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Bernhard H. Berntsen papers, 1931-1987

Berntsen, Bernhard H. (Bernhard Hilmar), 1900-1992

Muralist, Metal-worker, Painter


Collection Information

Size: 0.4 Linear feet, (60 items partially microfilmed on 1 reel)

Summary: Sketches, photographs, notes, a scrapbook, and printed material.
REEL 2787: A notebook containing sketches and notes on the completion of the Willard Parker Hospital mural, New York City, which Sakari Suzuki painted with the assistance of Berntsen for the Federal Arts Project in 1936-1938; and 9 photographs of the Willard Parker mural, 2 of which show Suzuki and 2 of Suzuki and Berntsen at work. The Willard Parker Hospital was later demolished.
UNMICROFILMED: A chronology of Berntsen's career; 24 sketches in pencil and in pen and ink of ironworkers and construction workers, ca. 1933-1934, and of visitors to the National Gallery where Berntsen was a guard, ca. 1966-1971; three letters from Bernsten to his wife Alma, 1947-1952; loose newspaper clippings, ca. 1933-1985, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings (in Norwegian and English) concerning Berntsen's involvement with the Norwegian Art and Craft Club, and his paintings and sketches of workers at construction sites where he worked as an ironworker, ca. 1931-1976; two exhibition announcements, 1964 and 1986; photographs, ca. 1933-1987, mostly snapshots, include Berntsen painting, Bernsten in his National Gallery of Art guard uniform with Chief Justice Earl Warren, one of students and faculty of the Art Students League (ca. 1933-1934), one of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in New York, several of Berntsen and Suzuki at work on the Willard Parker Hospital mural, ca. 1938, of events sponsored by the Norwegian Art and Craft Club, and of works of art. Also included are photocopies of works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

Painter, mural painter, ironworker; Chicago, Ill., New York, N.Y. and Va. Born in Oslo, Norway. Berntsen also was the model for the laborer who stands behind Lenin in the controversial Diego Rivera mural for Radio City Music Hall.


Material on reel 2787 transferred from the National Collection of Fine Arts, who received it from Berntsen, 1975. Unmicrofilmed material donated 1993 and 2002 by Berntsen's great-grandson, Cliff Miller.

Language Note

Many newpaper clippings in the scrapbook are in Norwegian.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reel 2787 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. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Bernhard H. Berntsen papers, 1931-1987. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.