Joseph Konopka papers, 1965-2003

A Finding Aid to the Joseph Konopka Papers, 1965-2003, in the Archives of American Art, by Carla De Luise

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Joseph Konopka (b. 1932) is a photo-realist and landscape painter who also works as a scenic artist for NBC-TV in New York City. He lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

A native of Philadelphia, Konopka was raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. In 1954, he graduated from Cooper Union School of Art and the following year completed a set design course at Columbia University. He began working NBC-TV in 1952 as a paint boy, mixing paints and washing brushes for the scenic artists, a position he held for nine months. Konopka later joined the United Scenic Artists Local USA 829 and rose from apprentice (1953) to his current position as a scenic artist at NBC-TV. He has worked for many NBC-TV shows including "Late Night with David Letterman" (1982-1993) and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" (1993-present).

Konopka often paints in ongoing series. His work process involves taking slides of his subjects from various angles and distances to determine a suitable composition or composite view. Subject matter for Konopka's series includes images of his wife Casimera (Casey) at the Jersey shore, in everyday poses, or putting on makeup; views from the top of the World Trade Center; and lighthouses. For the Art People Cutout Series (circa 1971-1979), Konopka painted portraits of prominent figures in the New Jersey art world such as museum directors (including Sam Miller, Newark Museum) and curators.

Konopka has been represented by Razor Gallery, New York City (circa 1971-1979), Capricorn Galleries, Bethesda, Maryland (circa 1980-1996), and Nathans Art Gallery, West Paterson, New Jersey (circa 1986-1997). From 1976-1985, he served as vice president of the Associated Artists of New Jersey.

Konopka lives in Glen Ridge, New Jersey.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Joseph Konopka Papers measure 1.1 linear feet and date from 1965 to 2003. The papers document Konopka's career as a photo-realist and landscape painter through biographical material, correspondence, and artwork.

Correspondence is with galleries and participants in his Art People Cutout Series. Among the artwork are sketchbooks (9 volumes) and a maquette of the Art People Cutout Series.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 3 series:

Subjects and Names

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


  • Landscape painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Photo-realism

Types of Materials:

  • Drawings
  • Sketchbooks


The papers were donated in 2003 by Joseph Konopka.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Carla De Luise in 2007.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original material requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Joseph Konopka 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

Joseph Konopka Papers, 1965-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1965-2003,
(Boxes 1, 3; 0.4 linear feet)

Biographical material includes an artist's statement and curriculum vitae, a file on Konopka's work in museum collections, and a small amount of printed material documenting his exhibitions. A scrapbook of Konopka's early career (1965-1975) contains an award, clippings, a letter, exhibition announcements, and photographs. Also found is Konopka's 1990 work diary for the "Late Night with David Letterman" show.

Box Folder
1 1 Artist Statement and Curriculum Vitae, 1972-1974, 2003, undated
(oversized material housed in Box 3)
1 2 Paintings in Museum Collections, undated
1 3 Scenic Artist's Work Diary for "Late Night with David Letterman" Show, 1990
1 4 Exhibition Announcements, 1970-1996, undated
1 5 Clippings and Magazine, 1976-1989, undated
3 Curriculum Vitae, 2003
(from Box 1, folder 1)
3 Scrapbook, 1965-1975
(1 volume)

Series 2: Correspondence, 1971-1987
(Box 1; 3 folders)

The Spectrum and Razor Galleries, New York City, represented Konopka from 1971-1976; files contain correspondence, receipts and miscellaneous invoices, meeting agendas, minutes, and a membership list. Correspondence with participants in Konopka's Art People Cutout Series, many of them representatives of New Jersey arts institutions, also includes a participant list and photograph of the cutout paintings.

This series is organized chronologically.

Box Folder
1 6 Spectrum Gallery, 1971-1973, undated
1 7 Razor Gallery, 1974-1976, undated
1 8 Art People Cutout Series, 1982-1989, undated

Series 3: Artwork, 1985-2002,
(Boxes 1-3; 0.6 linear feet)

Artwork consists of nine sketchbooks, primarily of New Jersey landscapes in pencil, pen, and watercolor.

Also found are a maquette and two accordion books of Konopka's Art People Cutout Series, six mounted drawings of New England lighthouses, and nine palettes with accompanying photographs of the finished paintings.

Box Folder
1 9 Sketchbooks
(oversized volumes housed in box 3)
1 10 1985-1988, undated
(1 volume)
1 11 1987-1993
(1 volume)
1 12 1988-1989, 1991-1993
(1 volume)
1 13 1988-1995
(1 volume)
Box Folder
2 1 1993
(1 volume)
2 2 1995-1998
(1 volume)
2 3 1998-1999
(1 volume)
2 4 Maquette for Art People Cutout Series, undated
3 Oversized Sketchbooks
3 1987-2002, undated
(1 volume)
3 1988-2002
(1 volume)
3 Accordion Books of Art People Cutout Series, undated
(2 items, inscribed)
3 Folio of Palettes, 2000-2002,
(9 items)
3 Drawings of New England Lighthouses, 1996