Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975

A Finding Aid to the Eugene Berman Papers, 1926-1975 , in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Biographical Information

Eugene Berman (1899-1972) worked in New York City, Los Angeles, California, and Rome, Italy as a Neo-Romantic painter and designer of theatrical sets and costumes for opera and ballet productions.

Eugene Berman was born on November 4, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Lydia and Gustav Berman, who died when Eugene was seven years old. His stepfather was a wealthy banker who paid for his education in Germany, Switzerland, and France. In 1918, the family fled to Paris to escape the Bolshevik Revolution.

While in Paris, Berman studied at the Academie Ranson from 1920 to 1922, under Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and FĂ©lix Valloton. With his brother Leonid, Berman joined a group of painters who became known as Neo-Romantics whose paintings were of melancholy dreamlike scenes with mournful figures, defying the prevalent abstract movements in art. By the late 1920s, Berman was beginning to successfully sell his paintings and after meeting American gallery owner Julian Levy, he was offered an exhibition in New York. Berman continued to exhibit at the Julian Levy Gallery from 1929 to 1947.

In 1935, Eugene and Leonid Berman became war refugees and came to New York City. Eugene Berman designed covers for fashionable publications and by 1937, he was painting murals in private residences and designing sets and costumes for opera and ballet performances including those at the Metropolitan Opera.

Berman moved to California in 1938, settling in Los Angeles, and continued to paint murals and design for the theater. He became an American citizen in 1944. Between 1947 and 1949, he received Guggenheim Fellowships to obtain background images from the Southwest United States and Mexico for use in his art work. Berman married actress Ona Munson in 1949.

Two years after his wife's suicide in 1955, Berman moved to Rome, Italy where he continued to paint and design sets for the theater.

Eugene Berman died on December 14, 1972 in Rome, Italy.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter and theatrical set designer Eugene Berman date from 1926-1975 and measure 6.7 linear feet. Found within the papers are scattered letters, primarily postcards, from various colleagues including Juliet and Man Ray and Berman's brother Leonid. There are also notes, scattered artwork, printed material, and extensive photographs, many of Mexico.

Notes include a booklet of photocopies of notes in Italian conerning miscellaneous art work, including prices. There are also scattered notes in French concerning miscellaneous topics.

Art work consists of miscellaneous sketches, primarily on the reverse sides of postcards, depicting human figures and architectural details, sometimes annotated in Russian and Italian.

Printed material includes clippings concerning Eugene and Leonid Berman's art work, exhibition announcements and catalogs, reproductions of art work by Berman, picture postcards, a ballet program, and a guide book for Grado, Italy.

Photographs comprise the largest series in this collection. Photographs of Eugene Berman include two by Russell Lynes. Photographs are also of Berman's wife, Ona Munson, unidentified colleagues, exhibition installations, art work executed by Berman between 1937 and 1948, and miscellaneous photographs of Italy including images by Vincenzo Galdi and Wilhelm von Gloeden. There are ten portfolios of photographs of Mexico, primarily taken by Berman, but Portfolios 1, 6, 9, and 10 include images photographed by Hugo Brehme. There are also commercially produced photographs of various scenes and art work primarily in Italy and Mexico, publicity photographs of ballet and opera performers, and two stereographs of novelty subjects.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 5 series:

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects-Topical:

  • Graphic artists
  • Painters -- California, Los Angeles
  • Painters -- Italy, Rome
  • Painters -- New York (State), New York
  • Set Designers

Subjects-Geographical:

  • Italy -- Description and travel, Photographs
  • Mexico -- Description and travel, Photographs

Types of Materials:

  • Notes
  • Photograph albums
  • Postcards
  • Sketches

Names:

  • Berman, Leonid, 1896-1976
  • Galdi, Vincenzo, photographer
  • Gloeden, Wilhelm von, Baron, 1856-1931, photographer
  • Lynes, Russell, 1910-1991
  • Ray, Man, 1890-1976

Provenance

The Eugene Berman papers were donated by the artist's sister-in-law, Sylvia Marlowe Berman, in 1978.

How the Collection was Processed

Portions of the collection received a very basic level of processing at some point after donation. The collection was further arranged and described by Jean Fitzgerald in July 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Eugene Berman 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.

