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American Abstract Artists records, 1936-1983

American Abstract Artists records, 1936-1983

American Abstract Artists

Collection Information

Size: 1.6 linear feet

Summary: The records of the American Abstract Artists measure 1.6 linear feet and date from 1936 through 1983. The records document the founding of the organization in 1936, membership activities, general administration, and exhibitions via correspondence, member writings, financial and legal records, printed materials, and photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

Organized in 1936 by a group of artists interested in abstract painting and sculpture. Its chief function is the holding of exhibitions. Former presidents include Alice Trumbull Mason, Leo Rabkin, and Irene Rousseau.

Provenance

Leo Rabkin donated records in 1969. Alice Trumball Mason loaned records for microfilming in 1959 and in 1969 donated most of those same materials. Irene Rousseau donated additional records in 1983. All three donors are Presidents Emeriti of the American Abstract Artists.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the American Abstract Artists records, 1936-1983, in the Archives of American Art
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Finding aid prepared by Megan Bean
Scope and Contents note
The records of the American Abstract Artists measure 1.6 linear feet and date from 1936 through 1983. The records document the founding of the organization in 1936, membership activities, general administration, and exhibitions via correspondence, member writings, financial and legal records, printed materials, and photographs.
Correspondence mainly relates to the exhibitions and member activities of the American Abstract Artists. There are letters from Josef Albers, Alexander Archipenko, Alexander Calder, Lyonel Feininger, Harry Holtzman, Piet Mondrian, and Irene Rousseau, President Emeritus of the American Abstract Artists. Official bulletins sent to members are also found among the correspondence.
Administrative records include founding prospectus, meeting minutes, lists of members, and drafts and amendments to the American Abstract Artists constitution.
Member writings are by Saburo Hasegawa, Henry Billings, Leo Rabkin, and Ruth Gurin. Financial and legal records include ledger books, insurance documents, and other financial material. Printed materials include announcements for the American Abstract Artists' annual exhibitions, as well as exhibition posters. Finally, there are two photographs of collage paintings by members.
Biographical/Historical note
The American Abstract Artists group was established in 1936 in New York, New York by a group of painters and sculptors. The American Abstract Artists contributed to the introduction of abstract art to the American public through exhibitions, publications, and lectures.
During the era of the formation of the American Abstract Artists, abstraction was not critically accepted. In 1937, the American Abstract Artists held their first exhibition at the Squibb Galleries in New York City. It received negative reactions from both the press and the public - the exhibition had a high attendance but poor reviews. The American Abstract Artists addressed the role of the critic through their publications, specifically the 1940 pamphlet "The Art Critics! How Do They Serve the Public? What Do They Say? How Much Do They Know?—Let's Look at the Record!"
The group was most active from 1937 to 1942, and supported the critical success of Abstract Expressionism in later decades.
Arrangement note
The arrangement and description in this finding aid refer to unmicrofilmed portions of the collection. Legacy microfilm arrangement is not reflected.
The collection is arranged as 6 series.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1937-1982 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 2: Administrative Records, 1937-1982 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Member Writings, 1938-1954 (Box 1; 4 folders)
Series 4: Financial and Legal Records, 1942-1983 (Box 1-2; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Materials, 1936-1982 (Box 2-3, OV 4; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, 1963 (Box 3; 1 folder)
Provenance
Leo Rabkin donated records in 1969. Alice Trumball Mason loaned records for microfilming in 1959 and in 1969 donated most of those same materials. Irene Rousseau donated additional records in 1983. All three donors are Presidents Emeriti of the American Abstract Artists.
Processing Information note
The collection was preliminarily processed by Carly Dorca in 2012, and more fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan Bean in June 2016.

Additional Forms Available

Legacy microfilm portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels D539, N69-72, N69-96 through N69-97, and N69-137 at the Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Materials available on Reels N70/48 and N59/11 were originally loaned for microfilming but included in later gifts, some of which may have been microfilmed again. The legacy microfilm does not represent the entirety of the collection. Researchers should note that the filmed order does not match the order of the collection as described in this finding aid.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

American Abstract Artists records, 1936-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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