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Fairfield Porter papers, 1888-2001, bulk 1924-1975

Contents and Arrangement

The collection is arranged into the following nine series. See the series descriptions below for more information about the content of each series.

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.

Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1916-1975 and undated
(Box 1 and 11; 0.2 linear feet)

Biographical Materials include a chronology of Porter's life prepared by Prescott D. Schutz of Hirschl and Adler Gallery, a birth certificate, a diploma from Harvard College, various other certificates, two passports, a copy of Porter's will, bills and correspondence related to healthcare for the Porters' first son, Johnny, and writings by and about Porter's mother, Ruth Furness Porter. Also found is a copy of a letter from Porter's great-grandfather agreeing to the marriage of his daughter Margaret Eliot to James Furness.

Series 2: Correspondence, 1918-1996 and undated
(Boxes 1-2, 1.2 linear feet)

Correspondence includes letters written by Fairfield Porter, Anne Porter, family members, artists, writers, critics, curators, neighbors, and others in Porter's circle. Incoming and outgoing letters are filed separately and arranged by correspondent. Single items of correspondence are filed in miscellaneous files by the first letter of the individual's last name. Incoming letters include letters to Fairfield and Anne Porter, as well as scattered third-party correspondence. Outgoing letters are mostly drafts and carbon copies of letters written by Fairfield Porter, although actual letters sent to his mother, wife, and Frank O'Hara are present.
Significant correspondence is present from the Porters' many poet friends, including Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler, Ron Padgett, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Carl Morse, David Shapiro, and others. Among the letters are poetry manuscripts by Koch, Morse, Schuyler, Padgett, and Shapiro. Some letters are actually written in verse, especially those from Kenneth Koch. See Writings for additional poetry manuscripts.
Artists with letters in the collection include Joe Brainard, Rudy Burkhardt, John Button, Lucien Day, Rackstraw Downes, Philip Evergood, Jane Frielicher, Arthur Giardelli, Leon Hartl, Alex Katz, Edward Laning, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Rivers, Richard Stankiewicz, Nicolas Vasilieff, among others. Other art world figures represented include John Bernard Myers, curator at the Tibor de Nagy gallery (New York), and Tom Hess, editor of
. Artwork found in this series includes an illustrated letter from Ron Padgett and an original print on a holiday card by Edith Schloss.
Porter's interest in leftist politics during the 1930s is seen in outgoing letters and in letters from Alex Haberstroh and Paul Mattick. Letters to Porter's mother, Ruth Porter, contain detailed descriptions of his boarding school and college years and his travels abroad in the 1920s and 1930s.
Annotations made by Anne Porter are found throughout this series, including dates, last names, and other explanatory notes.
Additional correspondence can be found in Personal Business Records, especially among the gallery records, and in Anne Porter's Posthumous Projects. A collection of excerpts about Fairfield Porter, compiled by Anne Porter from letters she wrote to her mother, is filed with Writings by Others.

Series 3: Writings by Fairfield Porter, 1924-1975, undated
(Box 2; 0.6 linear feet)

Writings by Fairfield Porter include manuscripts and corrected typescripts of artist profiles, art criticism and theory, talks and lectures, notes, research, preparatory writings, poetry, translations, and other writings. Artist profiles include essays about Richard Stankiewicz, Joseph Cornell, and Albert York. Porter's essays on various art-related subjects are often found in multiple drafts and are filed under the title of what appears to be the latest draft. Early versions of these writings are found in Porter's research notes and other notebooks. Teaching notes include a class register and syllabus for a 1969 art course taught at Queens College in New York. Reviewing notebooks contain detailed notes and rough sketches from visits with artists made while Porter was writing criticism. Other notebooks contain a variety of entries, including prose writings and scattered poems, sketches, and other notes. Scattered notes are also found in many of the sketchbooks in th e Artwork series.
Two folders of poetry manuscripts by Porter, and a single poem by Porter and Kenneth Koch, contain a mix of published and unpublished poems, often in multiple drafts. A few of Porter's translations from French of Stéphane Mallarmé's poetry are present in various drafts. Miscellaneous Creative Writings include a work of experimental fiction called "Lake Mahopac," a school essay entitled "A Neighbor," and a tune Porter composed for the William Blake poem "Ah, Sunflower."
Writings in this series represent only a small portion of Porter's literary output. See Printed Materials and Anne Porter's Posthumous Projects for published writings.