How to Cite this Collection

Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Letters, 1926-1970
Box 1, 8; 12 folders)

Scattered letters, consisting primarily of postcards, are from various colleagues including Matta, Juliet and Man Ray, and Berman's brother Leonid.

Box Folder
1 1 Correspondents with Unknown Surnames, undated
1 2 Correspondents with Surnames "A" - "M," undated
(Oversized Material Housed in Box 8)
1 3 Correspondents with Surnames "N" - "Z," undated
1 4 Letters, 1926-1938
1 5 Letters, 1939
1 6 Letters, 1940-1941
1 7 Letters, 1942-1944
1 8 Letters, 1945
1 9 Letters, 1946-1949
1 10 Letters, 1950-1957
1 11 Letters, 1962-1970
(Oversized Material Housed in Box 8)
Box Folder
8 1 Oversized Letter from Eugene Berman, undated,
(from Box 1, Folder 2)
8 1 Oversized Letter from Eugene Berman, 1962,
from Box 1, Folder 11

Series 2: Notes, 1944
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Notes consist of a booklet of photocopies of notes on miscellaneous art work, including prices. There are also scattered notes on miscellaneous topics.

Box Folder
1 12 Booklet of Photocopies of Notes on Art Work, undated
1 13 Miscellaneous Notes,
1944, undated

Series 3: Art Work, 1947
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Art work consists of miscellaneous sketches of human figures and architectural details.

Box Folder
1 14-15 Miscellaneous Sketches, undated
(2 folders)

Series 4: Printed Material, 1941-1975
(Box 1, 8; 1.5 linear feet)

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, reproductions of art work, picture postcards of scenes and art work found in various countries, and miscellaneous printed material.

Box Folder
1 16 Clippings, undated
1 17 Clippings, 1949-1975
1 18 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1941-1949
1 19 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1959
1 20 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1962-1963
1 21 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1964
1 22 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1965
1 23 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1966
1 24 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1970-1973
1 25 Exhibition Announcements for Leonid Berman, undated
1 26-31 Reproductions of Art Work by Berman, undated
(6 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 8)
1 32 Picture Postcard of Corsica, undated
1 33 Picture Postcard of Cuba (Havana), undated
1 34 Picture Postcards of France, undated
1 35 Picture Postcards of Germany, undated
1 36 Picture Postcards of Great Britain, undated
1 37 Picture Postcard of Greece (Athens), undated
1 38-87 Picture Postcards of Italy, undated
(50 folders)
Box Folder
2 1-6 Picture Postcards of Italy, undated
(6 folders)
2 7-20 Picture Postcards of Mexico, undated
(14 folders)
2 21-22 Picture Postcards of The Netherlands, undated
(2 folders)
2 23 Picture Postcards of Spain, undated
2 24 Picture Postcard of Switzerland, undated
2 25-40 Picture Postcards of the United States, undated
(16 folders)
2 41 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1950, undated
Box Folder
8 2 Oversized Reproductions of Art Work by Berman, undated,
(from Box 1, Folder 30)

Series 5: Photographs, 1933-1956
(Box, 2-9; 4.9 linear feet)

Photographs are of Eugene Berman (including ones taken by Russell Lynes), his wife, colleagues, exhibition installations, art work, and various travel locations. There are also commercially produced photographs of various scenes and art work primarily in Italy and Mexico, publicity photographs of ballet and opera performers, and stereographs of novelty subjects.

