A Finding Aid to the Samuel J. Wagstaff Papers,
circa 1932-1985 , in the Archives of American Art, Catherine S. Gaines
Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art
Table of Contents:
- Biographical Information
- Overview of the Collection
- How to Use the Collection
- Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Samuel J. Wagstaff, Jr. (1921-1987), the son of a lawyer from an old New York family and fashion artist Olga Piorkowska, was born in New York City. A graduate of Yale University, he was an ensign in the Navy and took part in the D-day landing at Omaha Beach.
Following World War II, Wagstaff studied Renaissance art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. A David E. Finley art history fellowship took him to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. in 1959. He served as curator of contemporary art at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn., from 1961 to 1968, where he coordinated sculptor Tony Smith's first museum show in 1966. In 1971, during Wagstaff's tenure as curator at the Detroit Institute of Arts (1968-1971), he presented Michael Heizer's installation Dragged Mass Geometric on the grounds of the museum.
In addition to his curatorial work, Samuel J. Wagstaff was a noted collector. Originally, he was a fairly influential collector of avant-garde paintings. After seeing the exhibition "The Painterly Photograph" and meeting photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff became convinced that photographs were the most unrecognized and, possibly, the most valuable works of art. He moved to New York and began selling his collection of paintings, using the proceeds to begin his photography collection and concentrating on 19th century American, British, and French examples. Then, influenced by his lover, photographer Mapplethorpe, Wagstaff's taste veered toward the daring, and he began to depart from established names in search of new talent. His collection was soon recognized as one of the finest private holdings in the United States. An exhibition of his photographs was organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., in 1978, and A Book of Photographs from the Sam Wagstaff Collection was published to accompany the show that toured the country.
The photograph collection was sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, Calif., in 1984, for a reported $5 million. Wagstaff then focused his attention on collecting 19th century American silver, and a selection from that collection was exhibited at the New York Historical Society in 1987.
Samuel J. Wagstaff died in New York City on January 14, 1987, from pneumonia, a complication of HIV infection.
Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
The Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985, comprise 6.2 linear feet of correspondence, writings, miscellaneous records, printed material, and photographs documenting Wagstaff's professional and personal relationships with artists and photographers, his career as an art curator, and his position as an important collector of paintings and photographs.
Correspondence with artists and others such as curators, arts organizations, galleries, and museums reflects the diversity of contemporary American art and includes individuals associated with the abstract expressionist, Fluxus, pop, earth, conceptual, and minimalist art movements. Wagstaff's importance as a collector and curator and his generosity to and interest in artists is evident from the large number of invitations to view and critique work, requests for fellowship and grant recommendations, and thank you notes from artists to whom he extended financial or moral support. Among the most prolific correspondents found here are: Dan Basen, George Brecht, James Lee Byars, Walter de Maria, Mark Di Suvero, Albert Fine, Dan Flavin, Ann Halprin, Grace Hartigan, Charles James, Philip Johnson, Ray Johnson, Doreen and Robert Manning, Agnes Martin, Gordon Newton, Claes Oldenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Dieter Rot, Alan Saret, Richard Tuttle, May Wilson, and Andy Warhol.
Writings by Wagstaff consist of "Looking at Modern Art" prepared for the Trinity College Reading Program, and an untitled, undated piece about multiplicity in art. Among the writings by other authors are Bruce Bennard's "The Photographer Rediscovered," "Pop Art" by Henry Geldzahler, and "Collecting Photographs" by Bonnie Barrett Stretch.
Miscellaneous records are drawings by Bruce Kleinsmith, a print by Harold Paris and artists' resumes. Also included is a costume consisting of a stuffed devil's tail and two red silk caps connected by a long sash, all in a matching red silk bag.
Among the printed material are books, exhibition catalogs and prospectuses, periodicals, press releases, reproductions, and a variety of other printed items relating to photography and art.
Photographs consist largely of copy prints and a small number of original prints. Also included are a few images of exhibition installations and other miscellaneous subjects. There are no portraits of Samuel J. Wagstaff among the photographs of people. Identified individuals include: Bella Abzug, Peter Allen, Michael Collins, Angela Davis, Candy Darling, Wendell Ford, Joseph Hirshhorn, W. A. Huffman, David Love, Marc Miller, Bettie Ringma, and Andy Warhol.
