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American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993, bulk 1909-1969

American Federation of Arts

Collection Information

Size: 79.8 linear ft.

Summary: The records of the American Federation of Arts (AFA) thoroughly document the Federation's founding and history of sponsoring exhibitions and programs supporting the study and promotion of American art, both nationally and abroad. Included are correspondence, subject files, exhibition files, reports, financial statements, printed material, and photographs.
The bulk of the records (62 feet) are the Exhibition Files (Series V), primarily those in the Annual Exhibitions subseries (approximately 47 feet). These files, arranged chronologically, contain contracts and legal agreements, correspondence, memoranda, itinerary information, condition reports, publicity materials, catalogs, announcements, and price lists for nearly 500 varied exhibitions, including contemporary American and foreign art and architecture, experimental art, the exchange of cultural ideas, and the promotion of artists of various cultural and ethnic backgrounds through exhibitions such as a Jacob Lawrence retrospective (1960), "Contemporary Jewish Ceremonial Art" (1961), the "Heart of India" (1962), "1,000 Years of American Indian Art" (1963), and "Ten Negro Artists from the United States" (1966), whose file contains photographs of 16 African-American artists and their paintings exhibited at the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, 1966, taken by Geoffrey Clements.
Another subseries, Exhibitions, General, reflect the work of the AFA's Board of Trustees Exhibition Committee and documents its early involvement with traveling exhibitions through the files of Juliana R. Force, Eloise Spaeth, and Mrs. John Pope. Other Exhibition Files subseries document specific programs, rejected, cancelled, or suggested exhibitions, and exhibitions held in partnerships with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and other organizations.
Included in the Finding Aid for the collection may be found a listing of over 6,000 artists' and others exhibiting with the AFA. Among those with a sizeable number of entries are: Ansel Adams, Anni and Josef Albers, Calvin Albert, Harold Altman, Garo Antreasian, Jean Arp, Milton Avery, Will Barnet, Leonard Baskin, William Baziotes, George W. Bellows, Eugene Berman, Harry Bertoia, George Caleb Bingham, Isabel Bishop, Peter Blume, Georges Braque, Marcel Breuer, James Brooks, Charles Burchfield, Kenneth Callahan, Edmund Casarella, Marc Chagall, William Merritt Chase, Lee Chesney, Minna Citron, Eleanor Coen, Robert F. Conover, Ralston Crawford, Honore Daumier, Worden Day, Willem de Kooning, Jose De Rivera, Edgar Degas, Charles Demuth, Richard Diebenkorn, Arthur Dove, Jean Dubuffet, Thomas Eakins, Louis Eilshemius, Jimmy Ernst, Lyonel Feininger, Perle Fine, Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Antonio Frasconi, Lee Gatch, Thomas George, Robert Goodnough, Adolph Gottlieb, Francisco Goya, Morris Graves, Robert Gwathmey, Grace Hartigan, Marsden Hartley, Childe Hassam, Stanley Hayter, John Heliker, Robert Henri, Hans Hofmann, Edward Hopper, John Paul Jones, Asger Jorn, Max Kahn, Ellsworth Kelly, William Kienbusch, Paul Klee, Karl Knaths, Misch Kohn, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Jacob Lawrence, Fernand Leger, Jack Levine, Jacques Lipchitz, George Luks, Loren MacIver, Boris Margo, John Marin, Reginald Marsh, Dean Meeker, Joan Miro, Hans Moller, Henry Moore, George L.K. Morris, Seong Moy, Walter Murch, Louise Nevelson, Ben Nicholson, Georgia O'Keeffe, Kenzo Okada, Nathan Oliveira, Gordon Parks, I. Rice Pereira, Jack Perlmutter, Gabor Peterdi, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Fairfield Porter, Rudy Pozzatti, Maurice Prendergast, George Ratkai, Abraham Rattner, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Rembrandt, Renoir, Larry Rivers, Theodore Roszak, Georges Rouault, Albert Ryder, Bruno Saetti, Guiseppe Santomaso, John Singer Sargent, Tadashi Sato, Angelo Savelli, Louis Schanker, Martin Schongauer, Karl Schrag, Kurt Seligmann, Ben Shahn, Charles Sheeler, John Sloan, David Smith, Raphael Soyer, Benton Spruance, Theodoros Stamos, James Louis Steg, Edward Steichen, Joseph Stella, Hedda Sterne, Maurice Sterne, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Durell Stone, Carol Summers, James Suzuki, Peter Takal, Rufino Tamayo, Pavel Tchelitchew, William Thon, Arthur Thrall, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Mark Tobey, Bradley Walker Tomlin, George Tooker, Joyce Treiman, Joseph M.W. Turner, Jack Tworkov, Renzo Vespignani, John Von Wicht, Charmion Von Wiegand, Syvia Wald, Abraham Walkowitz, Franklin Watkins, Max Weber, Julian Alden Weir, James McNeil Whistler, Worthington Whittredge, James Wines, Wou-Ki Zao, Andrew Wyeth, Jean Sceron, Adja Yunkers, Karl Zerbe, Richard Zoellner, Marguerite Zorach, and William Zorach.
The earliest documentation is in Series I, Board of Trustees, and concerns the history of AFA. Included are correspondence and files of various officers, including Frederick Allen Whiting, Thomas Brown Rudd, Daniel Longwell, James S. Schramm, and Roy R. Neuberger, and of Leila Mechlin, AFA's secretary from 1909-1933, and treasurer Lawrence M.C. Smith. Series 2, Administrative records, also contains documentation on history and founding, and affiliations, buildings and moves, grants, government art programs, fundraising, publicity, publications, and the AFA's fiftieth anniversary celebration. Files in this series are arranged in two subseries, Alphabetical Files, and Staff records.
Series 3, Special Programs, consists of files on the many special programs AFA either sponsored or participated in, among them the Artists in Residence program sponsored by the Ford Foundation Program for Visual Artists; the Museum Donor Program funded by Audrey Bruce Currier and Stephen Richard Currier; the New York State Council on the Arts; the Picture of the Month program; and the Jean Tennyson Foundation Color Slide Lecture Program.
Series 4 consists of documentation on AFA's Annual Conventions, beginning with the 3rd annual convention in 1912 and continuting through 1963, with files missing for several years. Included are proceedings, speeches, programs, clippings, correspondence, and press releases. The 1957 files contain reel-to-reel tapes.
Series 6, Printed Material, consists of material dating 1990-1993 and which has an unexplained provenance. Series 7, Miscellaneous Files, 1926-1962, contain Architectural League of New York Records relating to National Awards Program, and lantern slides from the "New Horizons in America" lecture series. Series 8, Oversize Materials include a portfolio, posters, and magazines dating from the late 1800s.

Biographical/Historical Note

American Federation of Arts (AFA) (established 1909) is a national nonprofit museum service organization in New York, N.Y.


The bulk of the records were donated by the American Federation of Arts between 1964 and 1966. In 1972, AFA donated 16 photographs taken by Geoffrey Clements of artists whose work was exhibited in "Ten Negro Artists from the United States" in Dakar, Senegal's First World Festival of Negro Arts (circulated by AFA). In 1978, Christopher Cook of the Addison Gallery donated sound recordings from the AFA's 1951 annual meeting in Philadelphia, and in 1979, Preston Bolton donated letters regarding planning for the 1957 AFA Annual Convention held in Houston, Texas, convention minutes from 1956, and newsletters.The provenance of the 1990-1993 printed material is unknown.

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