Scope and Contents
The papers of New York City art critic, writer, and lecturer Forbes Watson date from 1840-1967 with the bulk of materials dating from 1900-1960 and measure 13.92 linear feet. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, business records relating to the Arts Publishing Corporation, records documenting Watson's work for the Public Works of Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture, reference files, an exhibition file from the Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition, writings and notes, ten scrapbooks and loose pages, printed materials, and photographs.
Biographical material includes Watson's Harvard diploma, documents concerning his service with the Red Cross in World War II, biographical accounts, and obituaries.
Correspondence is primarily with colleagues and includes scattered letters from Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Ira Glackens, Allen Tucker, and Max Weber. Other letters are from artists, art historians, and museum curators. A notebook contains shorthand drafts of letters from Watson.
Business records include personal business records consisting of various tax and stock records. The Arts Publishing Corporation records concern Watson's tenure as editor of The Arts magazine and contains a contract, correspondence, financial records, stockholders reports, press releases, a scrapbook, and issues of The Arts. Also included are business records pertaining to the Art in Federal Buildings, Inc..
The U.S. Treasury Department file is the largest series and documents Watson's federal employment as technical director, chief advisor, and consultant for Treasury Department's public art programs - the Public Works of Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture. The files contain correspondence, financial reports, prospectuses, exhibition files, typescripts, clippings, exhibition catalogs, miscellaneous printed material, and photographs, and a scrapbook. The files contain a record of Watson's and other federal administrators' interactions with many artists during the Depression Era. Correspondence is primarily between Watson and Edward Bruce, Olin Dows, Henry and Elinor Morgenthau, and Edward B. Rowan. Found are scattered letters from artists including Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Paul Manship, and William Zorach, among many others. There are exhibition files for "Art for Bonds," "Army at War," and "War Against Japan." There are also photographs of U. S. Treasury Department events including a radio broadcast by John Dewey, Robert La Follette, Jr., and Sumner Welles.
Documents from the Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition at the National Academy of Design contains a prospectus, an exhibition catalog and artists' statements.
Artist/Patron files contain reference material concerning painters, sculptors, photographers, dancers, composers, authors, art collectors, art dealers, and museum administrators. Files may include writings, notes, artworks, exhibition catalogs and other printed materials. Of particular note are photographs, which include portrait photographs of artists and of artists in their studios. Notable photographers include Ansel Adams, Arnold Genthe, Man Ray, photographs of New York City by Charles Sheeler and a photo of Henri Matisse by A. E. Gallatin. Files for Nan Watson, Symeon Shimin, and Glenn O. Coleman contain artworks. A file for Constantin Brancusi contains legal documents concerning U. S. Customs vs. Brancusi.
Art and Architecture files consist of reference material including photographs and notes concerning miscellaneous unattributed art works, American architecture, and furnishings.
Notes and writings consist of miscellaneous notes and typescripts of lectures and published articles, and notebooks.
Nine scrapbooks and loose scrapbook pages contain clippings of articles written by Watson, lists, and exhibition announcements and catalogs. Additional printed material includes clippings, copies of the Hue and Cry newspaper, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases, calendars of events, brochures for the Art Students League, book catalogs, published books, and miscellaneous printed material.
Photographs are of Forbes Watson; family members including his wife, painter Nan Watson; and members of the Art Students League including Peggy Bacon, Minna Citron, Stewart Klonis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Reginald Marsh. There are also photographs of juries for the Carnegie Institute International Exhibitions that include colleagues Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Gifford Beal, Guy Pene DuBois, Leon Kroll, Henri Matisse, Homer Saint-Gaudens, and Maurice Sterne.
The Forbes Watson papers were donated by Watson's widow, Nan Watson, in 1961. An additional folder of material was donated in 2018 by the Museum of Modern Art via Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, Library and Research.
Portions of the papers were separated and microfilmed in 1961 on reels D47-D57, 440, 1192-1194, 3480, and 4361. The microfilm reels are no longer in circulation because they do not reflect the current arrangement of the papers. All portions were merged and processed in 2010 by Jean Fitzgerald. The 2018 addition was processed in 2019 by Ryan Evans.