Leonard Bocour papers and business records, 1933-1993

A Finding Aid to the Leonard Bocour Papers and Business Records, 1933-1993, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

American art collector, paint manufacturer, lecturer, and painter, Leonard Bocour (n�e Leonard Bogdanoff) was born in 1910 in New York City. He studied at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students League. In 1928, he met German artist Emil Ganso who taught him how to make artists' colors.

In 1932, Bocour established Bocour Hand Ground Artist Colors and sold paint directly to artists, greatly increasing his contacts and acquaintances in the art community. In this Depression era, Bocour often gave away paint to struggling artists who later became successful. Because artists would sometimes trade art work for tubes of paint, Bocour was able to build an impressive art collection that he would later loan for exhibition. He also donated numerous works of art to schools and museums.

Over the years, Bocour maintained a close relationship with artists, most notably Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, Jack Levine, Morris Louis, and Philip Pearlstein. In the late 1930s, Bocour decided to increase his business by selling through retailers and wholesalers, gradually building a successful business.

From 1945 to 1955, Bocour joined the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and for many years taught a summer technical course. In 1947, he developed Magna, an acrylic resin miscible with oil or turpentine that had the same consistency as oil paint, but dried in a fraction of the time. In 1960, Bocour introduced Aqua-Tec which is an acrylic polymer emulsion miscible with water.

From 1952 to 1970, Samuel Golden was Bocour's partner in the capacity of production manager. A merger with Zipatone, Inc. was carried out in 1982, but was dissolved in 1987. Zipatone, Inc. moved the company to Chicago, but Bocour remained in New York as president and consultant.

Beginning in the early 1960s, Bocour lectured at art schools and various arts organizations, discussing drawing, painting, and different art media as well as demonstrating his own products. He was a member of the National Art Materials Trade Association (NAMTA) and was president of the Art Material Manufacturers' Association, inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1974. Leonard Bocour died on Labor Day 1993.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of American art collector, paint manufacturer, lecturer, and painter, Leonard Bocour measure 11.8 linear feet and date from 1933 to 1993. Found within the papers is biographical material, including identity cards, membership cards, and award certificates. Miscellaneous correspondence is primarily with artists and colleagues, including Helen Frankenthaler, Chaim Gross, Philip Guston, Alex Katz, Jack Levine, Morris Louis, David Oxtoby, and Philip Pearlstein and discuss exhibitions and other art-related topics. Also found are diaries and annotated daily calendars; personal business records regarding personal finances, donations, and lectures; business records for Bocour Artist Colors, Inc., including contracts, business correspondence, financial documentation, and printed material; notes and writings including address books and writings by Bocour and others; transcripts of interviews with Bocour that discuss his early career; and printed material including clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, booklets, and brochures.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection has been arranged into eight series primarily according to type of material. Materials within each series have been arranged chronologically, except for the Receipts for "Private Deals" and the Business Card File which are arranged alphabetically. Oversized material from various series has been housed in Box 13 and OV 14 and is noted in the Series Description/Container Listings Section at the appropriate folder title.

Subjects and Names

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

  • Bocour Artist Colors (Firm).
  • Collectors and collecting--New York (State)--New York
  • Diaries
  • Drawing--Technique
  • Interviews
  • Paint industry and trade--New York (State)--New York
  • Painting--Equipment and supplies
  • Painting--Technique


The Leonard Bocour papers and business records were donated by his widow, Ruth Bocour, in 1994.

Separated and Related Materials

Additional Leonard Bocour papers may be found at the Syracuse University Library, Special Collections Research Center.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed to an intermediate level in August 2004 by Jean Fitzgerald.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Leonard Bocour papers and business records 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

Leonard Bocour papers and business records, 1933-1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1940s-1990s
4 Folders; Box 1

Biographical material consists of biographical notes, identity and membership cards, award certificates for Bocour, and a photocopy of his son's birth certificate.

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical Notes and Birth Certificate for Peter Bocour, 1947-1990
1 2 Identity Cards and Blood Donation Card, 1944-1984
1 3 Membership Cards, 1950-1990
1 4 Award Certificates, 1950-1980

Series 2: Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1950s-1990s
3.8 Linear feet; Box 1 -4, 13, OV 14

Correspondence consists primarily of letters exchanged with business colleagues and artists including Helen Frankenthaler, John Grillo, Chaim Gross, Philip Guston, Grace Hartigan, Alex Katz, Jack Levine, Morris Louis, Eugene Massin, Nathan Oliveira, David Oxtoby, and Philip Pearlstein, discussing exhibitions and other art-related topics. There are single letters from Anthony Caro, actor Robert DeNiro, Jimmy Ernst, Philip Evergood, Emil Ganso, Leon Golub, Frederick Hartt, Helen Hayes, Al Held, Joseph Hirshhorn, Ibram Lassaw, Jacob Lawrence, Roy Lichtenstein, Bill Mauldin, Alice Neel, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Gabor Peterdi, Ad Reinhart, George Rickey, James Rosenquist, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Frank Stella, and Jack Tworkov.

