An interview of Robert Venturi conducted 1991 June 1-1991 July 20, by Peter Reed, for the Archives of American Art Philadelphia Project.
Venturi discusses his childhood, education and early career; travelling to Rome; his relationships with Louis Kahn and Vincent Scully; writing "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture"; teaching at Yale University; his partnership with Denise Scott Brown; projects such as the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London, the house he built for his mother, the Guild House and the Seattle Art Museum; and architect/client, architect/contractor relationships in contemporary practice.
Biographical / Historical:
Robert Venturi (1925- ) is an architect from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 5 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 50 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral 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 administrators.
Three discussions between Rudolf Arnheim and architect Daniel Libeskind, art historian Vincent Scully and graphic artist Paul Rand, portions of which were used for a Festchrift in honor of Arnheim, "Rudolf Arnheim: Revealing Vision," (University of Michigan, 1998), edited by Kent Kleinman and Leslie Van Duzer.
Biographical / Historical:
Kent Kleinman (1956- ) is an author, dean of Cornell University's College of Architecture and a former professor at State University of New York, Buffalo, New York and University of Michigan. Rudolf Arnheim (1904-2007) was an art historian, educator, writer and psychologist, who taught at Harvard and at the University of Michigan.
Donated 2013 by Kent Kleinman.
Use of original cassettes requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The papers of architectural historian, author, critic, teacher, and museum director, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, date from 1919-1987 and measure 24.8 linear feet. Almost all of the collection is comprised of Hitchcock's correspondence files relating to academic research, teaching, curatorial interests, and professional associations. Letters are from prominent architectural historians, architects, artists, preservationists, museum directors and curators, and family and friends. Also found are two feet of writings by Hitchcock and others, scattered biographical information, printed material, and photographs of Hitchcock and architecture.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of architectural historian, author, critic, teacher, and museum director, Henry-Russell Hitchcock, date from 1919-1987 and measure 24.8 linear feet. Almost all of the collection is comprised of Hitchcock's correspondence files relating to academic research, teaching, curatorial interests, and professional associations. Letters are from prominent architectural historians, architects, artists, preservationists, museum directors and curators, and family and friends. Also found are two feet of writings by Hitchcock and others, scattered biographical information, miscellaneous records, printed material, and photographs of Hitchcock and architecture.
Among the biographical documents are Hitchcock's birth certificate, passport, and wills. Awards, citations, honorary degrees and commendations are from the University of Pennsylvania, Wesleyan University, the Friends of Cast Iron Architecture, National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the Victorian Society in America.
Chronological name and subject files consist mostly of correspondence and printed material along with a small number of photographs. They include personal and professional correspondence and subject files relating to academic research, teaching, curatorial interests, and professional associations. The correspondence includes large numbers of letters from prominent architectural historians, architects, artists, preservationists, museum directors and curators. Also included are students, friends, relatives, publishers, and representatives of organizations and institutions. Among those of note are: Jere Abbott, Everett A. (Chick) Austin, Alfred H. Barr, Bernard Berenson, Eugene Berman, Leonid Berman, Lyonel Feininger, Henry (Harry) Sayles Francis, Brendan Gill, Robert Goldwater, George Howe, Philip C. Johnson, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., Lincoln Kirstein, Thomas J. McCormick, Lewis Mumford, J.J.P. Oud, Erwin Panofsky, Nikolaus Pevsner, Kingsley Porter, Paul J. Sachs, R. M. Schindler, Vincent Scully, Jr., Theodore Sizer, E. Baldwin Smith, Peter van der Meulen Smith, James Soby, Victor Spark, Harold Sterner, John Summerson, Virgil Thomson, Paul Vanderbilt, Theo Van Doesburg, Helmut von Erffa, Gordon Washburn, Rudolf Wittkower, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Writings by Hitchcock consist of manuscripts and drafts of numerous published and unpublished articles, book chapters, and his masters thesis. Other writings by Hitchcock include lecture notes and texts, book reviews, notes, outlines, photo lists, and a bibliography. Among the other authors represented in this series are John Coolidge and Sir Wilfred Green.
Miscellaneous records consist of the alien registration card of Hitchcock's friend Peter van der Meulen Smith, architectural drawings by Hitchcock, book contracts, and a small number of receipts and invoices.
Printed material consists of articles about, by, or mentioning Henry-Russell Hitchcock, along with advertisements for his books, and postcards of architectural subjects.
Photographs are of architecture, art work, events, people, places, and miscellaneous subjects; also included are color slides, negatives, and transparencies. Architectural subjects include the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Gaudi, as well as interior and exterior views of buildings identified only by location. Photographs of people include Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Chick Austin and Ernestine Carter, Alexander Dorner, Tammy Grimes, Lincoln Kirstein, the Steinway family, and Edgar Tafel. Events recorded include the Society of Architectural Historians at the Newport Casino, Hitchcock receiving honorary degrees at the University of Glasgow and Wesleyan University, and a high tea sponsored by the Victorian Society in America. Family houses and views of Greece are among the photographs of places. Miscellaneous subjects include exhibition installations and family heirlooms.
