Ralph and Bena Frank Mayer papers, [ca. 1920]-1964

Mayer, Ralph, b. 1895 d. 1979
Painter, Restorer, Conservator
Active in New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 4.3 linear ft. (partially microfilmed on 3 reels)

Collection Summary: Correspondence, writings, photographs, art work, subject files, scrapbooks, and printed material.

REELS D211-D213: Ralph Mayer's correspondence is with artists, conservators, museum directors, publishers, art organizations, and others. Notebooks contain data on 19th century canvas makers and dealers of artists' materials. Also included are correspondence and a ledger regarding restoration and conservation of paintings, 1929-1963; files on Columbia University, the National Academy of Design, the Newark Museum, The New York State Department of Commerce, the Whitney Museum of Art, subway murals, and other subjects; and correspondence with the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding standards for paints and pigments. Photographs are of Ralph Mayer's paintings. Correspondents include: George Biddle, Isabel Bishop, Alexander Brook, Charles Burchfield, Richard A. Florsheim, Victor Hammer, Stefan Hirsch, Peter Hurd, Lilian MacKendrick, Kenneth H. Miller, Walter Pach, Abraham Rattner, John Sloan, and David Smith.

Bena Frank Mayer's papers consist of biographical material, clippings, correspondence, exhibition catalogs and announcements, and photographs of her paintings. Two scrapbooks contain printed material, letters, and photographs regarding the Mayers' careers.

UNMICROFILMED: Correspondence includes Ralph Mayer's, 1930-1964, mainly concerning the use of artists' materials, Bena Frank correspondence, 1910-1977, and letters concerning Mayer's book, The Painter's Craft, 1948. Among his correspondents are Josef Albers, Thomas Hart Benton, Isabel Bishop, Georgia O'Keeffe, Walter Pach, Paul Sample, John Sloan, and Frederic Taubes. Subject files are on the Artists' Laboratory, the Art Students League, Gustav Berger, Huntington Hartford, the MacDowell Colony, the National Academy of Design, Diego Rivera murals, subway murals, and other subjects. Writings consist of papers on commercial standards of paint, a typescript of The Painter's Craft, and lecture notes from classes Mayer taught at the Art Students League and Columbia University.

Art work consists of sketchbooks and sketches. Photographs are of the Mayers, their studios, family, friends, and paintings. Printed material includes exhibition catalogs and announcements, brochures, clippings, and posters. There are also six scrapbooks, ca. 1930-1940, containing clippings, photographs, letters received, and printed material.

Biographical/Historical Note: Ralph Mayer: conservator, restorer, painter. Died 1979. Bena Frank Mayer: painter. They lived in New York. Ralph Mayer was educated as a chemical engineer, and spent several years working in the manufacture of paints and varnishes. He also studied painting at the Art Students League. His work in conservation and artists' materials led him to found the Artists Technical Research Institute in 1959. Author of The Artists Handbook of Materials and Techniques (1940) and The Painter's Craft (1948), and numerous articles. Taught at Columbia University.

Material on reels D211-D213 was lent for microfilming in 1965 by Ralph Mayer. Portions were subsequently donated along with unmicrofilmed material, 1972-1979, by Ralph and Bena Frank Mayer.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reel D211-D213 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
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