Arrangement and Series Description
The collection is arranged into 5 series.
- Series 1: Correspondence, 1932-1986 (Boxes 1-3, 8, OV 9-10; 2.5 linear ft.)
- Series 2: Writings, 1961-1983 (Box 3; 0.2 linear ft.)
- Series 3: Miscellaneous Papers and Artifacts, 1970s-1980s (Box 3; 0.2 linear ft.)
- Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1914-1988 (Boxes 3-8, OV 11; 3.2 linear ft.)
- Series 5: Photographs, 1975-1982 (Boxes 7-8; 0.1 linear ft.)
Subjects and Names
This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:
- Artists--United States
- Photographs--Collectors and collecting--United States
- Art dealers--New York (State)--New York
- Curators--New York (State)--New York
- Art, Modern
- Art--Collectors and collecting--New York (State)--New York
- Fluxus (Group of artists)
- Types of Materials:
- Byars, James Lee
- Halprin, Anna
- James, Charles, d. 1978
- Newton, Gordon
- Manning, Robert
- Manning, Doreen
- Basen, Dan,1939-
- Brecht, George
- De Maria, Walter, 1935-
- Di Suvero, Mark, 1933-
- Fine, Albert M.
- Flavin, Dan, 1933-
- Hartigan, Grace
- Johnson, Philip, 1906-
- Johnson, Ray, 1927-
- Martin, Agnes, 1912-
- Oldenburg, Claes, 1929-
- Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967
- Roth, Dieter, 1930-1998
- Saret, Alan, 1944-
- Tuttle, Richard, 1941-
- Wilson, Mary F.
- Warhol, Andy, 1928-
Samuel J. Wagstaff donated his papers between 1976 and 1986.
How the Collection was Processed
Initial processing of the Samuel J. Wagstaff papers by Archives of American Art staff, microfilming of the correspondence on reels 4794-4797, and a preliminary finding aid prepared by intern Sarah Vowell, was accomplished with funds provided by the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation in 1993. Final processing and a finding aid were completed by Catherine S. Gaines in 2006, and the collection was digitized in 2008 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
How to Use the Collection
Restrictions on Use
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Samuel J. Wagstaff 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.
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2008 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website. Materials not digitized include books, reproductions, and sales catalogs.
How to Cite this Collection
Samuel J. Wagstaff papers, circa 1932-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Series 1: Correspondence, 1932-1986 (Boxes 1-3, 8, OV 9-10; 2.5 linear ft.)
This series is arranged as 2 subseries. Correspondence in each subseries is arranged alphabetically by name of correspondent.
- 1.1: Correspondence with Artists and Others, 1932-1975
- 1.2: Correspondence Concerning Photography, 1957-1985
1.1: Correspondence with Artists and Others, 1932-1986
This subseries consists almost exclusively of incoming letters with a few carbon copies of Wagstaff's outgoing letters. There are a large number of illustrated letters, and many letters have printed items, photographs, and artwork as attachments.
Correspondence is with artists and others such as curators, arts organizations, galleries, and museums. The series reflects the diversity of contemporary American art and includes letters from individuals associated with the abstract expressionist, Fluxus, pop, earth, conceptual, and minimalist art movements. Wagstaff's importance as a collector and curator and his generosity to, and interest in, artists is evident from the large number of invitations to view and critique work, requests for fellowship and grant recommendations, and thank you notes from artists to whom he extended financial or moral support. Among the most prolific correspondents found here are: Dan Basen, George Brecht, James Lee Byars, Walter de Maria, Mark Di Suvero, Albert Fine, Dan Flavin, Ann Halprin, Grace Hartigan, Charles James, Philip Johnson, Ray Johnson, Doreen and Robert Manning, Agnes Martin, Gordon Newton, Claes Oldenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Dieter Rot, Alan Saret, Richard Tuttle, May Wilson, and Andy Warhol. Items of note are James Lee Byars's letters, many of which are extremely large and written on unusual surfaces such as clear plastic and pink toilet tissue, and a letter from Thomas Hart Benton that describes the early work of Jackson Pollock. Also included are many illustrated letters and examples of mail art. Some of the Byars letters could not be digitized due to their extreme size.