The collection is arranged as 6 series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1922-1984 (Box 1; 0.1 linear ft.)
Series 2: Chronological Name and Subject Files, 1919-1987 (Boxes 1-22; 21.9 linear ft.)
Series 3: Writings, 1922-circa 1978 (Boxes 23-24; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 4: Miscellaneous Records, 1928-1977 (Box 25; 0.1 linear ft.)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1922-1984 (Boxes 25-26; 0.4 linear ft.)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1926-1979 (Box 26; 0.3 linear ft.)
Henry-Russell Hitchcock, considered the "father" of modern architectural historiography, played a major role in bringing modern architecture to the United States. As an eminent professor for more than forty years, Hitchcock trained and influenced several generations of scholars and critics. He combined a love of architecture with criticism and scholarship to produce a large number of distinguished monographs and articles on a broad range of styles and periods.
Born in Boston in 1903, Henry-Russell Hitchcock was the son of Mayflower descendants. At Harvard University, he studied medieval history with A. Kingsly Porter as his mentor and completed the undergraduate curriculum in three years. Hitchcock spent his senior year studying architecture, graduated in 1924, and stayed to study for a master's degree, which was awarded in 1927. During his years at Harvard, he wrote for Hound and Horn and knew Alfred Barr, T. S. Eliot, Philip Johnson, Lincoln Kirstein, Virgil Thomson, and others who became leaders in the modernist movement.
Henry-Russell Hitchcock's teaching career began when he was appointed an assistant professor at Vassar College for the academic year 1927-28. In 1929, he joined the faculty of Wesleyan University, where he remained for two decades before moving to Smith College in 1949. During his tenures at Wesleyan and Smith, his services as a visiting lecturer were employed on many occasions by Cambridge University, Connecticut College, Harvard University, the Institute of Fine Arts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Yale University. Upon retiring from Smith College in 1968, Hitchcock moved to New York City and taught briefly at Columbia University, the Institute of Fine Arts, and the University of Massachusetts, at Amherst.
Best known as a proponent of modernism, Hitchcock wrote more than two dozen books about a wide range of styles and periods, and most are considered standard works on their subjects. His first, Modern Architecture: Romanticism and Reintegration, appeared in 1929 and was the first book on the subject to be published in English; his final book, German Renaissance Architecture, was published in 1981.
Henry-Russell Hitchcock served as director of the Smith College Museum between 1949 and 1955. In addition, he was curator of several exhibitions, the first and most important of which was Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, organized in collaboration with Philip C. Johnson and held at the Museum of Modern Art. Their book, The International Style: Architecture Since 1922, was published in 1932 in conjunction with the exhibition.
During World War II, Hitchcock's civilian service included working as director of the U. S. Navy's Photographic Library and writing Pratt and Whitney aircraft engine manuals.
Henry-Russell Hitchcock was an active member of many professional associations. He served as president of the Society of Architectural Historians from 1952 to 1954. In addition, he was a founding member of The Victorian Society in Great Britain, and between 1969 and 1974 was president of its sister organization, The Victorian Society in America.
During his long and illustrious career, Henry-Russell Hitchcock won many awards and honors. Awards for Early Victorian Architecture in Britain and Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries were conferred by the Society of Architectural Historians (1955) and College Art Association (1960), respectively. Hitchcock received the Royal Society of Arts Medal for Best Lecture (1956) and its Benjamin Franklin Medal (1970), in addition to the American Institute of Architects' Architectural Critics' Medal (1970). Other awards include: National Institute of Arts and Letters Award (1956), American Council of Learned Societies Prize for Distinguished Accomplishment in Humanistic Scholarship (1961), Friends of Cast-Iron Architecture Certificate of Commendation (1978), the American Institute of Architects Award of Merit (1978), and Municipal Art Society Certificate of Merit (1978).
He received honorary degrees from Glasgow University and the University of Pennsylvania in 1973, and in 1979 from Wesleyan University. In Search of Modern Architecture: A Tribute to Henry-Russell Hitchcock, edited by Helen Searing, was published by The Architectural History Foundation in 1982.
Due to declining health, Henry-Russell Hitchcock lectured rarely and wrote little in the three years preceding his death from cancer. He died in New York City, February 19, 1987.
The Archives of American Art also holds Henry-Russell Hitchcock letters to Dorothy Stroud and John N. Summerson, 1946-1949. Additional Henry-Russell Hitchcock papers (circa 8 linear feet) are in the Special Collections division of Wesleyan University Library.
Mosette Broderick, assistant to Hitchcock and his literary executor, donated the papers to the Archives of American Art in 1988.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
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Henry-Russell Hitchcock papers, 1919-1987. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art