Avis Berman research material on Katharine Kuh, 1939-2006

A Finding Aid to the Avis Berman Research Material on Katharine Kuh, 1939-2006, in the Archives of American Art, by Joy Weiner

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Biographical Information

Writer and art historian, Avis Berman lives and works in New York City. Berman was a close friend of Katharine Kuh's and is Kuh's literary executor. Berman compiled Katherine Kuh's research materials for the memoir that she was working on at the time of her death; the book was subsequently published as My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legendary Curator in 2006.

Katharine Kuh (1904-1994) was a curator and art dealer born in St. Louis, Missouri. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College in 1925, where she studied art history under Alfred Barr. In 1928, she earned her Master's in Art History at the University of Chicago. As a graduate student, Kuh developed an interest in modern art, particularly the work of European artists.

Kuh married George Kuh, a businessman in 1930. She and Kuh divorced six years later.

In 1935, she established the Katharine Kuh Gallery in Chicago. The gallery was dedicated to featuring the works of contemporary European and American painters and sculptors, such as Alexander Archipenko, Alexei Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Gyorgy Kepes, Paul Klee, Gaston Lachaise, Fernand Léger, Carlos Mérida, Joan Miro, Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Pablo Picasso, as well as Charles Biederman, Alexander Calder, Stuart Davis, and Isamu Noguchi, among others. The Katharine Kuh Gallery was one of the first galleries in Chicago to show photography as art. Kuh held exhibitions for Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, and she also showed the photographs of Gyorgy Kepes and Man Ray.

At the gallery, Kuh taught classes on an informal basis to individuals interested in modern art. During this period, she spent her summers as a Visiting Professor of Art History at the University School of Fine Arts of San Miguel in Guanajuarto, Mexico (1938-1940). With the onset of America's involvement in World War II, Kuh realized that the war would curtail her contact with many of the European artists whose works she had promoted and in 1942, she decided to close the gallery.

In 1943, Katharine Kuh took a position in the public relations department at the Art Institute of Chicago. The following year, Kuh was asked to take over the Gallery of Art Interpretation at the Art Institute. Later she was appointed the Curator of Painting and Sculpture; in this role, she developed a close collaborative relationship with the Director of the Art Institute, Daniel Catton Rich. From 1946-1953, she served as the Editor of the Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly.

She left the Art Institute in 1959 and settled in New York City. She served as an art editor at the Saturday Review and World Magazine. She was also an art consultant for the First National Bank of Chicago from 1968-1979.

Katharine Kuh traveled extensively and often wrote about the art of the places she visited such as Sicily, Turkey, and the Yucatan. In the 1940s Kuh developed an interest in the wood carvings of the Indian tribes in the Pacific Northwest. The University of Alaska awarderd her an honorary doctorate for her efforts to preserve the indigenous artwork of the region's Native Americans.

Her publications on twentieth-century art included: Art Has Many Faces (1951), The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists (1962), Break-up: The Core of Modern Art (1965), and The Open Eye: In Pursuit of Art (1971). Kuh also wrote the catalog that accompanied the "Fernand Léger Retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago" (1953). At the time of her death, Katharine Kuh had completed a final draft of her memoir, which she had tentatively titled, Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in an Art Odyssey.

In 1994, Katharine Kuh died in New York City.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Avis Berman research material on art dealer and curator Katharine Kuh measures 3.0 linear feet and dates from 1939 to 2006. The materials were compiled by art historian Avis Berman in preparing Katharine Kuh's memoir, which was published posthumously as My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legendary Curator. The collection includes Katharine Kuh's files; Kuh's drafts, manuscripts and interviews for her memoir; and Avis Berman's files relating to the book's publication. Also included is memorabilia.

The Katharine Kuh files contain correspondence; exhibition files; writings and notes; and Kuh's interview with Lily Harmon on J. B. Neumann. Correspondents include Walter Arensberg, Marcel Duchamp, and Edgar Kaufmann. Also included is the scattered correspondence of Daniel Catton Rich with Walter Arensberg, Chester Dale, Katharine Kuh, Samuel Marx, and others. Exhibition files pertain to exhibitions curated by Katharine Kuh for the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection and one-man shows for Rico Lebrun and Mark Tobey, respectively.

Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey contains Katharine Kuh's draft versions of book chapters; her manuscripts and interviews; and drafts of chapters that were not incorporated in the published memoir. Also included are manuscripts for the memoir and an annotated version of Avis Berman's interview with Kuh.

