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Chester Dale papers, circa 1883-2003, bulk 1920-1970

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Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York art collector Chester Dale measure 8.4 linear feet and date from circa 1883-2003. Dale amassed one of the world's most complete collections of nineteenth and twentieth century French art, was a collector of eighteenth century American portraitists, and a patron and collector of twentieth American artists including George Bellows and Mary Cassatt. The bulk of the collection dates from 1920 to 1970 and documents Dale's activities through biographical material, correspondence, memoirs and other writings, purchase, sales and estate records, printed material, scrapbooks, and photographs.
Biographical material comprises brief genealogical and biographical notes on Dale's father's side of the family; four pieces of miscellaneous artwork; several certificates, membership cards, and programs; circa six unidentified dictaphone recordings; and a home movie of an unidentified social event.
Correspondence provides scattered documentation of Dale's activities as a collector and benefactor, including correspondence relating to gifts to various museums such as the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as posthumous gifts to the Allentown Art Museum and Amherst College. Also documented is Dale's election as president of the National Gallery of Art in 1955. There are several letters to and from Salvador and Gala Dali, copies of two letters from Diego Rivera, and letters from other friends and business associates, including historian Georges Salles. Over one third of the correspondence consists of condolence telegrams and letters sent to Mary Dale following Dale's death. Other correspondence documents Mary Dale's work as exhibition chairman for the Parrish Museum of Art, and includes letters from Andrew, Jamie, and Nicholas Wyeth.
Writings include typed drafts of Dale's memoirs which recall the beginning of his career in banking, and include stories of his early experiences in buying art. Dale credits the highly discerning and influential eye of his first wife, Maud Dale, for guiding him in his early selections, and his memoirs recall his unconventionally direct way of doing business with the Paris art dealers. Two travel diaries record a 1904 trip to Europe, and five trips to Europe and the Caribbean between 1949 and 1953. Writings by others include several essays on Dale by various authors, several essays on art by Maud Dale, and a typed draft of a manuscript on Dale's life by Neil MacNeil.
Extensive inventories, estate appraisals, and will disbursement records document the contents of the Chester Dale collection in Series 4. Also found here are receipts for specific purchases of works by Cezanne, Cassatt, Dali, Dufy, Picasso, and others.
Printed material includes catalogs for auction sales annotated with sales prices and other purchase information; catalogs of Dale's collection; and exhibition catalogs and announcements for the Parrish Museum of Art during Mary Dale's tenure as exhibition chairman. Some of the catalogs include essays by Maud Dale. News clippings and magazine articles document press coverage of Dale's activities at home and abroad.
Scrapbooks contain additional printed material, primarily news clippings, documenting press coverage of Chester Dale's life from the 1920s until his death. One of the scrapbooks includes multiple photographs of Dale and others, including a photo of Frida Kahlo and Jose Orozco. An additional scrapbook of photographs and clippings documents Mary Dale's life before and after her marriage to Dale.
Photographs are of Dale, Mary Dale, Maud Dale, family, friends, and colleagues. There are photographs of Dale and Mary Dale with artists including George Braques, Salvador and Gala Dali, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and Jamie and Nicholas Wyeth; and friends and associates Renee and Claire Batigne, Veronica "Rocky" Cooper and Maria Cooper, Robert Sturgis Ingersoll, Edith Hamilton with Robert Frost, Neil MacNeil, Herbert Mayes, and Paul and Timothy Mellon. There are individual photos and three photograph albums of Dale's various residences and his collection, including photographs taken shortly before his death at his Plaza Hotel apartment showing some of his favorite pictures. Photographers include Rudolph Burkhardt, Irving Cantor, Ivan Dmitri, and Dmitri Kessel. There are also many photographs of exhibition openings and museum events, especially events at the National Gallery of Art, including the presentation of Dale's gift of Dali's The Sacrament of the Last Supper to the museum in 1956, and the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II of England's visit to the museum in 1957. Photographs also include photographs of artwork in Dale's collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection was donated in 1972 by Mary Dale, Chester Dale's second wife, and in 1985 by Mary Dale's estate.
Related Materials
Holdings at the Archives of American Art also include the Chester Dale papers concerning George Bellows, 1919-1956, comprising correspondence, a photograph, and invoices relating to Chester Dale's relationship with George Bellows and Dale's interest in artwork by Bellows; and the Chester Dale eulogy, consisting of one 35 minute, 9 second sound tape reel of a eulogy delivered by an unidentified speaker.
Funding for the processing and digitization of the Chester Dale papers is provided by The Walton Family Foundation. Funding for the reformatting of the 16mm film reel was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Women's Committee.
Processing Information
The collection received a preliminary level of arrangement after donation and was partially microfilmed on reels 927 and 3968-3974. The collection was processed, prepared for digitization, and described in a finding aid by Stephanie Ashley in 2017 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation.