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Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art records, 1883-1962, bulk 1885-1962

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Judy Ng
Scope and Contents
The records of the Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art measure 265.8 linear feet and date from 1883-1962, with the bulk of the material dating from 1885-1940. The collection includes extensive correspondence between the museum's founding director, John Beatty, and his successor, Homer Saint-Gaudens, with artists, dealers, galleries, collectors, museum directors, representatives abroad, shipping and insurance agents, and museum trustees. The collection also includes Department of Fine Arts interoffice memoranda and reports; loan exhibition files; Carnegie International planning, jury, shipping, and sale records; Department of Fine Arts letterpress copy books, and a copy of the original card catalog index to these records.
This collection is a complete record of the museum's work, starting with the planning of the first loan exhibition in 1885 and ending with the cancellation of the International at the start of World War II in 1940. The museum's day-to-day relationships with all aspects of the contemporary art world are documented within the historical context of artists' reactions to World War I; the economic repercussions of the Great Depression on art sales and museum budgets; the ramifications of fascism on German, Italian, and European art; the impact of civil war on Spanish art; and the tensions introduced by the rise of 'radical' modernist art in Europe.
Correspondence (Series 1) is the largest series in the collection (152.5 linear feet) and is comprised of extensive correspondence between the Museum of Art and over 8700 correspondents, with over 3600 correspondents specifically related to art and artists.
Correspondents related to the art world include museum staff, artists, collectors, museums, galleries, dealers, shippers, insurance agencies, art directors, associations, societies, clubs, critics, press, and governments. These exchanges include general requests for information; requests related to the museum's exhibitions, including the International; letters regarding the museum's involvement in the events of other art organizations; loan, sales, and provenance information for specific works of art; and information regarding the events of other art organizations.
The correspondence of the museum's staff provides the greatest insight into understanding the museum's evolution into an international cultural institution. Both directors' correspondence touch on their personal opinions on art, their rationale behind policy decisions, and their understanding of the extent to which the museum's work was dependent on the good relations they maintained in the art world. Additionally, the extensive, opinionated correspondence between Saint-Gaudens' European agents and museum staff during the 1920s and 1930s provide a unique perspective on emerging art trends and the skill, growth, and personalities of individual artists.
The most prolific of the museum staff correspondents include museum directors John Beatty and Homer Saint-Gaudens, Board of Trustees president Samuel Harden Church, assistant director Edward Balken, and European agents Guillaume Lerolle , Ilario Neri, Arnold Palmer, Margaret Palmer, and Charlotte Weidler. Additional prominent staff members include Helen Beatty, Robert Harshe, Caroline Lapsley, Henry Jack Nash, John O'Connor, Charles Ramsey, George Shaw, George Sheers, August Zeller, and Fine Arts Committee members John Caldwell, William Frew, William Hyett, and John Porter.
The most prolific artist correspondents include John White Alexander, George Grey Barnard, Cecilia Beaux, Frank Benson, George de Forest Brush, William Merritt Chase, William Coffin, Bruce Crane, Andre Dauchez, Charles H. Davis, Alfred East, Ben Foster, Daniel Garber, Charles P. Gruppe, John Johansen, Johanna Hailman, John McLure Hamilton, Birge Harrison, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Laura Knight, John la Farge, Gaston la Touche, John Lavery, Henri le Sidaner, Jonas Lie, Hermon A. MacNeil, Antonio Mancini, Gari Melchers, Emile Menard, Henry R. Poore, Edward Redfield, W. Elmer Schofield, Leopold Seyffert, Lucien Simon, Eugene Speicher, Abbott Handerson Thayer, Robert Vonnoh, J. Alden Weir, Irving R. Wiles, and Ignacio Zuloaga. Other artists of note include: Edwin Austen Abbey, George Bellows, Edwin Blashfield, Frank Brangwyn, Mary Cassatt, Kenyon Cox, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Robert Henri, Eastman Johnson, Rockwell Kent, Paul Manship, Henry Ranger, John Singer Sargent, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Edmund Tarbell, James McNeil Whistler, N.C. Wyeth, and Charles Morris Young.
Frequent museum collaborators include the Art Institute of Chicago, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Brooklyn Museum, Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, Cleveland Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Saint Louis Museum of Fine Arts, Toledo Museum of Art, and Worcester Art Museum.
Other prolific correspondents include collectors Chauncey Blair, Andrew Carnegie, Charles Lang Freer, George Hearn, Alexander Humphreys, Roy Hunt, Mrs. B.F. Jones, Burton Mansfield, Frank Nicola, Duncan Phillips, John Stevenson, and William Stimmel; dealers and galleries M. Knoedler, William Macbeth, Central Art Gallery, Charles A. Walker, C.W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, Downtown Gallery, Durand-Ruel and Sons, Ehrich Galleries, Ferargil Galleries, Frank Rehn, Frederick Keppel, Haseltine Art Gallery, R.C. Vose Galleries, and W. Scott Thurber Fine Arts; insurance agent Macomber Co.; and shippers Dicksee and Co., J.W. Hampton, P. Navel/R. Lerondelle, Stedman and Wilder, and W.S. Budworth and Son.
