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Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975

Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975

Berman, Eugene, 1899-1972

Painter, Designer

Collection Information

Size: 6.7 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of painter and theatrical set designer Eugene Berman date from 1926-1975 and measure 6.7 linear feet. Found within the papers are scattered letters, primarily postcards, from various colleagues including Juliet and Man Ray and Berman's brother Leonid. There are also notes, scattered artwork, printed material, and extensive photographs, many of Mexico.

Notes include a booklet of photocopies of notes in Italian conerning miscellaneous art work, including prices. There are also scattered notes in French concerning miscellaneous topics.

Art work consists of miscellaneous sketches, primarily on the reverse sides of postcards, depicting human figures and architectural details, sometimes annotated in Russian and Italian.

Printed material includes clippings concerning Eugene and Leonid Berman's art work, exhibition announcements and catalogs, reproductions of art work by Berman, picture postcards, a ballet program, and a guide book for Grado, Italy.

Photographs comprise the largest series in this collection. Photographs of Eugene Berman include two by Russell Lynes. Photographs are also of Berman's wife, Ona Munson, unidentified colleagues, exhibition installations, art work executed by Berman between 1937 and 1948, and miscellaneous photographs of Italy including images by Vincenzo Galdi and Wilhelm von Gloeden. There are ten portfolios of photographs of Mexico, primarily taken by Berman, but Portfolios 1, 6, 9, and 10 include images photographed by Hugo Brehme. There are also commercially produced photographs of various scenes and art work primarily in Italy and Mexico, publicity photographs of ballet and opera performers, and two stereographs of novelty subjects.

Biographical/Historical Note

Eugene Berman (1899-1972) was a graphic artist, painter, and designer.


Donated 1978 by Sylvia Marlowe, the sister-in-law of Eugene Berman.

A Finding Aid to the Eugene Berman Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Eugene Berman (1899-1972) worked in New York City, Los Angeles, California, and Rome, Italy as a Neo-Romantic painter and designer of theatrical sets and costumes for opera and ballet productions.
Eugene Berman was born on November 4, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Lydia and Gustav Berman, who died when Eugene was seven years old. His stepfather was a wealthy banker who paid for his education in Germany, Switzerland, and France. In 1918, the family fled to Paris to escape the Bolshevik Revolution.
While in Paris, Berman studied at the Academie Ranson from 1920 to 1922, under Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, and Félix Valloton. With his brother Leonid, Berman joined a group of painters who became known as Neo-Romantics whose paintings were of melancholy dreamlike scenes with mournful figures, defying the prevalent abstract movements in art. By the late 1920s, Berman was beginning to successfully sell his paintings and after meeting American gallery owner Julian Levy, he was offered an exhibition in New York. Berman continued to exhibit at the Julian Levy Gallery from 1929 to 1947.
In 1935, Eugene and Leonid Berman became war refugees and came to New York City. Eugene Berman designed covers for fashionable publications and by 1937, he was painting murals in private residences and designing sets and costumes for opera and ballet performances including those at the Metropolitan Opera.
Berman moved to California in 1938, settling in Los Angeles, and continued to paint murals and design for the theater. He became an American citizen in 1944. Between 1947 and 1949, he received Guggenheim Fellowships to obtain background images from the Southwest United States and Mexico for use in his art work. Berman married actress Ona Munson in 1949.
Two years after his wife's suicide in 1955, Berman moved to Rome, Italy where he continued to paint and design sets for the theater.
Eugene Berman died on December 14, 1972 in Rome, Italy.
The collection is arranged as 5 series:
Series 1: Letters, 1926-1970 (Box 1, 8; 12 folders)
Series 2: Notes, 1944 (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 3: Art Work, 1947 (Box 1; 2 folders)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1941-1975 (Box 1, 8; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Photographs, 1933-1956 (Box, 2-9; 4.9 linear feet)
Donated 1978 by Sylvia Marlowe, the sister-in-law of Eugene Berman.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection received a very basic level of processing at some point after donation. The collection was further arranged and described by Jean Fitzgerald in July 2010.

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

Eugene Berman papers, 1926-1975. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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