Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910-1998, bulk, 1950-1967

A Finding Aid to the Jules Langsner Papers, circa 1910s-1998, bulk 1950-1967, in the Archives of American Art, by Margaret Hughes

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Biographical Information

Jules Langsner (1911-1967) worked primarily in the Los Angeles area as a contemporary art critic, historian, and curator. He curated several seminal exhibitions of contemporary art, including the 1959-1960 show "Four Abstract Classicists" featuring the work of Southern California artists Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin.

Born Julius Harold Langsner in New York City on May 5, 1911, his family moved to Ontario, California in 1922. The family lived on a farm and opened the Paradise Health Resort which was run by Langsner's father, chiropractor Isadore Langsner, and was popular in Jewish and intellectual circles. In Ontario, Langsner became friends with three of the Pollack family sons, Jackson, Frank, and Sanford, as well as Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish, Leonard Stark, and Don Brown as a teenager. Guston, Kadish, and Jackson Pollock were later mentored by Lorser Feitelston which helped to foster in Langsner an interest in avant-garde painting.

Langsner went on to study philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the early 1940s, Langsner married and had a son, Drew Langsner. He divorced in 1946. In 1944, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a psychiatric social worker and psychologist during World War II in the United States.

Art & Architecture magazine was the first to publish Langsner's art criticism in 1948. Throughout the 1950s and 60s his work was published widely in Art & Architecture as well as Art News, Art in America, Craft Horizons, Los Angeles Times, Zodiac, and others. Langsner wrote extensively about art history in both published and unpublished manuscripts, including Painting in the Modern World which he worked on until his death. Additionally, he taught art history classes at the Chouinard Art Institute, San Fernando State College, and University of Southern California and lectured for a variety of organizations and occasions.

Langsner curated several influential exhibitions in southern California, including the "Four Abstract Classicists" exhibition for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1959 and in whose catalog he and Peter Selz coined the term "Hard-Edge painting." He curated the first full-scale retrospective of Man Ray in the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1966.

Langsner received a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1964 that allowed him to travel throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for a year studying regional art and architecture. He wrote notes on his travels and corresponded frequently with June Harwood, a Hard-Edge painter, whom he married in Italy in 1965.

Jules Langsner died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 29, 1967, in Los Angeles.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of southern California contemporary art curator, critic, and historian Jules Langsner measure 4.6 linear feet and date from circa 1910s-1998, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1950-1967. Found within the papers are biographical material; correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues; writings by Langsner; exhibition files; printed materials; photographs of Langsner, others, travel, and works of art; and audio recordings of Langsner's lectures and eulogies given at his funeral.

Biographical materials consist of an address book and file, committee files, scattered financial statements, and documents related to the Ford Foundation and other foundations, teaching, and traveling.

The 0.9 linear feet of correspondence is of both a personal and professional nature. A significant portion of the correspondence is between Langsner and publications for which he wrote such as Art News, the New York Times, Meridian Books, Craft Horizons, Art International, and Art in America; galleries and museums where he lectured or curated exhibitions including the Art Institute of Chicago, California Water Color Society, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, and the Fine Arts Patrons of Newport Harbor; colleges and organizations where he taught or was involved with such as the Graham Foundation, University of Southern California, International Association of Art Critics, and Ford Foundation; and artists that he worked with or knew personally including Rico Lebrun, William Turnbull, Man & Julie Ray, Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, Adelaide Fogg, and Clinton Adams.

Letters to June Harwood were written while Langsner was traveling in 1964 and 1965 and discuss his travels and their relationship which culminated in marriage in Italy in 1965.

Among the 2.8 linear feet of the writings of Jules Langsner are articles for Art News, Art in America, Art International, Arts & Architecture, Aware, Beverly Hills Times, Craft Horizons, Creative Crafts, Goya Revista De Arte, Los Angeles Times, Yomiuri, and Zodiac. There are also essays, lectures, poems, drafts, notes, jottings of ideas, proposals and published and unpublished manuscripts. There are drafts and unpublished versions of "Painting in the Modern World", and numerous other essays on contemporary art. There are also extensive handwritten notes on his travels, Asian art, European art, and other subjects.