Series 4: Writings by Others, 1888-1992, undated
(Boxes 2-3; 0.7 linear feet)

This series includes essays, diaries, poetry, notes, and other writings. Writings about Fairfield Porter include essay-length memoirs by several of his contemporaries and criticism of his writings and art written by Rackstraw Downs and others. Travel Diaries written by Porter's mother, Ruth Porter, document three family trips to Europe between 1922 and 1931. A typescript created by Anne Porter from letters she wrote to her mother between 1931 and 1960 contains passages from those letters that mention Fairfield Porter. The original letters were destroyed by Anne Porter.
Poetry manuscripts are arranged by author, with unsigned poems at the end of the series. Included are poems in typescript and corrected typescript by some of Porter's well-known friends including John Ashbery, Robert Dash, Edwin Denby, Howard Griffin, Kenneth Koch, Carl Morse, Frank O'Hara, Larry Rivers, James Schuyler, and David Shapiro. Additional poetry manuscripts can be found in Correspondence. Published poetry is filed with Printed Materials.
Miscellaneous essays are filed alphabetically by author with unsigned essays filed at the end of the series. These include writings of family members, including Fairfield Porter's mother, Ruth Porter, and maternal grandmother, Lucy Fairchild Furness. Also found are articles by cosmologist Arthur Young with notes by Fairfield Porter, and a review of James Schuyler's
Crystal Lithium
, among other writings.
Throughout this series, photocopies are filed separately and have not been scanned.

Series 5: Personal Business Records, 1944-1996
(Boxes 3-4; 1 linear foot)

Personal Business Records include account books, receipts, notes, business agreements, correspondence, bank records, inventories of artwork, appraisals, copyright registrations, and other records related to Fairfield Porter's professional activities and, to a lesser extent, personal finances. This series is arranged by type of material.
Gallery records include contractual agreements, accounting statements of painting sales, inventories, insurance claims, and scattered correspondence. The bulk of gallery records are for Tibor de Nagy Gallery, the first to represent Porter, and Hirschl and Adler Gallery, which represented Porter from 1972 on and managed his estate after his death. Also found are records from the Brooke Alexander Gallery, which handled Porter's small oeuvre of limited edition prints.
Inventories and appraisals include property appraisals of furnishings and other assets, as well as detailed artwork inventories created after Porter's death. Additional artwork inventories are found with gallery records for Hirschl and Adler Gallery.
Detailed records are also found relating to the major estate gift of Porter's collection to the Parrish Art Museum (Southampton, NY), as well as smaller gifts and loans made by Anne Porter to various museums and galleries after Porter's death. These records are arranged by museum or organization name. Museum research contains notes and printed materials related to the estate settlement.

Series 6: Anne Porter's Posthumous Projects, 1980-1988, undated
(Box 4; 0.2 linear feet)

This series contains research, writings, and correspondence related to three publication projects executed by Anne Porter and various editors after the death of her husband, Fairfield Porter. Projects include a catalog raisonée of Porter's artwork edited by Joan Ludman, an edition of collected letters edited by Ted Leigh, and an edition of collected poems edited by John Yau.
Materials for the catalog raisonée include notes, correspondence, reproductions of works of art, and clippings. Correspondence contains information about the provenance and subject matter of artworks. Correspondents include John MacWhinnie, Lucian Day, Bill Berkson, and Larry Campbell. Also found is a letter concerning a forged painting, and two proposals for the catalog raisonée project.
Materials related to the collected letters include correspondence between Anne Porter and Ted Leigh, copies of letters from a few of Porter's correspondents including James Schuyler, and a manuscript of an article by Leigh. The collected poems file contains correspondence, a typescript and a corrected proof for the 1985 publication. A copy of the Collected Poems is filed with Printed Materials. Manuscripts of Porter's poetry are filed with Writings. Publicity for these publications is filed with Printed Materials.

