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Ethel Schwabacher papers, 1940-1975

Schwabacher, Ethel, 1903-1984

Painter, Sculptor, Art historian


Collection Information

Size: 2.7 Linear feet

Summary: Biographical material, letters, artist files, interview transcripts, audio tapes, notes, writings, printed material, photographs, and motion picture film document Schwabacher's research and writings on her former teacher Arshile Gorky, colleague John Ford, and other artists, as well as her own painting career.
Letters, 1956-1968, are from colleagues, including one or two each from Giorgio Cavallon, Clement Greenberg, Barnett Newman, Richard Pousette-Dart, Oscar Williams (a picture postcard of himself with Dylan Thomas, 1958) and letters, 1961-1962, concerning the retrospective for Arshile Gorky at the Venice Biennale. Transcripts are from interviews with Schwabacher, conducted by Dr. Osis, 1963, and Colette Roberts, 1965. Writings include a typescript for a lecture on Gorky, given at the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts, 1961. Notes, 1948-1967, include lists of addresses, committees, and art works by Schwabacher, and 8 notebooks concerning a written work entitled "1948..........", and books about Gorky, Newman, and Rothko. There are also notes and writings in a file for art historian Lloyd Goodrich, 1953-1957, containing typescripts about Gorky by Goodrich, Clement Greenberg, and Meyer Schapiro. Printed material 1947-1964, consists of clippings and exhibition catalogs.
A 1 page biographical sketch, 1967, gives an outline of Schwabacher's career. A transcript, 1965, is of an interview conducted by Colette Roberts. Photographs are of Schwabacher's art work completed between 1954 and 1964. Three reels of 16mm motion picture film, undated, include home movies of family members and property, identified as Brookdale Farm.
Letters, 1962-1975, consist primarily of 35 letters from Ethel Baziotes; there are also two from Anna Walinska, Gorky's first New York dealer. Artist files, 1947-1974, contain notes, writings, printed material, and photographs concerning John Ford, Arshile Gorky, Jose Guerrero, and Jeanne Reynal. The file on Ford, 1971-1974, includes 22 letters from Ford (2 are illustrated) and 4 audio cassette tapes of Schwabacher's verbal notes and Ford's comments. The file on Gorky, 1957-1972, includes a study for his illustrations for Andre Breton's Protecting Young Cherry Trees From Hares (1946), and a photograph of Gorky. Notes, 1959-1974, consist of biographical material concerning Schwabacher, 4 notebooks, including those concerning Schwabacher's writings "Paradise of the Real" and "Conflict of Freedoms" and notes for "1948.........", include 2 letters from Richard Pousette-Dart, and lists and photographs of works by Willem De Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, Anne Ryan, Clyfford Still, Bradley Walker Tomlin, and Jack Tworkov. Writings by Schwabacher, 1966, consist of typescripts for "Conflict of Freedoms" and "The Portrait as Image". Printed material, 1947-1974, consists of clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Schwabacher and others, and 2 reproductions of art works. Photographs, undated, are of art work by Schwabacher.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ethel Schwabacher (1903-1984) was a painter and art historian from New York, N.Y. Schwabacher studied at the National Academy of Design, the Art Students League, and in Europe before becoming a painting student under Arshile Gorky in New York, 1934-1936. Schwabacher wrote Arshile Gorky (1957), with a preface by Lloyd Goodrich and introduction by Meyer Schapiro, and a biography, John Ford, Conquistador, about her painting colleague and friend.


Material on reels N69-64-N69-65 lent for microfilming 1966 by Schwabacher; all but a few miscellaneous items were subsequently donated 1974-1975 with material filmed on reels 4986-4987. Material on reel 3975 donated 1984 by Syracuse University, which had received it from Schwabacher.

Location of Originals

  • Reels N69-64-N69-65: Originals returned to lender, Ethel Schwabacher, after microfilming.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels N69-64-N69-65, 3975, and 4986-4987 available 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

Ethel Schwabacher papers, 1940-1975. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.