The Avis Berman files include correspondence, writings, printed material, clippings, press releases, and miscellaneous printed material. Files document Berman's activities concerning the publication of the memoir.

Memorabilia consists of a monograph and a memorial booklet.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 4 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Kuh, Katharine
  • Lebrun, Rico, 1900-1964
  • Neumann, J. B. (Jsrael Ber)
  • Tobey, Mark

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art dealers--Illinois--Chicago
  • Art, Modern
  • Curators--Illinois-Chicago

Types of Materials:

  • Interviews

Names:

  • Arensberg, Walter, 1878-1954
  • Dale, Chester, b. 1883
  • Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968
  • Harmon, Lily, 1912-
  • Kaufmann, Edgar, 1910-1989
  • Kuh, Katharine
  • Rich, Daniel Catton, 1904-1976

Provenance

The Avis Berman Research Material, 1939-2006 was donated to the Archives of American Art by Avis Berman, an art historian and literary executor of Katharine Kuh's estate in 2007.

Separated and Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds the Katherine Kuh papers, 1908-1994. Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Katharine Kuh conducted by Avis Berman, March 18, 1982-March 23, 1983. Additional Katharine Kuh material is located at the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed to a minimal level by Joy Weiner in 2009.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

Authorization to quote, publish, or reproduce requires written permission from: Avis Berman, 407 East 91st Street, New York, New York 10128.

Location of Originals

The collection includes photocopies of Katharine Kuh's correspondence; some of the letters may be among the Katharine Kuh papers, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The Daniel Catton Rich correspondence is located at the Art Institute of Chicago.

How to Cite this Collection

Avis Berman research material on Katharine Kuh, 1939-2006. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Katharine Kuh Files, 1944-2003
(Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)

This series contains correspondence; exhibition files; writings and notes; and an interview. Included is Katharine Kuh's correspondence with artists, collectors, museums, and others during her tenure at the Art Institute of Chicago and the correspondence of the Art Institute's Director, Daniel Catton Rich with Kuh and others. Letters between Rich and Walter and Louise Arensberg chronicle Rich's efforts to obtain the Arensbergs' art collection for the Art Institute. Exhibition files contain letters, a chronology, notes, list of artwork, printed material, press releases, and clippings; included is an extensive file on Kuh's efforts to organize the exhibition, 20th Century Art from the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection. Writings and notes include Kuh's article for Vassar Alumnae Magazine; her written reports of visits to galleries; notes on possible acquisitions for the Art Institute of Chicago; and a copy of a transcript of Katharine Kuh's 1984 interview with Lily Harmon on J. B. Neumann.

Katharine Kuh Files have been arranged into four subseries:

1.1: Katharine Kuh Correspondence, 1944-1982

Box Folder
1 1 Abell, Walter - Cook, Gene, 1944-1957
1 2 Duchamp, Marcel - Hess, Thomas, 1944-1954, 1974
1 3 Kaufmann, Edgar - Kunstadler, Sigmund, 1953-1957
1 4 Langsner, Jules - Maxon, John, 1949-1959, 1982

1.2: Daniel Catton Rich Correspondence, 1946-1958

Box Folder
1 5 Correspondence, 1946-1947
1 6 Correspondence, 1948
1 7-8 Correspondence, 1949
(2 folders)
1 9 Correspondence, 1950-1951
(2 folders)
1 10 Correspondence, 1952-1953
1 11 Correspondence, 1954
1 12 Correspondence, 1955
1 13 Correspondence, 1956
1 14 Correspondence, 1957
1 15-16 Correspondence, 1958
(2 folders)
1 17 Correspondence, undated

1.3: Exhibitions Curated by Katharine Kuh, 1949-1955

Box Folder
1 18-22 20th Century Art from the Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1949-1956
(5 folders)
1 23 Rico Lebrun: Latest Paintings from Mexico, 1954-1956
1 24 Mark Tobey, One-Man Exhibition, 1954-1955

1.4: Writings and Notes; Interview, 1947-1959; 1984

Box Folder
1 25 "Explaining Art Visually," Vassar Alumnae Magazine (March 1957), 1957
1 26 Reports on Gallery Visits, 1947-1959
1 27 Notes on Acquisition of Artwork for the Art Institute of Chicago, 1953-1957, undated
1 28 Miscellaneous Notes, 1954-1955, undated
1 29 Katharine Kuh's Interview with Lily Harmon on J. B. Neumann, 1984

Series 2: Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey by Katharine Kuh, 1939-2006
(Boxes 1-2; 2.0 linear feet)

This series includes Katharine Kuh's drafts of book chapters, manuscripts, and interviews compiled for her memoir, which she had tentatively titled Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey. Also found are annotated excerpts of Avis Berman's oral history interview with Kuh. Files include correspondence, notes, printed material, clippings, reviews, and photographs.

Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey by Katharine Kuh has been arranged into three subseries:

2.1: Draft Versions of Chapters, 1939-2006

Box Folder
1 30-42 "Preface and Introduction," 1959-2006
(12 folders)
1 43-45 "Josef Albers," 1984-1994
(3 folders)
1 46 "Bernard Berenson," 1990s
1 47 "Stuart Davis," 1990s
1 48-50 "Hans Hofmann," 1990s-2002
(3 folders)
1 51-53 "Edward Hopper," 1990s-circa 2002
(3 folders)
1 54-57 "Alfred Jensen," 1990s
(4 folders)
Box Folder
2 1-8 "Alfred Jensen," 1990s
(8 folders)
2 9-12 "Franz Kline," 1990s-2003
(4 folders)
2 13-23 "Fernard Léger," 1953-1998, undated
(11 folders)
2 24-26 "Isamu Noguchi," 1990s-1995, undated
(3 folders)
2 27-37 "Mark Rothko," 1950s-1990s
(11 folders)
2 38-39 "Clyfford Still," 1990s-2002
(2 folders)
2 40-43 "Mark Tobey," 1962-1994
(4 folders)
2 44-45 "Mies van der Rohe," 1990s, undated
(2 folders)
Box Folder
3 1-4 "Mies van der Rohe," 1939-2003, undated
(4 folders)
3 5-7 "Vincent van Gogh," 1974-1995
(3 folders)

2.2: Manuscripts and Interviews, 1987-1993

Box Folder
3 8 Manuscript of Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey by Katharine Kuh, 1993
3 9 Final Version of Sorting Out and Summing Up: Episodes in An Art Odyssey by Katharine Kuh, 1993
3 10 Excerpts of Interviews with Katharine Kuh conducted by Avis Berman, 1987

2.3: Draft Versions of Chapters Not Used in My Love Affair with Modern Art: Behind the Scenes with a Legenday Curator, 1945-1997

Box Folder
3 11-15 "Alaska," 1946-1997, undated
(5 folders)
3 16-17 "Central America," 1945-1992
(2 folders)
3 18-21 "Corporate Art," 1978-1995
(4 folders)
3 22 "Charles and Ray Eames," 1990s-1995
3 23-28 "Germany After the War," 1990s-1996
(6 folders)
3 29-31 "India," 1990s-1992
(3 folders)
3 32-33 "La Grand Jatte," 1960, 1990s
(2 folders)
3 34 "Mexico," 1990s-1993
3 35-36 "Self Portraits," 1975-1990s, undated

Series 3: Avis Berman Files, 1950s-2006
(Box 3; 0.6 linear feet)

This series contains Avis Berman's research materials related to the editing and publication of My Love Affair with Modern Art: Scenes with a Legendary Curator. Included is correspondence, a letter agreement, writings, printed material, clippings, press releases, and miscellaneous printed material. Also found is Katharine Kuh's correspondence detailing her efforts to find a publisher for the memoir. Writings contain draft versions of chapters formatted on floppy disks.

The Avis Berman Files have been arranged into three subseries:

3.1: Correspondence, 1981-2003

Box Folder
3 37 Correspondence, 1981-1982
3 38 Correspondence, 1991-1992, undated
3 39 Correspondence, 1993
3 40 Letter Agreement, 1994
3 41 Correspondence, 1994-2003

3.2: Writings, 1990s-1994

Box Folder
3 42 Katharine Kuh Manuscript Chapters: "Sorting and Summing," "Hofmann," "Kline," "Rothko," "Jensen," "The 20th Century Briefly," "Tobey" and "Jensen Revisions," 1990s
(2 1/2" disks)
3 43 Various Manuscript Chapters: "Rothko Quote," "B. Berenson and Germany," "Preface and Donors," and "India and World Corp.," 1994
(4 1/2" disks)

3.3: Printed Material, 1950s-2006

Box Folder
3 44 Clippings, 1950s, 2005-2006
3 45 Press Releases, 1954-2006
3 46 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1950s

Series 4: Memorabilia, 1976, 1997
(Box 3; 0.1 linear feet)

Memorabilia houses a book of poems by Richard T. Cox and a memorial booklet.

Box Folder
3 47 Many Seasons by Richard T. Cox, 1976
3 48 Memorial Booklet for Denise Browne Hare , 1997