Abish, Cecile - Balkin, Steve, 1932-1984, undated
|1||2-3||Basen, Dan, 1962-1969, undated (2 folders)|
Benton, Thomas Hart - Bolles, Robert, 1962-1971, undated
|1||5||Brecht, George, 1962-1964, undated|
Brodie, Gandy - Bultman, Fritz, 1962-1964, undated
|1||7-15||Byars, James Lee, 1963-1977, undated (9 folders; see also: Box 8 and OV 9-10; partially scanned)|
Caesar, Doris - deKooning, Elaine, 1961-1971, undated
|1||17||De Maria, Walter, 1964-1972|
DeNiro, Bob - Dienes, Sam, 1962-1971, undated
|1||19||Di Suvero, Mark, 1962-1966|
Dowden, Jerry - Etherington, Thea, 1932-1970, undated
|1||21||Fine, Albert M., 1965-1971|
Fischbach Gallery - Fitzhugh, J. Perry, 1963-1971
|1||23||Flavin, Dan, 1963-1969|
Fogg Art Museum - Hague, Raoul, 1962-1980, undated
|1||25||Halprin, Ann, 1963-1967|
|1||26||Hartigan, Grace, 1963-1967|
Hay, Deborah - Jacobson, Helen, 1962-1970, undated
|1||28||James, Charles, 1961-1964|
|1||29||Johnson, Philip, 1964-1967|
|1||30-32||Johnson, Ray, 1960-1965 (3 folders)|
|2||1-3||Johnson, Ray, 1966-1983 (3 folders)|
Johnstone, Jill - Kent, William, 1962-1970, undated
|2||5-6||Kleinsmith, Bruce and Phillip Siebert (The Balloon Newspaper), 1970-1971, undated (2 folders)|
Koch, Karl - Lytle, Richard, 1962-1971
Magar, Anthony - Mamson, Charlie, 1961-1964, undated
|2||9||Manning, Doreen and Robert, 1962-1965|
|2||10||Markopoulos Gregory J. - Marlowe, Alan, 1964, undated|
|2||11||Martin, Agnes, 1968-1973|
Mazelow Gallery - Montez, Mario, 1962-1971, undated
|2||13||Morris, Robert, 1962-1970|
Mouse, Stanley - Newman, Barnett, 1963-1971, undated
|2||15||Newton, Gordon, 1970-1973, undated|
New York City, Department of Parks - Oenslager, Donald, 1964-1970, undated
|2||17||Oldenburg, Claes, 1962-1971|
Ono, Yoko - Parsons, Harold Woodbury, 1963-1969, undated
Pasadena Art Museum - Prentice, David, 1962-1971
Rackliffe, Howard - Reid, Terry, 1964-1971
|2||21||Reinhardt, Ad, 1966-1967, undated|
Rezial [?], Jeanne - Rosenblum, Robert, 1962-1972, undated
|2||23||Rot, Diter, 1967|
Ruscha, Ed - Santon, Chuck, 1965-1971, undated
|2||25||Saret, Allan, 1971-1973|
Scanga, Italo - Smith, David, 1962-1970, undated
Solomon, Sidney R. - Tremaine, Emily, 1963-1971, undated
|2||28-29||Tuttle, Richard, 1962-1986, undated (2 folders)|
Tversky, Leonard - Von Schlegell, David, 1962-1971, undated
Wadowski, Diane - Wardlaw, George, 1963-1964, undated
|2||32||Warhol, Andy, 1970, undated|
Waterman, Doug - Whitman, Robert, 1955-1970, undated
|2||34||Wilson, May, 1963-1965|
Wise, Howard - Zeidenberg, Olaf, Group Signature, 1963-1970, undated
|2||36||Unsigned, 1970, undated|
|2||37||Illegible 1962-1971, undated|
Unknown, A-Z, 1957-1971, undated
|8 (sol)||1||Oversized Byars, James Lee, undated (see also Box 1 F7-15)|
|OV 9||Oversized Byars, James Lee, 1968, undated (see also Box 1 F7-15; partially scanned)|
|OV 10||Oversized Byars, James Lee, undated (see also Box 1 F7-15; partially scanned)|
1.2: Correspondence concerning Photography, 1957-1985
Correspondence concerning photography is primarily of a routine nature and consists mainly of letters from photographers, photographic dealers, and curators. With one exception, all letters from Ansel Adams are photocopies.