Box Folder
1 5-74 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1954-1972, undated
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 1, and OV 14.
Box Folder
2 1-71 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1973-1977
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 1.
Box Folder
3 1-66 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1978-1984
Box Folder
4 1-59 Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1985-1993
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 1.
Box Folder
13 1 Oversized Illustrated Letter from Jeffrey Dunn, undated
13 1 Oversized Letter from Ann Marie Rousseau, undated
13 1 Oversized Exhibition Poster Enclosed in Letter from James Suzuki, 1973
13 1 Oversized Letter from David Oxtoby, 1973
13 1 Oversized Letter from David Sutherland, 1986
13 1 Oversized Letter from Jonah Kinigstein, 1991
OV 14 Two Oversized Letters from David Oxtoby, 1968, 1969
OV 14 Oversized Exhibition Poster Enclosed in Letter from T. Kawashima, 1972

Series 3: Diaries and Annotated Calendars, 1955-1987
19 Folders; Box 4, 5

Thirty-two diaries and nine annotated calendars contain brief notes about daily activities.

Box Folder
4 60-63 Diaries, 1955-1963
Box Folder
5 1-12 Diaries, 1964-1987
5 13-15 Annotated Calendars, 1970-1986

Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1961-1992
2.2 Linear feet; Box 5-7, 13

Personal Business Records include documents concerning Bocour's art collection and his public outreach activities. These records reflect business transactions not directly related to the operations of Bocour Artist Colors, Inc. Bocour's donations were primarily of art work to schools and museums. His lectures focused on drawing and painting and demonstrated his paint products.

Box Folder
5 16-17 Personal Income Tax Returns, 1974-1979
5 18 List of Art Work in Bocour Collection, 1986
5 19 Appraisal Reports on Art Work Owned by Bocour, 1989
5 20 Miscellaneous Receipts, 1961-1992
5 21-31 Correspondence Regarding Donations of Art Work, 1961-1968
Box Folder
6 1-34 Correspondence Regarding Donations of Art Work, 1969-1992
6 35-61 Correspondence Regarding Lectures and Demonstrations, 1961-1977, undated
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 2.
Box Folder
7 1-65 Correspondence Regarding Lectures and Demonstrations, 1978-1987
Box Folder
13 2 Oversized Poster and List of Lectures by Bocour for Tempo Gallery, undated

Series 5: Business Records for Bocour Artist Colors, Inc., circa 1942-1992
2.3 Linear feet; Box 7-9, 13

These records document business transactions conducted by Bocour Artist Colors, Inc. and include financial records, correspondence with other companies, and business- related printed material. Files marked as "Private Deals" reflect Bocour's practice of trading tubes of paint and other art products in exchange for original art work.

