Skip to main content

George Sugarman papers, 1912-2001

George Sugarman papers, 1912-2001

Sugarman, George, 1912-1999

Sculptor, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 12.1 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter and sculptor George Sugarman measure 13.1 linear feet and date from 1912 to 2001, with the bulk of the material dating from 1959 to 1999. The collection documents Sugarman's career as a sculptor primarily through correspondence, project files, exhibition files, writings, and photographs. The collection also includes address and appointment books, business and financial records, printed material, audio and video recordings, and one motion picture film.

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence with family members, friends, artists, and scholars, reflecting Sugarman's diverse influences and interests. The project files and exhibition files illustrate Sugarman's prolific career as an artist and document Sugarman's numerous projects and exhibitions abroad, particularly in Japan.

The writings by Sugarman are noteworthy as they reveal the integral relationship between Sugarman's philosophical theories about art and his actual works of art. The business and financial records mainly document expenses incurred while working on various projects and exhibitions and while traveling. Maps, clippings, and brochures from Sugarman's many travels are included as well as exhibition catalogs and announcements for Sugarman and others. The collection also contains photographs of George Sugarman and his artwork, dating mostly from the 1970s.

An addition donated 2006 includes audio (3 sound cassettes) and video recordings (1 video reel, 1/2", 11 videocassettes, 7 U-matic and 4 VHS), and one Super 8 mm motion picture film, as well as 12 DVD copies of the film and video recordings. Recordings consist of lectures by Sugarman, documentaries about Sugarman and his sculptures, and radio and television appearances by Sugarman. