Elise Asher papers, 1923-1994

A Finding Aid to the Elise Asher Papers, 1923-1994, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1914, Elise Asher studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, Bradford Junior College, Boston College, and at Simmons College.

She began her career as a poet, culminating in a volume of her poetry entitled The Meandering Absolute. Upon her 1947 arrival in New York City, her attention turned to painting and sculpture. The Tanager Gallery mounted her first solo exhibition in 1953.

Asher was married to painter Nanno de Groot from 1949 to 1957. A year later she married poet Stanley Kunitz, whose work she often illustrated.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Elise Asher papers, 1923-1994, measure 1.6 linear feet and reflect Asher's career as a poet, painter, and sculptor, and her friendships with many of the more prominent artists of the mid-twentieth century. The collection contains biographical material, letters, writings, works of art, business records, printed material, and photographs.

Notable correspondents found in the collection include Fritz Bultman, Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Norman Mailer, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko, Theodoros Stamos, Jack Tworkov, and Kurt Vonnegut.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into seven series according to material type. The contents of each folder have been arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Names" when they are creators or contributors and under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents.

Subjects:

  • De Groot, Nanno, 1913-1964
  • Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963

Subjects-Topical:

  • Women painters -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Poets -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Women sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York

Types of Materials:

  • Works of art
  • Christmas cards
  • Illustrated letters
  • Photographs
  • Slides (photographs)

Names:

  • Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970
  • Kunitz, Stanley, 1905-
  • Bultman, Fritz, 1919-1985
  • Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-
  • Guston, Philip, 1913-
  • Hofmann, Hans, 1880-1966
  • Mailer, Norman
  • Motherwell, Robert
  • Nevelson, Louise, 1899-1988
  • Stamos, Theodoros, 1922-
  • Tworkov, Jack
  • Vonnegut, Kurt

Provenance

The Elise Asher papers were donated in 1975, 1976, 1989, 1990 and 1995 by the artist.

How the Collection was Processed

The bulk of the collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 1994. The 1995 donation (in box 3) was integrated into the collection during conversion to in 2002. Partial microfilming of the Elise Asher papers was completed with funds provided by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Microfilmed portion must be consulted on microfilm. Use of unmicrofilmed material requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington D.C. research facility.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Elise Asher 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.

Available Formats

The collection is partially available on microfilm reels 4938-4939. The microfilm is available for interlibrary loan.

How to Cite this Collection

The Elise Asher papers, 1923-1994. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1923-1976
(box 1, 1 folder)

This series includes a teacher's report, résumés, and an award certificate.

Box Reel
1 4938 Biographical Material, 1923-1976

Series 2: Letters, 1941-1988, undated
(box 1, 43 folders)

Letters found here are from Asher's colleagues, including Fritz Bultman, Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Norman Mailer, Robert Motherwell, Louise Nevelson, Mark Rothko, Theodoros Stamos, Jack Tworkov, and Kurt Vonnegut. The letters primarily concern their art-related activities.

See Index for List of Notable Correspondents from Series 2

Box Reel
1 4938 Letters, 1941-1988, undated
(43 folders)

Series 3: Business Records, 1955-1988, undated
(box 1, 2 folders)

This series consists of miscellaneous loan agreements and receipts.

Box Reel
1 4938 Loan agreements and receipts, 1955-1988, undated
(2 folders)

Series 4: Writings, 1973-1979, undated
(box 1, 4 folders)

Writings include poems and artist statements by Asher. Also found here are miscellaneous writings about Asher: Elise Asher at Ingber by Carl Little (undated); Asher's Outscapes at Ingber by Ellen Romano Russotto (undated); Another World: Elise Asher at Ingber Gallery by Ellen Russotto (undated); excerpts of Brian O'Doherty's article, "Elise Asher: Ut Pictura Poesis," Art In America (1973); and Elise Asher at the Ingber Gallery by Jeanne Miles.

