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Chaim Gross papers, 1920-2004

More Information

Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York City sculptor and teacher Chaim Gross measure 21.1 linear feet and date from 1920-2004. The collection provides comprehensive documentation of Gross's career through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence with family, artists, writers, galleries, museums, educational institutions, and religious and philanthropic organizations, writings, personal business records, extensive printed and published material including motion picture film and video recordings of four documentaries, one hundred and fifteen sketchbooks spanning the bulk of Gross's career, and photographs of Gross, his family, many friends and colleagues from the art world, his studio, personal art collection, and works of art.
Biographical material includes records collated to document awards and honors given to Gross documenting the recognition he received for his lifelong achievements in the last two decades of his career, including from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Academy of Design. The series also includes Gross's birth certificate printed in 1920, some biographical notes and resumes prior to the 1970s, documentation of Gross's business and personal contacts through addresses and business cards, and a motion picture film of a documentary about Gross, Art and the Model, made in 1976 by Thea Bay and edited by Bob Worth.
Personal and professional correspondence constitutes the largest series in the collection and documents all aspects of Gross's prolific career including: personal letters from friends and family such as daughter Mimi Gross and Red Grooms; professional correspondence with galleries, museums, and other art institutions including the Jewish Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Whitney Museum of American Art; correspondence documenting commissions, loans, and sales of Gross's artwork through galleries including Forum Gallery; and correspondence with synagogues including International Synagogue, Temple Sharaay Tefila, and Temple Sinai, Pittsburgh, and multiple other Jewish organizations such as Hadassah and State of Israel Bonds. Correspondence also documents publications by and about Gross including letters from Abe Lerner, the Jewish Publication Society of America, Chaim Potok, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc.; Gross's work as a teacher including at the Educational Alliance and the New School for Social Research; and the significance of Gross's personal collection of African art through correspondence with Warren M. Robbins, the Smithsonian Museum of African Art, and others. Gross's work for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project and Treasury Relief Project, as well as for the 1939 World's Fair, is also documented in this series and includes contracts and correspondence with Ed Rowan.
Correspondence includes many letters from artist friends and colleagues including Isabel Bishop, Peter Blume, Eliot Elisofon, Eugenie Gershoy, Milton Hebald, Lewis Jacobs, Karl Knaths, Arnold Newman, Elias Newman, Saul Rosen, Moses Soyer, Raphael Soyer, Nicholas Sperakis, William and Marguerite Zorach, and many others. Writers and scholars who corresponded with Gross include Samuel French Morse, Jack C. Rich, Shea Tenenbaum, Roberta Tarbell, and others.
Writings primarily consist of a partial draft of Gross's book The Technique of Wood Sculpture but also include a copy of his first published article in 1938 in the American Federation of Arts Magazine of Art, and a few short writings by Gross on other artists. Writings by others include a memoir of Gross's boyhood written by his brother, poet Naftoli Gross.
Gross's personal business records are scattered, as many transactional records are included with his correspondence. They do include lists of Gross's artwork and his personal art collection, two agreements for rights to use his work, appraisals of twelve of his works of art, and receipts of consignments, sales, loans, and gifts of artwork.
Printed material is a comprehensive and substantial record of Gross's exhibitions, and his prolific engagement in the arts and his community throughout his long career. This series includes announcements and catalogs for many of his exhibitions, brochures and programs for art organizations for which he exhibited, taught, donated to, or was otherwise represented in, notably the Educational Alliance, the New School for Social Research, the Sculptors Guild, Inc., and numerous other private and public museums, galleries, and institutions. Also found is circa one linear foot of clippings about Gross that span his career from newspapers, magazines, and journals, including some Hebrew and Yiddish publications. The series also houses video recordings of the documentaries Tree Trunk to Head and A Sculptor Speaks, and an NBC broadcast of an interview with Gross entitled The Two Chaims, as the motion picture film, A Sculptor Speaks.
Sketchbooks provide a unique visual record of Gross's development and the shifting focus of his subject matter from 1933 to right before his death in 1991. They record his early subjects of acrobatic models, family bonds, and landscapes, and the emergence of darker "fantasy" drawings in the wake of the Holocaust and World War II which brought the news of the murder of his brother and sister and her family by the Nazis. The sketchbooks document Gross's travels abroad during the 1960s, and his incorporation of Jewish iconography and Old Testament themes in the 1960s and 1970s. They also illustrate how the constant theme of the celebration of the human form persisted in his work to the end of his life.
Photographs of people and events, although only measuring 0.7 linear feet, provide a rich visual record of Gross's life and his professional and personal relationships from the time he arrived in the United States in 1920 to the late 1980s. The earliest photographs picture Gross with his brothers and with new friends at the Educational Alliance including Moses and Raphael Soyer, Peter Blume, and Elias Newman. There are many photographs of Gross working in his studios, and at the Bedi-Makky Art Foundry in Brooklyn, photographs taken at parties, exhibition openings, receptions, and other events, and photographs of Gross's art collection and exhibition installations. Photographs picture artists such as Hyman Brown, Jose de Creeft, Joseph Hirsch, Moses Soyer, and Raphael Soyer; and gallery owners and collectors including Bella Fishko, Joseph Hirshhorn, Sidney Janis, and Warren M. Robbins. The series also houses photographs of works of art, primarily sculpture, executed by Gross between 1922 and 1987.
An unprocessed addition of three sketchbooks was donated in 2020.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Chaim Gross papers were given to the Archives of American Art in a series of accessions by Chaim Gross from 1963-1983. Thirteen postcards were given by Mrs. Irving Marantz in 1975. Mimi Gross donated eight letters and two envelopes in 2005. Additional papers were donated by the Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation in 2016 via Susan Fisher, executive Director, and in 2017 and 2020 by the Foundation via Sasha Davis, Interim Director and Curator of Collections.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art holds the microfilm (Reels D115a, 924, and 925) of ten record books, 1926-1975, containing rough drawings of artworks, dimensions, titles, dates, materials, production locations, and information regarding owners. The record books were returned to the donor after microfilming and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Related Materials
Additional Chaim Gross papers are held by Syracuse University.
The Chaim Gross papers were processed with funding from the Shirley Gorelick Foundation.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection were loaned for microfilming between 1966 and 1981 and the bulk of the material was subsequently donated. In 1994 the collection acquired to date was processed by Jean Fitzgerald. This portion and all subsequent accessions were merged, fully processed, and described in a finding aid by Stephanie Ashley in 2019.