Exhibition files concern "Black and White" (1958), "California Hard-Edge Painting" (1964), the Man Ray Exhibition (1966), and the William Turnbull Exhibition (1966).

Printed materials include miscellaneous flyers, brochures, and news bulletins, and press releases.

Photographs are of people, places, works of art, and exhibitions. There are photographs of Jules Langsner, June Harwood, Philip Guston, Musa Guston, William Brice, Eddy Feldman, Rube Kadish, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Frank Perls, and unidentified individual people and groups. Photographs of Langsner's travels are of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other locations. Photographs of exhibitions include California Art Club, "Black and White," "California Painters & Sculptors, 35 & Under," and unidentified exhibitions. Photographs of works of art are by William Turnbull, Jack Zajac, Walter Mix, Marion Aldrich, Roger Majorowicz, and Jasper Johns.

Audio recordings include four untranscribed 7" reel-to-reel audio recordings and one cassette tape. The reel-to-reel tapes are of two lectures by Langsner, You & Art/Berlin Party, and of eulogies given at Langsner's funeral by Clement Greenberg, Henry Seldis, Peter Selz, Richard Brown, Donald Brewer, Tom Leavitt, Lorser Feitelson, Sam Francis, June Wayne, Gifford Phillips, and others. The cassette tape is a copy of eulogies.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 7 series. Photographs are arranged by subject, otherwise each series is generally arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects:

  • Brice, William, 1921-
  • Feldman, Eddy
  • Ford Foundation
  • Guston, Musa
  • Guston, Philip, 1913-
  • Harwood, June
  • Kadish, Reuben, 1913-
  • Macdonald-Wright, Stanton, 1890-1973
  • Perls, Frank, 1910-1975

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art -- Study and teaching
  • Art criticism
  • Art critics -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Art historians -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Curators -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Painting, Abstract -- California

Types of Materials:

  • Articles
  • Drafts (documents)
  • Essays
  • Lectures
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Poems
  • Sound recordings
  • Works of art

Names:

  • Adams, Clinton, 1918-
  • Feitelson, Lorser, 1898-1978
  • Fogg, Adelaide
  • Lebrun, Rico, 1900-1964
  • Lundeberg, Helen, 1918-
  • Ray, Julie
  • Ray, Man, 1890-1976
  • Turnbull, William, 2002
  • Art in America [magazine]
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • California Watercolor Society
  • Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
  • International Association of Art Critics
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
  • New York Times
  • Pasadena Art Museum
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • University of Southern California -- Faculty

Provenance

The Jules Langsner papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in several installments from 1973-1996, and in 2004 by June Harwood Langsner, widow of Jules Langsner. Notes for a lecture given at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1966 and 39 pieces of correspondence were donated in 1982 by the University of California Art Library, Los Angeles, via Librarian Virginia Steele.

Separated and Related Materials

The papers of Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg at the Archives of American Art contain a significant amount of writings by Jules Langsner, including exhibition catalog essays.

How the Collection was Processed

Multiple accessions were microfilmed upon receipt. All accessions were merged and processed by Margaret Hughes in 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Jules Langsner 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

Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 974-980 and 3090 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid may not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

How to Cite this Collection

Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910s-1998, bulk 1950-1967. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1957-circa 1960s
(Box 1; 9 folders)

Biographical materials consist of committee member lists, financial statements, documents related to the Ford Foundation and other foundations, teaching schedules, traveling itineraries, and an address book and file listing information about several prominent artists and colleagues.

Box Folder
1 1 Travel File, 1957
1 2 Committees, 1958-1959
1 3 Teaching File, 1959-1967
1 4 Ford Foundation, Press Releases, 1960-1964
1 5 Financial Statements, 1962-1963
1 6 Address Book, circa 1950s-1960s
1 7 Address & Telephone File, circa 1950s-1960s
1 8 Foundations, circa 1950s-1960s
1 9 Ford Foundation, General, circa 1960s

Series 2: Correspondence, 1948-1998
(Boxes 1-2; 0.9 linear feet)

The 0.9 linear feet of correspondence is of both a personal and professional nature. A significant portion of the correspondence is between Langsner and publications for which he wrote such as Art News, the New York Times, Meridian Books, Craft Horizons, Art International, and Art in America; galleries and museums where he lectured or curated exhibitions including the Art Institute of Chicago, California Water Color Society, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, and the Fine Arts Patrons of Newport Harbor; colleges and organizations where he taught or was involved with such as the Graham Foundation, University of Southern California, International Association of Art Critics, and Ford Foundation; and artists that he worked with or knew personally including Rico Lebrun, William Turnbull, Man & Julie Ray, Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, Adelaide Fogg, and Clinton Adams.