Adams, Ansel - Averell, William H., 1957-1985, undated
Badger, Gerry - Byhart [?], Mark, 1974-1984, undated
California Book Auction Co. - Curtis Art Project, 1975-1984
Da Capo Press, Inc. - Estabrook Reed, 1976-1985, undated
Falk, Peter - Frizot, Michel, 1979-1984, undated
Galerie Fiolet - Gurner, Fred, 1975-1983, undated
Halus, Siegfried - Iverson, Brad, 1971-1985, undated
Jacobs, David A. - Kurzner, Lisa, 1975-1984, undated
L., Tom - Lyon, Mark, 1975-1984, undated
MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. - Myers, Steve, 1975-1983, undated
Nabors, Barbara - Ott, R., 1975-1984, undated
Pace/MacGill - Prossman, Nancy, 1975-1984, undated
Quimby, William Floyd - Rosenthal, Richard, 1974-1983, undated
Ross, Charles - Ruspoli, A., 1971-1985, undated
Salford 80 - Sixth London Photograph Fair, 1975-1984, undated
Smith, Keith A. - Svendsen, Karina E., 1975-1983, undated
Texbraun - Uptown Center Hull House Association, 1975-1984, undated
Vallarno, Gabrielle - von Matthiessen, Maria, 1976-1984, undated
Wadsworth Atheneum - Worth, Don, 1974-1984, undated
Yale Unversity Art Gallery - Zolla/Lieberman Gallery, 1974-1985, undated
|3||13||Illegible, 1976-1984, undated|
|3||14||Unidentified (enclosures separated from letters), 1967-1975, undated|
Unknown, 1964-1985, undated
|3||16||Unsigned, 1976, undated|
Series 2: Writings, 1961-1983 (Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)
Writings by Wagstaff consist of "Looking at Modern Art" prepared for the Trinity College Reading Program, and an untitled piece about mulitiplicity in art. Among the authors represented are Bruce Bennard, Henry Geldzahler, and Bonnie Barrett Stretch.
Writings are arranged alphabetically by author.
Series 3: Miscellaneous Papers and Artifacts, 1970s-1980s (Boxes 3, 8; 0.2 linear ft.)
This series consists of a small amount of artwork, artist resumes, and a costume that consists of a stuffed devil's tail and two red silk caps connected by a long sash and stored in a matching bag.
Additional artwork, résumes, and some small artifacts may be found attached to correspondence in Series 1: Correspondence.
|3||31||Artifact, undated (Not scanned)|
|3||32||Drawings by Bruce Kleinsmith, undated (see: box 8)|
|3||33||Print by Harold Paris, 1978|
|3||34-35||Resumes (A-Z), 1970s-1980s (2 folders)|
|8 (sol)||2||Art Work - Drawings by Bruce Kleinsmith, undated (see also: box 3, folder 32)|
Series 4: Printed Material, 1914-1988 (Boxes 3-8, OV 11; 3.2 linear ft.)
The majority of the exhibition catalogs, books, and posters found here concern photography and photographic exhibitions, although a few relate to other media and events. Books, reproductions, and sales catalogs have not been digitized.
Additional printed material, including many exhibition announcements and press releases, can be found with correspondence in Series 1: Correspondence.
Material is arranged by record type.
