighter and a captured Nieuport fighter. There is also a 3.5 x 5.5 inch color post card dating to 1915 with an illustration of French pre-World War I era infantry looking up at an Etrich Taube (Dove) type aircraft included in the collection. Finally, this collection contains a selection of manuals which includes the following titles: Instructions Concerning Battle Maps, U.S. Army War College, 1917 (Translated from French edition of 1916); List of Conventional Signs and Abbreviations in Use on French and German Maps, compiled by Second Section, General Staff (Topography), American Expeditionary Forces, 1918; Catalogue of Maps, General Staff, American Expeditionary Forces, 1918; List of Places in Argonne-Verdun District with their Locations, Supplement A, General Headquarters, American Expeditionary Forces, November 7, 1918; Notes on Map Reading for Use in Army Schools, His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1918; Basic Field Manual, Vol. 1, Chapter 5 - Map and Aerial Photograph Reading, U.S. War Department, 1938; Basic Field Manual, Conventional Signs, Military Symbols, and Abbreviations, U.S. War Department, 1939; Basic Field Manual, Military Intelligence, Military Maps, U.S. War Department, January 6, 1941; Basic Field Manual, Elementary Map and Aerial Photograph Reading, U.S. War Department, April 12, 1941; and Basic Field Manual, Advanced Map and Aerial Photograph Reading, U.S. War Department, September 17, 1941.
Dieter H. M. Gröschel., Gift, 2015
No restrictions on access.