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Avis Berman research material on art and artists, 1976-1988

Berman, Avis, 1949-

Author, Art historian, Art critic


Collection Information

Size: 0.6 Linear feet

Summary: Avis Berman research material on art and artists consists of interviews conducted by Berman and scattered correspondence in preparation for various books, articles and exhibitions. Subjects include Romare Bearden, Adelyn Breeskin, Chaim Gross, Jacob Lawrence, Reuben Nakian, and Helen Farr Sloan regarding John Sloan.
Material on art historian and museum director Adelyn Breeskin (microfilm reel 2786) includes an interview conducted by Berman September 8 and November 2, 1976. Breeskin speaks of her educational background; working at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum; her early interest in reading and illustrated books; her role as Curator of Prints and Director of the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Sadie May, Claghorn, Garrett, and Cone Collections; the financial management of the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Venice Biennale, 1960; and her research concerning Mary Cassatt and Romaine Brooks. She recalls Katherine B. Child, Claribel and Etta Cone, William Ivins, Jr., Gertrude Stein, Alicie B. Toklas and others. Also included are transcripts of interviews with Gertrude Rosenthal, January 14, 1977, and James Foster, December 10, 1976, in which they discuss working with Breeskin, and a copy of Berman's article "Adelyn Breeskin: 50 Years of Excellence, Part I," which appeared in the Feminist Art Journal, Summer 1977; and a manuscript draft and photocopied pages of "Profile of Adelyn Breeskin, Part 2" by Berman. (An abbreviated version of this article appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 30, 1977).
Berman's interview of painter Romare Bearden (2 cassettes, 45 page transcript) was conducted 1980 July 31 in Bearden's studio, Long Island City, New York. Bearden discusses his mural commissions; his youth; his time in Paris; working out of the blues tradition; the influence of the South; and changes in his work. He recalls Constantin Brancusi, Jacob Lawrence, Henri Matisse, Duke Ellington, Stuart Davis, and others.
The interview with painter Jacob Lawrence was conducted 1982 July 20-August 4th (3 sound cassettes, 81 page transcript). Also present is Gwendolyn Knight.
The interview with Helen Farr Sloan, widow of painter John Sloan, was conducted by Berman on 1988 July 17 for an audience at the Delaware Art Museum. The interview primarily concerns her husband, painter John Sloan including their marriage and life together as well as his life and work before they married, Farr Sloan's education including being a student of John Sloan's, as well as her own experience as a teacher. She briefly discusses art collecting.
The interview of sculptor Reuben Nakian was conducted 1981 April 1 (1 sound cassette, untranscribed).
The interview of sculptor Chaim Gross and Renee Gross was conducted 1981 March 7 (2 sound cassettes, untranscribed).
The collection also includes 13 letters to Berman from art historians and critics, and copies of 2 letters sent, in response to her query about what books they find indispensable to their work. Berman used the information in an article in ARTnews (Nov. 1983). Correspondents include John Szarkowski, Milton Brown, John Canaday, Robert Rosenblum, Julius Held, Theodore Reff, Linda Nochlin, Albert Elsen, James R. Mellow, Lewis Mumford, Dore Ashton, John Walker, and Robert Rosenblum. This material is on microfilm reel 4909.

Biographical/Historical Note

Avis Berman (1949- ) is an art historian, writer, and curator from New York, N.Y.


The collection was donated incrementally by Avis Berman 1981-1993.

Related Materials

Also in the Archives are the Avis Berman research material on Katharine Kuh, 1939-2006 and an interview of Reuben Nakian conducted by Berman for the Archives Oral History Program, June 1981.

Language Note

English .

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 2786 and 4909 are available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

Restrictions on Use

Interviews with Gross, Lawrence, and Nakian: Authorization to quote or reproduce for purposes of publication requires written permission from Avis Berman. Contact Reference Services for more information.

The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.

How to Cite This Collection

Avis Berman research material on art and artists, 1976-1988. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.