Thomas Hess papers, 1937-1978

Hess, Thomas, b. 1920 d. 1978
Art critic, Arts administrator, Author, Editor
Active in New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 10.1 linear feet

Collection Summary: Papers relating mainly to Thomas Hess' tenure as editor of "Art News," including biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, writings, subject files, project files, photographs, works of art, audio visual material, and printed material.

Biographical material includes a resume and investment reviews. Personal and professional correspondence, some illustrated, is with artists, galleries, publishers, and acquaintances and includes Philip Guston, Meyer Schapiro, David Smith, James Schuyler, Forrest Bess, Elaine de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Larry Rivers, Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and others.

Writings are by Hess and include "Yale" notes and drafts of articles for "Art News" and "New York" magazines, and typed manuscripts. Subject files are on artists and contain photographs of art, a few contain photographs of the artist, exhibition catalogs, clippings or other miscellaneous printed material. Project files include plans for projects Hess was involved with. Photographs are of Hess, artists, including Larry Rivers and Ad Reinhardt, among others, and works of art by Hess and others.

Works of art are by Hess and others and include small, assorted sketches, cartoons, collages, and paintings. Audio visual material includes two untranscribed reel-to-reel tapes from the de Kooning file of a conversation between Harold Rosenberg, Hess, and de Kooning, taped by Elizabeth Wolff, March 2, 1964. Printed material consists of clippings, exhibition announcements, and material related to Hess's books Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newmann. Also included is a poster of a de Kooning painting.

Biographical/Historical Note: Thomas Hess (1920-1978) was an editor and art critic in New York, New York. Hess of was editor of "Art News," 1946-1972 and wrote several books on American art, including "Abstract Painting: Background and American Phase," 1951; "Willem de Kooning," 1959, 1967, 1968; "Barnett Newmann," 1969, 1974; and "Ad Reinhardt Cartoons," 1972.

Donated 1985-1987 by Anne Helen, William and Philip Hess, Hess' children, except for Barnett Newman file (reel 5028) which was donated by Newman's widow, who presumably had borrowed it from Hess. Additional correspondence, notes and typed lectures by Hess, photographs of Hess and friends, cartoons (including some by Ad Reinhardt) and printed material donated 2014 by Elizabeth Wolff, Thomas Hess' sister.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reels 3685-3697, and 5028 (fr. 553-602) available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
    All except 1.9 linear feet of correspondence, notes and typed lectures by Hess, photographs of Hess and friends, cartoons (including some by Reinhardt) and printed material microfilmed on reels 3685-3697 and 5028 (fr. 553-602).
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
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