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Carl Holty papers, circa 1860s-1972, bulk 1940-1967

Carl Holty papers, circa 1860s-1972, bulk 1940-1967

Holty, Carl, 1900-1973

Painter, Author

Collection Information

Size: 1.8 linear feet

Summary: Correspondence, writings, printed material and photographs documenting Holty's career as an abstract painter and painting teacher.

Correspondence with Romare Bearden, Charles Byrne, and Hilaire Hiler concerns art, exhibitions and reviews, education, and news of mutual friends. Holty's writings include articles, autobiographical writings, unpublished manuscripts of a monograph, Art In America, and an untitled novel. Also found among his writings is a journal which contains his reminiscences of artist friends and acquaintances, and reflections on art, art history, and his life, personal plans and aspirations.

Printed material consists mainly of clippings about or mentioning Holty, and reviews and publicity relating to The Painter's Mind, a book Holty wrote with Romare Bearden. Miscellaneous records consist of a transcript of an interview with Carl Holty and an identification card issued to his father. Photographs are of artwork, people and places. Also included are 6 photograph albums of Holty's artwork, and a small number of negatives. The people pictured are mainly Holty, friends and family. There is also a group photograph that includes Joan Miró.

Loaned material that was not later donated by Holty was returned to Holty after microfilming. This includes Holty's letters to his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Antonia, letters to Zoe Dusanne, letters from Ulfert Wilkie and Erwin Breithaupt, a small amount of general correspondence, and a typescript copy of Holty's journal. Loaned material is available on microfilm reels N68-93 and N68-105.

Holty's autobiographical notes, an unpublished manuscript, his journal entitled "Reflections"; and some lectures and articles.

Correspondence and clippings, 1926-1968.

One photograph of Holty, previously microfilmed under Photos of Artists I, has now been scanned and returned to the Holty papers.

Biographical/Historical Note

Carl Holty (1900-1973) was a painter and writer in New York, N.Y. Member of American Abstract Artists and Audubon Artists.


Material on reels N68-93 and N68-105 were lent for microfilming and portions subsequently donated 1972 by Carl Holty; material on reel 670 was donated 1972 by Holty; material on reel 1625 was donated 1976 & 1977 by Charles Byrne, a friend of Holty's. Additional unmicrofilmed photographs donated in 2006 by Virginia Liles, Holty's biographer.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Carl Holty Papers,
circa 1860s-1972
(bulk 1940-1967)
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Carl Holty was born in 1900 to American parents in Freiburg, Germany, where his father was studying medicine. Carl was still an infant when the family returned to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they lived with his grandparents in a traditional German neighborhood. It was Carl's grandfather who first introduced him to art through visits to a small local commercial gallery.
After showing an interest in being an artist at around age 12, Holty began taking lessons with a local painter. As a teenager he began drawing cartoons and soon set his sights on becoming a poster artist. With that in mind, Holty enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1919. He soon headed to New York and took courses at the Parsons School of Design and then at the National Academy of Design. In 1923 he returned to Milwaukee and opened a portrait painting studio.
Holty married in 1925 and took his bride to Europe, remaining abroad for the next decade. He entered Hans Hofmann's school in Munich in 1926, and exposure to Hofmann's ideas about color, space, and form greatly influenced and transformed his work. In 1927, the Holtys relocated to Switzerland in search of treatment for Mrs. Holty's tuberculosis. Holty and Hofmann remained in touch, and while in Switzerland, Holty increasingly incorporated Hofmann's teachings into his paintings as they grew more abstract in style.
After his wife's death in 1930, Holty moved to Paris for five years where he participated in several exhibitions and his work was well-received. Robert Delaunay invited him to join
, and the group published some of Holty's work in its magazine.
Upon returning to the United States in 1935, Holty settled in New York City where he eventually remarried and had a daughter. He renewed friendships with Hans Hofmann, Vaclav Vytlacil, and Stuart Davis, whom he had known in Paris. A figure in vanguard art circles, Holty was involved in meetings that resulted in the formation of the American Abstract Artists, and in 1938 he served as the group's chairman.
Holty taught drawing and paining at Brooklyn College from 1950 until his retirement in 1970, when he was designated Professor Emeritus. His years at Brooklyn College were punctuated by brief stints as a visiting instructor at the Art Students League, Washington University (St. Louis), and University of Louisville; he served as artist-in-residence at the universities of Georgia, Florida, California (Berkeley), and Wisconsin, and the Corcoran School of Art.
He exhibited widely at major museums throughout the United States including: the San Francisco Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Carnegie Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Holty's work was shown at major New York galleries such as J. B. Neumann, Samuel Kootz Gallery, and Graham Gallery, and is in the permanent collections of many museums including: Addison Gallery of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of Art, Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Carl Holty died March 22, 1973 in New York City, after a short illness.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 5 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1940-1972 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 2: Writings, 1944-1967 (Box 1; 0.6 linear ft.)
Series 3: Printed Material, 1931-1972 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 4: Miscellaneous Records, 1900, 1966 (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1860s-1972 (Boxes 1-3; 0.9 linear ft.)
Material on reels N68-93 and N68-105 were lent for microfilming and portions subsequently donated 1972 by Carl Holty; material on reel 670 was donated 1972 by Holty; material on reel 1625 was donated 1976 & 1977 by Charles Byrne, a friend of Holty's. Additional unmicrofilmed photographs donated in 2006 by Virginia Liles, Holty's biographer.
Processing Information note
The bulk of the collection was microfilmed in several installments in the order in which it was received and/or loaned on reels N68-93, N68-105, 439, 670, and 1625. The entire collection was merged and re-processed, arranged and described by Catherine S. Gaines in 2007.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reel N68-93, N68-105, 439, 670, and 1625 available for use 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. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Carl Holty papers, circa 1860s-1972, bulk 1940-1967. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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