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Balcomb and Gertrude Greene papers, circa 1880s-2009

Greene, Balcomb, 1904-1990

Painter, Author

Collection Information

Size: 9.8 Linear feet

Summary: The Balcomb and Gertrude Greene papers, circa 1880s-2009, bulk circa 1905-1990, measure 9.8 linear feet. Balcomb Greene's career as a painter, educator, and writer - and to a lesser extent his personal life - is documented by biographical material, letters, subject files,writings, artwork, audio-visual recordings, printed material, and photographs. Documentation about sculptor Gertrude Greene, from 1926 until her death in 1956, consists of printed material, photographs, two letters to her, and a brief handwritten list of paintings and constructions.
All biographical material relates to Balcomb Greene. Letters are almost exclusively incoming letters; two copies of outgoing letters written by Terryn Greene are included. Those addressed to Balcomb Greene regard articles, his will, an appraisal of a painting by him, and greeting cards with notes from friends. The two letters addressed to Gertrude Greene are photocopies. One from A. E. Gallatin concerns her work selected for the permanent collection of the Museum of Living Art at New York University; the other, a fragment from an unidentified correspondent, is about American Abstract Artists dues and exhibitions. The letters addressed to Terryn Greene concern her husband's career or mention him.
Subject files relate to activities and topics of interest to Greene or aspects of Greene's career; some concern estate matters. Of particular interest are: "Balcomb and Gertrude Greene in the WPA," consisting of Terryn Greene's research correspondence on the subject; and a file documenting a Judith Rothschild Foundation grant for conservation of paintings damaged in the 1996 fire that destroyed Balcomb Greene's studio.
Writings are by Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, and other authors. Balcomb's writings include articles, novels, short stories, poems, journal entries, lecture notes, student writings, and a thesis. Gertrude Greene's writings consist of a handwritten list of paintings and constructions, noting the dimensions, date, and price of each piece. The writings of other authors are about Balcomb and Gertrude Greene. They include notes for an interview, a poem, student papers, and a thesis.
Art work consists of a collage probably by Balcomb Greene, and a sketchbook containing two of his drawings dated January 1976. Another drawing is signed [H?.] R. Balcomb Greene's register of paintings documents each completed painting on a separate sheet containing a small photograph or sketch, title, date of execution, and code or negative number, along with notes relating to exhibitions, loans, and ownership; some sheets bear the notation "destroyed." The register is incomplete, and the surviving portion bears evidence of the 1996 fire that gutted his studio. The least damaged portion documents works from 1941-1948, 1963-1964, and 1980-1982; the remaining part of the register consists of partial pages that are missing titles, dates of execution, or other salient information.
Exhibition catalogs and articles from newspapers and periodicals represent the majority of the printed material about or mentioning Balcomb and Gertrude Greene. In addition, there are articles by Balcomb published in a number of periodicals. Museum publications, annual reports, bulletins and newsletters mention the Greenes. Also found are issues of Art Front, 1934-1938 (Balcomb served on the editorial board and contributed articles), and his well-used copy of Modern Art by Katherine S. Drier.
Audio-visual recordings consist of interviews with Balcomb Greene and a "McCarthy tape" (Balcomb and Terryn helped organize "Montauk's Day for McCarthy"). Among the video recordings is a videocassette of Greene's 1990 memorial service.
Photographs are of art work, events, exhibition installations, miscellaneous subjects, people, and places. Art work of both Balcomb and Gertrude is documented. Among the photographs of people are images of Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, Terryn Greene, family, friends and other individuals (identified and unidentified). Greene family photographs, some surviving from the 19th century, portray three generations. Photographs of events include documentation of the damage caused by the 1996 fire that destroyed Balcomb Greene's studio. Installation photographs document exhibitions that featured Balcomb Greene, the couple, and Gertrude Greene. Of particular interest is a view of Gertrude's contribution to the American Abstract Artists' 1937 show at Squibb Gallery. Miscellaneous subjects are Greene's Rolls Royce and pets. Places recorded include Greene's boyhood homes and churches, the house Balcomb built at Montauk, Gertrude's studio, and travel pictures of Europe and Asia. Also found are a small number of negatives, 35-mm slides, and color transparencies of art work, miscellaneous subjects, and people.

Biographical/Historical Note

Balcomb (1904-1990) and his wife Gertrude (1904-1956) were painters in New York, N.Y. John Wesley Greene (known professionally as Balcomb Greene), born May 22, 1904 in Millville, New York, was the youngest child of Reverend Bertram Stillman Greene, a Methodist minister. After his wife died in 1907, Reverend Greene and the children moved several times when he accepted assignments at small town churches in Iowa, South Dakota, and Colorado.


Donated in 2009 by Terryn Trimpen Greene, widow of Balcomb Greene.

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