Box Folder
7 66 Trademark Application, 1942-1943
7 67 Court Documents Concerning Name Change to Bocour, 1949-1951
7 68 Leases, 1958-1983
7 69-72 Contracts with Samuel Golden, 1954-1968
7 73 Structural File Concerning Purchase of Shares of Samuel Golden, 1973
Box Folder
8 1 Contract with Oskar Vangerow, 1975
8 2 Contract with Rick Farrell, 1977
8 3 Contract with Plaid Enterprises, Inc., 1977
8 4 Contract with Union Local 810, 1981-1983
8 5 Contract with Zipatone, Inc., 1982
8 6 Tax Records, 1977-1987
8 7 Records Concerning Stocks, 1982-1985
8 8-13 Correspondence with Inter-Society Color Council, 1971-1982, undated
8 14-22 Correspondence with Heinz Jordan & Co., Ltd., 1972-1986
8 23-39 Correspondence with Zipatone, Inc., 1979-1991
8 40-51 Correspondence with Oskar Vangerow KG, 1976-1992
8 52 Address List of Customers, undated
8 53-54 Notes from Meetings, 1982-1983
8 55 Miscellaneous Notes, undated
8 56 Ledger of Comparative Balance Sheets, 1946-1948
8 57 Ledger of "L. B. Deals," 1963-1978
8 58-59 Ledger of Annual Sales Totals, 1967-1982
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 4.
8 60-71 Receipts for "Private Deals," Paintings Received, 1963-1971
8 72-80 Receipts for "Private Deals," Paintings Not Received, 1959-1971
Box Folder
9 1-10 Receipts for "Private Deals," Paintings Not Received, 1959-1971
9 11-13 Receipts for Miscellaneous Deals, 1971-1978
9 14 Invoices from Tiffany & Co., 1985-1987
9 15 Comparative Sales Report, 1963-1965
9 16-18 Product Inventories, 1981
9 19 Notes about Products, undated
9 20 Reports: Product Sales & Costs and Salesmen's Performance, 1983-1984
9 21 Reports: Sales Representative's Commission, 1984-1988
9 22-41 Auditor's Reports, 1955-1983
9 42-44 Label Designs, 1961-1972, undated
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 11.
9 45 Miscellaneous Booklets, 1963-1965
9 46 Brochures for Aqua-Tec Paint, undated
9 47 Brochures for Bellini Paint, undated
9 48 Brochures for Casein Paint, undated
9 49 Brochures for Magna Paint, undated
9 50 Brochures for Miscellaneous Products, undated
Oversized material housed in Box 13, Folder 12.
9 51 Price Lists and Order Forms, 1964-1979
9 52 Art Material Directory, 1980
9 53 Directory of Suppliers, 1982
9 54 Miscellaneous Printed Material, undated
Box Folder
13 3 Oversized Address List of Customers, undated
13 4 Oversized Ledger of Annual Sales Totals, 1967-1973
13 5 Oversized Reports of Product Sales and Costs, 1983-1984
13 6 Oversized Reports of Salesmen's Performances, 1984
13 7-10 Oversized Sales Representative's Commission Report, 1984-1988
13 11 Oversized Label Designs, 1972
13 12 Oversized Brochure for Zipatone Products, undated

Series 6: Notes and Writings, 1960-1993, undated
0.8 Linear feet; Box 9-10

Notes consist primarily of address books and a file of colleagues' business cards. Writings by Bocour include autobiographical accounts, miscellaneous poems and typescripts about Emil Ganso, Eugene Massin, David Oxtoby, and various art-related topics. Writings by others include a transcript of the memorial service for Gandy Brodie, a typescript about Emil Ganso, and miscellaneous artists' resum�s and typescripts on various art-related topics.

Box Folder
9 55-56 Address Book, undated
9 57 Address Book, 1969
Box Folder
10 1-12 Business Card File, undated
10 13 Miscellaneous Address Lists, undated
10 14 Miscellaneous Notes, undated
10 15-24 Writings by Bocour, 1966-1992, undated
10 25-34 Writings by Others, 1960-1993, undated

Series 7: Interview Transcripts, 1970s-1980s
5 Folders; Box 10

Four interview transcripts describe Bocour's early life and career. The interview with Abraham Joshua Heschel was conducted under the auspices of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and in it Dr. Heschel discusses his religious beliefs and his publications.

Box Folder
10 35 Bocour Interviewed by Christopher Busa, undated
10 36 Interview with Bocour, 1973
10 37 "A Conversation with Dr. Abraham Joshua Heschel," 1973
10 38 "Lee Solomon Talking to Ruth Bocour," 1974
10 39 "Conversation with Leonard Bocour," 1988

Series 8: Printed Material, 1933-1993, undated
1.8 Linear feet; Box 10-13

Printed material consists primarily of clippings that reflect Bocour's enduring interest in art, artists, and art media. An exhibition catalog for Jacob Lawrence is autographed by the artist.

Box Folder
10 40-57 Clippings, 1949-1974, undated
Box Folder
11 1-29 Clippings, 1975-1993
11 30 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for the Bocour Collection, 1962-1978, undated
11 31-38 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Miscellaneous Artists, 1933-1992, undated
11 39 Press Releases, 1972-1981
11 40-42 Programs, 1950-1976
Box Folder
12 1 Booklets "Let's Draw" and "Let's Paint" by Bocour, 1977
12 2 Booklet "Start" by Jay Folb, undated
12 3 Miscellaneous School Brochures, 1947-1972, undated
12 4-5 Brochures for American Federation of Arts, 1965-1973
12 6 Century Association Yearbook, 1984
12 7 Board of Visitors Directory, Boston University, 1977
12 8 NAMTA Membership Directory, 1983
12 9 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1962-1991, undated
Box Folder
13 13 Oversized Clipping, 1967