Box Reel
1 4938 Poems by Elise Asher, undated
1 4938 Artist's Statements, 1973-1975, undated
1 4938 Typescript for Exhibition Catalog The Book As Art by Daniel Fendrick, 1975
1 4938 Miscellaneous Writings About Asher, 1973-1979, undated

Series 5: Artwork, undated
(box 1, 2 folders)

Found here are two collages by James Rosati and a watercolor by Emil White.

Box Reel
1 4938 Collages by James Rosati (2), undated
1 4938 Watercolor by Emil White, undated

Series 6: Printed Material, 1929-1994, undated
(boxes 1-3, 30 folders)

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases, brochures, programs, a published poem by Stanley Kunitz, and three books.

Box Reel
1 4938 Clippings, 1953-1989, undated
(8 folders)
Box Reel
3 (pam) unfilmed Clippings, 1988-1992
Box Reel
1 4938 Exhibition announcements and catalogs for Asher, 1952-1969, undated
(7 folders)
Box Reel
2 (hol) 4938 Exhibition announcements and catalogs for Asher, 1970-1989
(5 folders)
Box Reel
3 (pam) unfilmed Exhibition announcements and catalogs, 1979-1992, undated
Box Reel
2 (hol) 4938 Exhibition catalog and price list for Nanno de Groot, 1982
2 (hol) 4939 Press releases, 1976-1986
2 (hol) 4939 Brochures, 1950-1976
2 (hol) 4939 Puppet show programs, 1929-1930
2 (hol) 4939 Book, The Meandering Absolute by Elise Asher, 1955
2 (hol) 4939 Books, This Book Is A Movie edited by Jerry Bowles and Tony Russell, and The Provincetown Artists Cookbook by Christopher Busa, 1971, 1988
Box Reel
3 (pam) unfilmed Book, The Visionary Gleam by Elise Asher, 1994
Box Reel
1 4939 Published poem The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz, circa 1987

Series 7: Photographs, 1951-1973, undated
(box 2, 5 folders)

Photographs consist of six images of Asher, including one each with Mark Rothko (undated) and William Carlos Williams (1951), and one taken by Hans Namuth. There are also photographs of art works, and photographs of an exhibition installation.

Box Reel
2 (hol) 4939 Photographs of Elise Asher (6), 1951-1972
2 (hol) 4939 Photographs of works of art, 1971-1973, undated
(3 folders)
2 (hol) 4939 Photographs of exhibition installation at The Contemporaries Gallery, 1966

