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Francis Criss papers, 1916-1975, bulk 1940-1969

Criss, Francis, 1901-1973


Collection Information

Size: 1.9 Linear feet

Summary: The Francis Criss papers comprise 1.9 linear feet of material dating from 1916 to 1975 (bulk 1940-1969). The collection documents the painting and teaching career of modernist painter Francis Criss mainly through correspondence, handwritten notes for class lectures, exhibition files, newsclippings, scrapbooks, and photographs. Oversized reproductions of his commercial artwork are also found.

Biographical/Historical Note

Modernist painter Francis Criss was born in London in 1901 to a Jewish family of Russian descent. At the age of three, his family moved to the United States and settled in Philadelphia. Criss began his art training nine years later at the Graphic Sketch Club and continued his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Barnes Foundation, the Art Students League in New York, and, later, with private instruction under Jan Matulka. In 1920, Criss was awarded the prestigious Cresson scholarship by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts which allowed him to further his studies in Europe. Around 1931, he began to exhibit paintings in a style that came to define his work -- clean lines, simple forms, and flat color of cityscapes and portraits. Criss' first public success as an artist was his inclusion in the inaugural 1932 Whitney Biennial Exhibition; the museum purchased his painting, Astor Place (1932) for its permanent collection. In 1934, Criss was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Italy.


In 1970, Francis Criss loaned portions of his papers to the Archives of American Art for microfilming. In 1976, Criss' daughter, Katherine Criss Cappello, donated most of the previously microfilmed materials with additional papers to the Archives.

Related Materials

Language Note

English .