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Colette Roberts papers and interviews with artists, 1918-1971

Colette Roberts papers and interviews with artists, 1918-1971

Roberts, Colette Jacqueline, 1910-1971

Author, Gallery director, Art critic

Collection Information

Size: 10.2 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of New York City and Paris art historian, educator, and gallerist Colette Roberts measure 10.2 linear feet and date from 1918 to 1971. Papers include correspondence, writings, teaching records, project proposals, gallery records from Grand Central Moderns Gallery, clippings, Roberts' printed articles, press releases, exhibition catalogs, posters, photographs, and a few works of art on paper. Also found are 124 interviews with contemporary artists conducted by Roberts.

Significant correspondents include Sam Adler, Erwin Barrie, Hubert Damisch, George Deem, Mesdames de Harting and de Tinan, Lamar Dodd, Hélène Drude (Le Point Cardinal gallery), Arne Ekstrom, Albert M. Fine (Fluxus artist), Iqbal Geoffrey, R.G. Gilllet, Adolph Gottlieb, Cleve Gray, Leon Hartl, Jennett Lam, Alberto Cifolelli Lamb, Mike Nevelson, Norman Norotzky, Jacqueline Pavlowsky, Abe Rattner, Ad Reinhardt, H. Sandberg, Philippe Stern, Russell Twiggs, and Zuka.

Writings by Roberts include manuscripts and articles about artists, writings about her own art, personal writings, working notes from interviews and classes, reviews, and translations between English and French.

Among the personal records are Robert's files relating to teaching, charitable activities, and exhibitions. Also found are gallery records from Grand Central Moderns Gallery, including artist résumés, a card file of Page 3 artworks with provenance information, exhibition catalogs and announcements, membership records, posters, publicity, and sales records.

Printed materials in the collection include clippings, Roberts' printed articles, press releases, and other exhibition catalogs and announcements. Photographs are of Roberts, artists, including Ad Reinhardt, classes, art spaces, and works of art. A small number of artworks on paper are also found, including Fluxus art stamps and a printed picture of Ray Johnson stamped "DOUGHNUT FESTIVAL."

Documentation of interviews with artists conducted by Roberts includes a card index file, a few transcripts, and the original sound recordings. Most of the recordings are interviews with artists that Roberts created during a class she taught at New York University between 1957 and 1971 called "Meet the Artist," including Dorothy Dehner, John Ferren, Ray Johnson, Ivan Karp, Thérèse le Prat, Richard Lindner, Seong Moy, Brian O'Doherty, Man Ray, Ethel Schwabacher, Hedda Sterne, Marie Helena Vieira da Silva, and many others. In preparation for magazine articles, Roberts conducted more extensive interviews with Chryssa, Marcel Duchamp, Adolph Gottlieb, and Louise Nevelson. A few of the recordings of Marcel Duchamp were not created by Roberts. In addition to Roberts' interviews, a few scattered recordings of lectures, interviews conducted by people other than Roberts, and other miscellany are found among the sound recordings.

Biographical/Historical Note

Colette Roberts (1910-1971) was an art critic and former director of the Grand Central Moderns Gallery, New York, N.Y.


The sound recordings and transcripts of interviews with artists, were donated by Colette Roberts in 1970. The remaining papers were donated by her son, Richard B. Roberts, in 1973.

Related Materials

Additional papers and recordings of Colette Roberts are held by Syracuse University Library Special Collections Research Center.

A Finding Aid to the Colette Roberts Papers and Interviews with Artists,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Colette Roberts was a French artist, curator, gallery director, and scholar who emigrated to the United States in 1939, settling in New York City and remaining there until her death in 1971.
Roberts was born in Paris, France in 1910. She studied art with Roger Bissière at the Académie Ranson and with Henry Focillon at the Ecole du Louvre, and she later attended the Institut d'Art et Archeologie at the Sorbonne. Roberts came to the United States in 1939, settling in New York City, and became an American citizen three years later. In her early years in the United States, Roberts lectured and wrote on art and literature, and was active in various war-relief organizations, raising money and organizing benefits for organizations such as the American Red Cross and UNICEF. She was the gallery director for the National Association of Women Artists' Argent Galleries from 1947 to 1949, secretary to the curator of Far Eastern Art at New York's Metropolitan Museum from 1950 to 1951, and art editor for "France Amérique," the French-language newspaper in New York, beginning in 1953.
Roberts became gallery director of the Grand Central Moderns Gallery (New York, NY) in 1952 and remained in that position until 1968, when the gallery closed. The gallery was opened in 1946 by Erwin S. Barrie of the Grand Central Galleries for the promotion of living American artists. Among the artists represented there were Jennett Lam and Seong Moy. During this period she was also an instructor at New York University and Queens College, teaching art history and contemporary art. In 1957, she began a course at New York University called "Meet the Artist," for which she took her classes to the studios of working artists to see and discuss their work. In the early 1960s, she began to tape record her interviews of artists for this course, a practice which continued until her death in 1971. In 1968, Roberts worked briefly as Gallery Director for the A.M. Sachs Gallery (New York, NY), and as an oral history interviewer for the Archives of American Art.
Roberts wrote extensively on contempoary art, including articles and monographs on Mark Tobey (1960, Grove Press), Louise Nevelson (1964, The Pocket Museum), and Marcel Duchamp. She was a regular contributor to
Art and Architecture
The collection is arranged as 8 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1918-1971 (Box 1, 0.5 linear feet)
Series 2: Notes and Writings, 1936-1970 (Box 1, 0.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Records, 1944-1971 (Box 1-2, 11; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 4: Grand Central Moderns Gallery Records, 1952-1970 (Box 2-3, 11; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1938-1971 (Box 3-5, 11-12; 2.0 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, 1930-1971 (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, 1940-1969 (Box 5; 4 folders)
Series 8: Interviews with Artists, 1959-1971 (Box 5-10; 5.5 lienar feet)
The sound recordings and transcripts of interviews with artists, were donated by Colette Roberts in 1970. The remaining papers were donated by her son, Richard B. Roberts, in 1973.
Processing Information
Interviews and papers were initially maintained as two separate collections, and Colette Roberts papers were loosely arranged and microfilmed upon accession on reels 2743-2745 and 3471; the microfilm is no longer in circulation. The recordings were digitized for preservation and access in 2009 and 2010. Papers were integrated with the recordings, and the entire collection was re-processed by Megan McShea in 2010.

Additional Forms Available

All of the sound recordings in this collection were digitized for research access in 2009-2010 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original sound tape reels for the archival notations on them, but original reels are not available for playback due to fragility.

Bauermeister, Duchamp (spring 1963 interview only), Gottlieb (1964 interview only), Hultberg, Lam (Apr-May 1968 only), Lindner (1965 only), and Nevelson (1968 only): are transcribed.

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

Colette Roberts papers and interviews with artists, 1918-1971. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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