Letters to June Harwood were written while Langsner was traveling on a Ford Foundation visual arts research grant in 1964 and 1965. They document Langsner's travels through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe as well as Langsner and Harwood's personal relationship which culminated in marriage in Italy in 1965.

There are also scattered letters from various artists and other prominent correspondents including Philip Guston, Leonard Edmondson, Knoedler Gallery, Donald Bear, Alvin Lustig, Kenneth Callahan, TIME Magazine, Getty Museum, James B. Byrnes, James Sweeney, Hobart Nichols, Fritz Faiss, Len Lye, James Vigeveno, Fundacion Lazaro Galdiano, Dore Schary, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Anya Fisher, Ida Meyer-Chagall, Peter Krasnow, Lucille Brown Greene, John Rewald, Jan de Swart, Rube Kadish, Edward Reep, David Sylvester, Peter Selz, Alfred Barr, Michael Seuphor, Whitney Museum of American Art, John McLaughlin, Karl Benjamin, Knud Merrild, L. Alcopley, Esteban Vicente, Porter McCray, Jack Hirschman, Dorothy Miller, Paul Feeley, Virginia Wright, Hans Richter, Arnold Mesches, and Clement Greenberg.

The series is arranged as 2 subseries:

2.1: General Correspondence, 1948-1998

Box Folder
1 10 circa 1940s-1960s
1 11 1948-1951
1 12 1952
1 13 1953
1 14 1954-1955
1 15 1956-1957
1 16 1958-1959
1 17 Book Contracts, 1958, 1998
1 18 1960-1961
1 19 1962, January-August
1 20 1962, September-December
1 21 1963, January-August
1 22 1963, September-December
1 23 1964, January-July
1 24 August 1964 - June 1965
1 25 1965, July-December
1 26 1966, January-May
1 27 1966, June-December
1 28 1967-1974

2.2: Letters to June Harwood, 1964-1965

Box Folder
1 29 1964, August-November
1 30 December 1 - December 20, 1964
1 31 December 21, 1964 - January 31, 1965
1 32 1965, February
1 33 1965, March
1 34 1965, April
1 35 1965, May
Box Folder
2 1 1965, June

Series 3: Writings, 1934-circa 1960s
(Boxes 2-4; 2.8 linear feet)

Among the 2.8 linear feet of the writings of Jules Langsner are a large number of articles that he wrote for many different publications, as well as essays, lectures, poems, drafts, notes, jottings of ideas, proposals and published and unpublished manuscripts. There are drafts and unpublished versions of "Painting in the Modern World", and numerous other essays on contemporary art. There are also extensive handwritten notes on his travels, Asian art, European art, and other subjects.

The series is arranged as 3 subseries:

3.1: Articles, 1949-circa 1960s

Articles are arranged alphabetically by publication title and then chronologically.

Box Folder
2 2 Art News, circa 1950s-1960s
2 3 Art News, 1949
2 4 Art News, 1950
2 5 Art News, 1951
2 6 Art News, 1952
2 7 Art News, 1953
2 8 Art News, 1954
2 9 Art News, 1955
2 10 Art News, 1956
2 11 Art News, 1957
2 12 Art News, 1958
2 13 Art News, 1959
2 14 Art News, 1960
2 15 Art News, 1961
2 16 Art News, 1962
2 17 Art News, 1963
2 18 Art News, 1964-1966
2 19 Art News, 1967
2 20 Art in America, circa 1960s
2 21 Art International, 1961
2 22 Art International, 1962
2 23 Art International, 1963
2 24 Art International, 1964
2 25 Arts & Architecture, circa 1950s-1960s
2 26 Arts & Architecture, 1950-1961
2 27 Aware, 1961
2 28 Beverly Hills Times, circa 1950s-1960s
2 29 Beverly Hills Times, 1959-1962
2 30 Craft Horizons, 1961-1963
2 31 Creative Crafts, 1961
2 32 Goya Revista de Arte, 1956-1957
2 33 Los Angeles Times, circa 1950s
2 34 Yomiuri, 1964
2 35 Zodiac, circa 1950s-1960s
2 36 Lists of articles, circa 1950s-1960s

3.2: Essays & Manuscripts, 1934-circa 1960s

Box Folder
2 37 Poems, 1934
2 38 "The Flagellation of the Muse," 1934
2 39 "The Notebook of J.H. Langsner," 1939-1942
2 40 "Guide to the Criticism of Modern Architecture," 1953
2 41 "You and Modern Art" Preliminary Report Phase I, 1953
2 42-44 "You and Modern Art" First Published Version, 1953
(3 folders)
2 45 "You and Modern Art" Phase II, July 1953 - January 1954
2 46 "You and Modern Art" Phase III, January 1954 - July 1954
2 47-50 "You and Modern Art" Revised Edition, 1954
(4 folders)
2 51 Robert Craig Kauffman Catalog Introduction, 1958
2 52 "The Challenge of Society" Panel, 1959
2 53 Lecture about Poland, 1960
2 54 Film Ideas, 1961
2 55 "The Artist in the Modern World: The Artist and the Scientist," 1962
2 56 "The Artist in the Modern World: The Artist and the Daemon," circa 1962
2 57 "The Artist in the Modern World: The Artist and the Critic," 1962-1963
2 58 "The Artist in the Modern World: The Artist and the Technological World," circa 1963
2 59 "The Artist in the Modern World: The Artist and Technological Man," circa 1963
2 60 "The Abstract Esthetic" Lecture, 1963
2 61 Nina Tryggvadottir & Alcopley Foreword, 1963
2 62 "The Artist and the Scientist in the Age of Space" Lecture, 1964
Box Folder
3 1 "Concerning American Art in the Sixties" Lecture Drafts, 1966
3 2 "Concerning American Art in the Sixties" Lecture, 1966
3 3-5 "Painting in the Modern World" Notes, circa 1958-circa 1967
(3 folders)
3 6-8 "Painting in the Modern World - The Beginnings" Draft, circa 1958-circa 1967
(3 folders)
3 9-11 "Painting in the Modern World - Pervaded by Light: Impressionism" Draft, circa 1958-circa 1967
(3 folders)
3 12-13 "Painting in the Modern World - Impressionism Transformed" Draft, circa 1958-circa 1967
(2 folders)
3 14-15 "Painting in the Modern World - Possessed by the Daemonic Spirit" Draft, circa 1958-circa 1967
(2 folders)
3 16-17 "Painting in the Modern World - The Poetry of Everyday Life" Draft, circa 1958-circa 1967
(2 folders)
3 18 "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part I, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 19 "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part II, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 20 "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part III, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 21 "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part IV, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 22 Photocopy of "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part I, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 23 Photocopy of "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part II, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 24 Photocopy of "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part III, circa 1958-circa 1967
3 25 Photocopy of "Painting in the Modern World" Unpublished Original Draft Part IV, circa 1958-circa 1967
Box Folder
4 1 "The Labyrinth of Art" Draft 1, circa 1950s-1960s
4 2-7 "The Labyrinth of Art" Draft 2, circa 1950s-1960s
(6 folders)
4 8 "The Lost Grandeur," circa 1950s-1960s
4 9 "The Climate of Vision," circa 1950s-1960s
4 10 "Henry James: A Polemical Defense," circa 1950s-1960s
4 11 "The Sense of Painting," circa 1950s-1960s
4 12 Los Angeles State College Lecture, circa 1950s-1960s
4 13 "Science and the Arts," circa 1950s-1960s
4 14 Art Reviews of European Cities, circa 1950s-1960s
4 15 Outlines for T.V., 1950s-1960s
4 16 "The Cultural Matrix," circa 1950s-1960s
4 17 Gideon Finchly Book Idea, circa 1950s-1960s
4 18 Spectrum Proposal, circa 1950s-1960s
4 19 Visual Semantics, circa 1950s-1960s
4 20 Arts & Architecture Criticism Draft, circa 1950s-1960s
4 21 "The Condition of Art Criticism," circa 1950s-1960s
4 22 "The Artist in the Modern World: the Artist and the Philosopher" Notes, circa 1960s
4 23 "The Artist in the Modern World" Draft, circa 1960s
4 24-25 "The Artist in the Modern World" Final Draft, circa 1960s
(2 folders)
4 26 Incomplete Writings, circa 1950s-1960s
4 27 Writings by Others, circa 1950s-1960s
4 28 Miscellaneous Essays on Art, circa 1950s-1960s
4 29 Miscellaneous Proposals, circa 1950s-1960s