Index: Notable Correspondents from Series 2

  • Adams, Pat: May 31, 1979
  • Albert, Calvin: undated Christmas cards (3), one is illustrated
  • Ashton, Dore: undated postcard?; Jun 12, 1985
  • Beck, Rosemarie: Jun 1972
  • Boghosian, Varujan and Marilyn: undated Christmas card
  • Bourgeois, Louise: Jun 15, 1977
  • Brooks, Charlotte and Jim: undated letters (2); Apr 3, 1966; Jul 27, 1970; Feb 15, 1971
  • Brustlein, Daniel: Sep 8, 1955
  • Bultman, Fritz: undated letters (3); Dec 12, 1964; Jan 2, 1965; Dec 1976
  • Burlin, Paul and Peggy: Dec 4, 1960
  • Busa, Peter: Dec 23, 1964
  • Castellon, Hilda, Paul, and Fred: undated Christmas card
  • Cavallon, Giorgio: Nov 15, 1955; Sep 8, 1963; Oct 22, 1963; Jan 6, 1965; Oct 3, 1966; Mar 12, 1974
  • De Kooning, Lisa: 1979 (incomplete letter)
  • Dorfman, Elsa: undated letter
  • Ferber, Ilse and Herbert: undated Christmas card; Oct 24, 1960? (with 5 photographs of works)
  • Ferren, John: undated Christmas card (illustrated); Feb 11, 1964; Jun 30, 1964
  • Frankenthaler, Helen: undated letters (2); Aug 2, 1956; Jan 19, 1960; Oct 2_, 1960; Apr 1, 1961; Mar 1, 1969; Aug 18, 1969; also see Robert Motherwell
  • Friedman, Sanford: undated postcard; Jul 7, 1969; Dec 26, 1981; Apr 19, 1988; Dec 27, 1988
  • Greene, Stephen and Sigrid: undated Christmas cards (2)
  • Gross, Chaim and Renee: 1967 Christmas card; 1968 Christmas card; 1983 Christmas card
  • Gruen, John: undated Christmas card
  • Guston, Philip and Musa: undated Christmas card with illustration; undated letters (3); Jul 29, 1958; Aug 17, 1960; Sep 19, 1963 (illustrated); Jan 10, 1964 (illustrated); Aug 17, 1964 (illustrated); Nov 6, 1964; Sep 22, 1969; Oct 13, 1970; Feb 15, 1971; [1971]; Apr 9, 1971; Aug 2, 1971; Sep 19, 1972; Dec 22, 1972; Jun 12, 1973; Jul 16, 1973 (illustrated); Aug 27, 1974; Dec 1, 1974; Jan 9, 1975; Aug 16, 1979
  • Hare, David: Mar 7, 1957; Jun 15, 1979; Aug 4, 1980; Jul 14, 1981; Apr 1, 1983
  • Harmon, Lily: undated Christmas card
  • Hess, Thomas: undated letters (2); Nov 12, 1974 (envelope only)
  • Hofmann, Hans and Miz: undated letter; Dec 23, 1952; Dec 1957; Jun 25, 1958; Dec 1, 1958; Jun 3, 1960; Jun 13, 1962; Apr 18, 1963
  • Kahn, Wolf: Oct 16, 1955
  • Kootz, Sam and Jane: undated Christmas card
  • Kuh, Katharine: undated letter; Dec 28, 1974
  • Mailer, Norman: Apr 11, 1968
  • Manso?, Leo: Dec 1979 illustrated envelope
  • Miller, Dorothy: Aug 26, 1953
  • Morris, Hilda: undated letters (3)
  • Motherwell, Robert and Renata Ponsold: Mar 3, 1975; Oct 1, 1977; Oct 16, 1978; Feb 25, 1985; Nov 29, 1988; also see Helen Frankenthaler
  • Nevelson, Louise: Dec 20, 1960 (illustrated card)
  • O'Doherty, Brian: undated letter; Jul 31, 1967; Aug 5, 1968 Sep 20, 1982
  • Pavia, Philip: Aug 17, 1982
  • Reis, Bernard and Becky: undated Christmas cards (2)
  • Resnick, Milton: Feb 23, 1956
  • Rosati, James and Carmel: undated Christmas cards (2); also see Art Work
  • Rothko, Mark: undated letters (2); Jul 20, 1959; Aug 9, 1961; also see Photographs
  • Stamos, Theodorus: undated letter; Jan 3, 1962; Aug 6, 1964; Jul 14, 1965; Aug 19, 1965; Jul 15, 1966; Jul 19, 1967; Jun 29, 1968; Aug 5, 1968; Jul 23, 1973; Dec 11, 1981
  • Stevens, May: Jul 14, 1975
  • Stout, Myron: Mar 25, 1980
  • Terris, Albert and Virginia: Dec 1953 (illustrated Christmas card)
  • Tworkov, Jack and family: undated letters (2); Dec 22, 1955 (illustrated Christmas card); Aug 27, 1956; Jul 5, 1960; Dec 11, 1960; Oct 21, 1968; Jan 4, 1983
  • Varian, Elayne: Oct 6, 1969; Dec 19, 1969
  • Vonnegut, Kurt: undated letters (2); Jan 29, 1975
  • Watson, Hildegarde: Feb 24, 1946; Jun 12, 1948; Mar 31, 1951; Jan 27, 1956; Aug 9, 1958
  • Webb, Nancy: Jan 6, 1986; Dec 15, 1986 (illustrated Christmas card)
  • Wesley, John: Mar 21, 1987
  • White, Emil: see Art Work
  • Williams, William Carlos: Jul 2, 1949 (photocopy); also see Photographs
  • Wilson, Jane: see John Gruen
  • Yunkers, Adja: undated cards (2), one illustrated; Feb 3, 1951; Dec 16, 1964