Announcements of Published Portfolios (A-Z by Photographer), undated (
|3||37||Annual Reports, 1977-1981|
|3||38-43||Articles, 1914, 1964-1979 (6 folders)|
|4||1-5||Articles, 1980-1984, undated (5 folders)|
|4||6||Auction Catalogs, 1978-1982|
Books, Abish, Walter - Basilico, Gabriele, circa 1968-1978 (Not scanned)
Books, Coleman, A. C. - Gillette, Frank, circa 1978-circa 1980 (Not scanned)
Books, Hilliard, John - Ponsold, Renate and Robert Motherwell, cira 1973-circa 1981 (Not scanned)
Books, Schmidt, Michael - Wolfson, Gary, 1974-1981 (Not scanned)
|4||11||Calendars and Schedules, 1980-1983, undated|
Exhibition Catalogs, 1971-1980, undated (13 folders;
Exhibition Catalogs, 1981-1985, undated (7 folders;
|5||8||Exhibition Prospectuses, 1975-1982|
|5||9||Memorial Service Programs, 1975-1983|
|5||10||Miscellaneous Printed Items, 1980, undated|
Periodicals, Afterimage - Art Journal, 1983, undated
|5||12||Periodicals, Art-Rite, 1973-1978|
Periodicals, Balloon Newspaper - Camerawork Newsletter, 1969-1983, undated
Periodicals, Carl Siembab Gallery Newsletter - Cronin Gallery Newsletter, 1975-1984, undated
Periodicals, European Photography - Friends of Photography Newsletter, 1975-1984
|5||16||Periodicals, G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Photo Bulletin, 1978-1981|
Periodicals, Galerie Die Brücke, Inter View - Künstmuseum Düsseldorf, Ausstellungsblätter der Moderne Abeilung, 1974-1983, undated
Periodicals, Leica Photography - Palm Beach News, 1974-1983, undated
Periodicals, Pentax Photography - Photographs: A Collector's Newsletter, 1979-1983
Periodicals, Popular Photography - Robert Freidus Gallery Newsletter, 1975-1983
Periodicals, San Francisco Camerawork Quarterly - Traveling Exhibition Information Service, Newsletter, 1975-1983
Periodicals, University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography - Wochenpresse Color, 1975-1983
Periodicals, Zabriskie Photography Newsletter - Zein, 1977-1984
|OV 11||Posters, 1964-1983, undated (Not scanned)|
|6 (hol)||1-12||Press Releases, 1965-1985, undated (12 folders)|
Reproductions (includes postcards), 1988 (
|7 (hol)||2-3||Sales Catalogs - Books, Documents, Ephemera, Photographs and Photographic Equipment, 1972-1982, undated (2 folders; not scanned)|
|7 (hol)||4||Subscription and Membership Forms, 1982, undated|
|7 (hol)||5||Symposium, Lecture, and Workshop Announcements and Programs, 1974-1984, undated|
|8 (sol)||3||Announcements of Published Portfolios (Harry Callaham), 1980 (see also Box 3 F36)|
Books, (McGuirk, Paul - Thomas, George), circa 1978-1981 (Not scanned)
|8 (sol)||5||Exhibition Catalogs, 1980-1982 (see also Box 5 F1-7)|
Periodicals, (Afterimage - Focal Point Gallery, Viewfinder), circa 1978-1981, undated
Periodicals, (Galerie Die Brücke, Inter View - Professional Women Photographers PWP Times), 1978-1984
Periodicals, (Views, A New England Journal of Photography - Zion), 1976-1983, undated
|8 (sol)||9||Reproductions, 1983, undated (see also Box 7 F1; not scanned)|
Series 5: Photographs, 1975-1982 (Boxes 7-8; 0.1 linear ft.)
Photographs consist largely of copy prints and a very small number of original prints filed by photographer. Miscellaneous subjects are book covers and pages, exhibition installations, and an exterior view of the International Center of Photogaphy (Willard Straight house). No images of Samuel J. Wagstaff are included. Among the photographs of people are: Bella Abzug, Michael Collins, Angela Davis, Candy Darling, Wendell Ford, Joseph Hirshhorn, Bettie Ringma, and Andy Warhol, as well as unidentified individuals.
Additional photographs may be found attached to correspondence (Series 1), and among the writings (Series 4) accompanying a manuscript about portrait photographs.
Some photographs are arranged by photographer and others by subject.
Abramson, Michael - Illegible, 1975-1982, undated (2 folders)
|7 (hol)||8||Book Covers and Pages, undated|
|7 (hol)||9||Color Slides (35-mm) and Transparencies, undated (Not scanned)|
|7 (hol)||10||Exhibition Installations (Gallerie Arta, Geneva; unidentified), 1979, undated|
|7 (hol)||11||International Center of Photography (Willard Straight house), undated|
|7 (hol)||12||People, 1976, undated|
|8 (sol)||10||Photographs (Akiba, David), undated|