Scope and Contents
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.
The collection is divided into two separate parts. The first represents the papers originally microfilmed as a loan in 1970 that includes biographical information; teaching and lecture notes compiled by Criss for courses he taught at several New York art schools, including the New School and the School of Visual Arts. Also found is correspondence with museums and magazines, Cornell University, the Henry McCarter Estate, and Theodore L. Shaw; exhibition announcements and catalogs; exhibition files and photographs for the Philadelphia Art Alliance exhibition in 1953 and the Visual Arts Gallery Retrospective in 1966; a record of paintings, murals, and projects; clippings; personal photographs and photographs of works of art.
The second part of the collection represents the portion of the 1976 gift that was not microfilmed in 1970. Found is business and personal correspondence with arts organizations, colleagues, former students, and fellow artists. Also included within this accession are Criss' handwritten notes and syllabi for courses he taught and printed material, such as exhibition announcements, invitations, and catalogs. Photographs are of Criss, his studio, several family members, and photographs of artwork Criss produced between 1935-1964, including those for the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
Also found are three dismantled scrapbooks. Scrapbook #1 documents Criss' later career as a commercial artist in New York City, primarily in the 1940s, a decade in which he experienced his greatest success. This scrapbook contains a series of large scale reproductions of his illustrations. Scrapbooks #2 and #3 also include examples of Criss' commercial work, as well as illustrations by other artists, and Criss' handwritten notes and instructions on drawing and painting techniques. A small series of miscellany includes several ledger pages detailing art supply expenses, a small unidentified collage, a copy of a 1957 appraisal report titled The Role of the School of Visual Arts, and other miscellaneous items.
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.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reel N70-34) including notes, exhibition material, photographs of works of art, clippings and a scrapbook. Lent material was returned to the lender and is described as series 1 of the collection container inventory.
The 1976 unfilmed gift was processed by Rosa Fernandez in 2003.