Series 7: Printed Materials, 1934-2001, undated
(Boxes 4-6 and 11; 1.5 linear feet; not scanned)

Printed materials include printed artwork, books, book covers, clippings, magazines, exhibition catalogs, posters, chapbooks, journals, reproductions of works of art, and other printed miscellany primarily related to the art and writings of Fairfield Porter and others in his circle.
Books include a book about Thomas Eakins written by Porter and a book about the New York School with an article Porter wrote about Richard Stankiewicz. Book covers illustrated by Porter are found for books of poetry by James Schuyler, Kenneth Koch, and John Koethe. Clippings include magazines, magazine clippings, newspaper clippings, and other ephemeral publications. Reviews by Porter, mostly for
The Nation
from 1959 to 1961, are filed separately. Artwork by Porter includes a cartoon created for the
Harvard Lampoon
. Articles about Porter include reviews, profiles, and obituaries.
Exhibition catalogs and posters are present for Porter's individual and group exhibitions. A file of items found in Porter's studio at the time of his death consist mostly of photographs and illustrations clipped from newspapers and reproductions of works of art.
Poetry publications include chapbooks, journals, and books. Volumes containing poems by the Fairfield and/or Anne Porter are filed at the beginning. Poetry publications include the magazine
Locus Solus I
, two issues of
, four issues of John Wheelwright's
Poems for Two Bits and Poems for a Dime
series, which were illustrated by Porter, and James Schuyler's anthologies
49 South
Broadway 2
. An issue of the journal
with an obituary of Porter by John Bernard Myers is filed with clippings about Porter. Copies of the prints Porter made for the Wheelwright publications can be found in the Artwork series.
Subject files include pamphlets, newsletters, and brochures related to nuclear energy, an issue with which Porter was involved, and Subud, a spiritual practice Porter followed. Printed miscellany includes a teaching guide for a slide program of Porter's paintings created by the Parrish Art Museum.
Portions of this series have not been digitized.

Series 8: Photographs, circa 1880-1990, undated
(Boxes 6 and 11; 0.6 linear feet)

This series includes photographs of Fairfield Porter, his family, homes and studios, photographic studies, and works of art. Most of the photographs are unattributed, but photographs by James Schuyler, John MacWhinnie, Ellen "Pit" Auerbach, and Edith Schloss are found. Photographs of Fairfield Porter are filed at the beginning of the series, except for his childhood photographs, wedding photographs, and photographs of Porter with his wife and children, which are filed with family photographs. New York City street scenes appear to have been used as studies for some of Porter's paintings. Photographs of works of art by others include paintings by Alex Katz and Alex Haberstroh that were owned by the Porters, and a bust of Porter sculpted by Robert White. See file headings below for more information about subjects.
Throughout this series, duplicates, negatives, and copy prints have not been scanned. The remainder of the series has been selectively scanned.

Series 9: Artwork, 1918-1975, undated
(Boxes 7-10 and 12-17; 2.2 linear feet)

Artwork includes sketchbooks, loose sketches and drawings, illustrations, prints, and cartoons by Fairfield Porter. Artwork by others includes works of Peggy Bacon, Alex Haberstroh, Leon Hartl, and Edith Schloss, and a portrait of Porter in pencil by Joe Brainard.
Sketchbooks contain sketches and drawings in pencil, charcoal, ink, watercolor, and pastel of subjects similar to those found in Porter's paintings: homes, family, landscapes, city street scenes, and figure studies. Notes in Anne Porter's handwriting are found in many of the sketchbooks and on sketches, and were presumably made retrospectively, upon donation of the collection. Sketchbooks also contain notes written by Fairfield Porter. Many of the dates assigned to sketchbooks in this finding aid have been estimated based on the relationship of sketches to dated paintings.
Loose sketches and drawings are mostly from Porter's early career and schooling. Life Class Sketches are from the Art Students League and from Barbara Merrick's dance class, and include two black and white oil paintings on paper. Sketches for murals and frescoes are related to two commissioned works from the 1930s, and also include sketches in oil. A mixed group of early sketches of landscapes, people, street scenes, and copies of museum pieces, filed under the heading "miscellaneous sketches and drawings," appear to contain the pages of two disassembled travel sketchbooks, among other sketches. Sketches and drawings of people are mostly of family members, with scattered sketches of friends, neighbors, and interiors of family homes. Miscellaneous landscape sketches also include several sketches in oil. Miscellaneous painted sketches include several scenes from a trip to the Western United States in 1938, along with other landscapes, scenes, and still lifes in oil and watercolor.
Illustrations made for the socialist arts organization Rebel Arts include a silk-screened poster and a drawing for a print made by Porter in the 1930s. Other prints found in this series are from the same era, and several of them were published in John Wheelwright's chapbooks, copies of which are filed in Printed Materials. Also among the prints is a lithograph illustrating Dostoyevsky's
The Possessed
, which Porter made in 1932.
Throughout this series, duplicates, negatives, and copy prints have not been scanned. The remainder of the series has been selectively scanned.

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.