3.3: Notes, circa 1950s-1960s

Box Folder
4 30 Afghanistan and Silk Road, circa 1950s-1960s
4 31 Asia, circa 1950s-1960s
4 32 Buddhism, circa 1950s-1960s
4 33 Calligraphy, circa 1950s-1960s
4 34 Cambodia, circa 1950s-1960s
4 35 Embarkation, circa 1950s-1960s
4 36 Europe, circa 1950s-1960s
4 37 Hong Kong and Taiwan, circa 1950s-1960s
4 38 India, circa 1950s-1960s
4 39 Japan, circa 1950s-1960s
4 40 Japanese Architecture, circa 1950s-1960s
4 41 Korea, circa 1950s-1960s
4 42 Thoughts on Art, circa 1950s-1960s
4 43 Miscellaneous Lecture Notes, circa 1950s-1960s
4 44-46 Miscellaneous Notes, circa 1950s-1960s

Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1916, circa 1958-1966
(Box 4; 4 folders)

The following series contains information on four exhibitions Langsner curated during his career and includes notes, diagrams, information about the artists and their works, catalog drafts, and other related material.

Box Folder
4 47 "Black and White" (1958), circa 1958
4 48 "California Hard-Edge Painting" (1964), circa 1964
4 49 Man Ray Exhibition (1966), 1916, circa 1966
4 50 William Turnbull Exhibition, circa 1966

Series 5: Printed Materials, circa 1960s
(Box 5; 2 folders)

Printed materials include miscellaneous flyers, brochures, and news bulletins, some of which are from Langsner's travels, and press releases concerning exhibitions.

Box Folder
5 1 Other, 1964-1965
5 2 Press Releases, circa 1960s

Series 6: Photographs, circa 1910s-1960s
(Box 5; 0.25 linear feet)

Photographs are of people, places, works of art, and exhibitions. There are photographs of Jules Langsner, June Harwood, Philip Guston, Musa Guston, William Brice, Eddy Feldman, Rube Kadish, Stanton MacDonald-Wright, Frank Perls, and unidentified individual people and groups. Photographs of Langsner's travels include Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other locations. Exhibitions pictured are California Art Club, "Black and White," "California Painters & Sculptors, 35 & Under," and unidentified exhibitions. Photographs of works of art are by William Turnbull, Jack Zajac, Walter Mix, Marion Aldrich, Roger Majorowicz, and Jasper Johns.

Box Folder
4 51 Oversize Photographs, circa 1950s-1960s
Box Folder
5 3 Photographs of Jules Langsner, circa 1930s-1960s
5 4 Photographs of Jules Langsner with Others, circa 1910s-1960s
5 5 Photographs of Family and Travel, circa 1940s-1960s
5 6 Photographs of Exhibition Installations, circa 1940s-1960s
5 7-8 Photographs of Works of Art, circa 1940s-1960s
(2 folders)

Series 7: Audio Recordings, 1954-1967
(Boxes 5-6; 0.25 linear feet)

Audio recordings include four untranscribed 7" reel to reel audio recordings and one cassette tape. The reel to reel tapes are of two lectures by Langsner, You & Art/Berlin Party, and eulogies given at Langsner's funeral by Clement Greenberg, Henry Seldis, Peter Selz, Richard Brown, Donald Brewer, Tom Leavitt, Lorser Feitelson, Sam Francis, June Wayne, Gifford Phillips, and others. The cassette tape is a copy of the reel of eulogies.

Box Folder
5 9 You & Art/Berlin Party, 1954, April
Box
5-6 Unknown Lecture, 1967
(2 folders)
Box Folder
6 2 Eulogies, 1967, October 5
6 3 Audio Cassette Copy of Eulogies, 1967, October 5