Box Folder
2 42 Photographs of Eugene Berman, 1935, undated
(Oversized Material housed in Box 8)
2 43 Photographs of Ona Munson, Friends, and Colleagues, 1956, undated
2 44-46 Photographs of Exhibition Installations, undated
(3 folders)
2 47-58 Portfolio "Photos of E. B. Paintings," 1948
(12 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 9)
2 59-61 Photographs of Miscellaneous Costume and Set Designs, undated
(3 folders)
2 62-64 Photographs of Costume and Set Designs for Cosi Fan Tutti, 1956
(3 folders)
2 65-71 Photographs of Art Work, undated
(7 folders)
Box Folder
3 1-9 Photographs of Art Work, undated
(9 folders)
3 10 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1937, undated
3 11 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1940, undated
3 12-13 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1941, undated
(2 folders)
3 14 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1942, undated
3 15-17 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1943, undated
(3 folders)
3 18-20 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1944, undated
(3 folders)
3 21-22 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1945, undated
(2 folders)
3 23 Photographs of Art Work Executed in 1947, undated
3 24-36 Photographs of Scenes in Italy, 1953
(13 folders)
3 37-43 Photographs of Scenes in Italy, 1956
(7 folders)
3 44-58 Miscellaneous Photographs of Scenes in Italy, undated
(15 folders)
3 59-68 Portfolio 1: Photographs of Mexico, undated
(10 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 9)
3 69-74 Portfolio 2: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947
(6 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 9)
Box Folder
4 1-7 Portfolio 3: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947
(7 folders)(Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
4 8-11 Portfolio 4: "Mexican Photos," 1947
(4 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
4 12-22 Portfolio 5: "Mexican Photos - Contact and Enlargement," 1947
(11 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
4 23-32 Portfolio 6: "Mexican Photos - Instituto de los Monumentos Coloniales," undated
(10 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
4 33-39 Portfolio 7: "Mexico Photographs for Ona," 1947
(7 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
Box Folder
5 1-7 Portfolio 8: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947
(7 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
5 8-11 Portfolio 9: "Mexican Photos - Brehme," 1947, undated
(Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
5 12-20 Portfolio 10: "Mexican Photos - Instituto de los Monumentos Coloniales," undated
(9 folders) (Oversized Material Housed in Box 10)
5 21-26 Miscellaneous Photographs of Scenes in Mexico, 1947, undated
(6 folders)
5 27 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Austria, undated
5 28-31 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in France, undated
(4 folders)
5 32 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Great Britain, undated
5 33-62 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Italy, undated
(30 folders; Oversized Material Housed in Box 9)
Box Folder
6 1-22 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Italy, undated
(22 folders)
Box Folder
7 1-11 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Italy, undated
(11 folders)
7 12-16 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Mexico, 1933, undated
(5 folders)
7 17 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Russia, undated
7 18 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Spain, undated
7 19-22 Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in the United States, undated
(4 folders)
7 23-24 Miscellaneous Commercial Photographs of Scenes and Art Work in Unidentified Locations, undated
(2 folders)
7 25-27 Photographs of Miscellaneous Ballet and Opera Performers, 1951, undated
(3 folders)
7 28 Stereographs of Novelty Subjects, undated
Box Folder
8 3 Two Oversized Photographs of Eugene Berman by Russell Lynes, 1935,
(from Box 2, Folder 42)
8 4 Oversized Album of Photographs of Art Work, undated
Box Folder
9 1 Oversized Album of Photographs of Drawings of Mexico, 1947
9 2 Oversized Cover for Portfolio "Photos of E. B. Paintings," 1948,
(from Box 2, Folder 47)
9 3 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 1: Photographs of Mexico, undated,
(from Box 3, Folder 59)
9 3 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 2: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947,
(from Box 3, Folder 69)
9 4 Oversized Portfolio of Miscellaneous Scenes in Mexico, undated
9 5 Four Oversized Commercial Photographs of Art Work in Italy (Florence), undated,
(from Box 5, Folder 45)
Box Folder
10 1 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 3: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947,
(from Box 4, Folder 1)
10 1 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 4: "Mexican Photos," 1947,
(from Box 4, Folder 8)
10 2 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 5: "Mexican Photos - Contact and Enlargement," 1947,
(from Box 4, Folder 12)
10 2 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 6: "Mexican Photos - Instituto de los Monumentos Coloniales," undated,
(from Box 4, Folder 23)
10 3 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 7: "Mexico Photographs for Ona," 1947,
(from Box 4, Folder 33)
10 3 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 8: "Mexican Photos - Enlargements," 1947,
(from Box 5, Folder 1)
10 4 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 9: "Mexican Photos - Brehme," 1947, undated,
(from Box 5, Folder 8)
10 4 Oversized Cover for Portfolio 10: "Mexican Photos - Instituto de los Monumentos Coloniales," undated,
(from Box 5, Folder 12)