Correspondents not specifically related to the contemporary art world include businesses, educational institutions, libraries, and the general public. These exchanges detail the daily work of the museum, including the estimates and work orders of office suppliers, contractors, printers, and etc.; programming and research inquiries of k-12 and college/university institutions; acknowledgements of the receipt of Museum of Art publications; and general public inquiries regarding museum policies, exhibitions, and the permanent collection. Companies and institutions who worked particularly closely with the museum include Alden and Harlow (architects), Detroit Publishing Co., and Tiffany and Co.
Department of Fine Arts (Series 2) consists of art and artist lists, correspondence, memoranda, notes, and reports. These files were begun under John Beatty's tenure and streamlined under Homer Saint-Gaudens' directorship to track activities directly related to the museum's interoffice affairs. File headings continued under Saint-Gaudens focus on art considered and purchased for the permanent collection, employee records, exhibition proposals and loans, Fine Arts Committee minutes, museum programming, museum publications, press releases, requests for images, and requests for general information.
Under Saint-Gaudens, the Fine Arts Committee files contain voluminous impressions of contemporary European artists, which he composed during his annual studio tours of the continent in the early 1920s and late 1930s. These informal reports provide insight into the shaping of the International and include a running commentary on historical events of the time. The Fine Arts Committee files also document the artistic and budgetary compromises that were struck, particularly during the Great Depression and early run-up to World War II.
Exhibitions (Series 3) includes correspondence with collectors, museums, galleries, dealers, shippers, and many of the artists themselves. Additional documents include catalogs, lists, planning notes, and telegrams related to 185 traveling and loan exhibitions held at the Museum of Art from 1901 to 1940. Of these, over 100 are one-artist shows and 82 are group, survey, regional, or topical shows. The one-artist exhibitions tend to showcase contemporary artists of the time. Regional shows focused on American and European art, with two shows featuring the art of Canada and Mexico. Survey themes focused on animals, children, cities, gardens, landscapes, Old Masters, and portraitures. Many of the genre shows venture into art not typically collected by the Museum of Art, including architecture, crafts, engravings, figure studies, graphic arts, illustrations, miniatures, mural decorations, oriental rugs, prints, printed books, sculpture, small reliefs, stained glass, theater models, watercolors, and wood engravings.
The most important shows organized and curated by Museum of Art staff include the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915), American Sculpture Show (1915, 1920), Applied Arts Show (1917), Original Illustrations Show (1921), Mexican Art Show (1929), Garden Club Show (1922), Industrial Art Show (1924), Pittsburgh Artists Show (1935), French Survey Show (1936), English Painting Survey Show (1937), American Paintings, Royal Academy Show (1938), and Survey of American Painting Show (1940).
Important one-artist shows include Abbot Handerson Thayer (1919), George de Forest Brush (1922), Frank W. Benson (1923), Rockwell Kent (1923, 1939), Anders Zorn (1924), John Lavery (1925), Paul Manship (1925), Mary Cassatt (1925), Laura Knight (1925), Edouard Manet (1932), Edward Hopper (1936), Winslow Homer (1922, 1936), Paul Cezanne (1936), Charles Burchfield (1937), and William Glackens (1938).
International (Series 4) is comprised of catalogs, correspondence, art and artist lists, itineraries, jury selection ballots, minutes, notes, and reports related to the planning, logistics, and promotion of the International Exhibition from 1895 to 1940. These documents were originally grouped and filed separately under John Beatty and were more rigorously streamlined under Homer Saint-Gaudens. The folder headings continued under Saint-Gaudens focus on art purchases, artists' invitations, artists' request for information, general exhibition planning, Foreign Advisory Committees, foreign governments, jury reception planning, loan requests, and touring logistics.
Letterpress books (Series 5) consist of 75 volumes that chronologically collect all of the Museum of Art's outgoing correspondence from 1896 to 1917. Volumes 1-8 contain the only copy of outgoing correspondence from 1896 to 1900. Duplicate copies of all outgoing correspondence dating from 1901 to 1917 were filed in Correspondence (Series 1) by museum staff.
Card catalogs (Series 6) also include three sets of catalogs created by the Museum of Art to track the outgoing and incoming correspondence contained in this collection. Set 1 (1895-1906) consists of the original cards. Set 2 (1907-1917) and Set 3 (1918-1940) consists of photocopies of the original cards that were merged together into one contiguous set.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Carnegie Institute, Museum of Art records were loaned for microfilming in 1966 and later donated to the Archives of American Art in 1972. A small addition of corrrespondence was donated in 2017 by Elizabeth Tufts Brown.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Brown Foundation. Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Processing Information
The collection was initially arranged for selective microfilming between 1962-1972; these reels are no longer in circulation. The entire collection was fully processed and described by Judy Ng between 2008 to 2010 with funding provided by the Brown Foundation. Series 3 and Series 4 of the collection and the correspondence of directors John W. Beatty and Homer Saint-Gaudens were scanned in 2011 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Additional papers were fully merged and described in 2014. A small addition of correspondence received in 2017 was integrated into the collection.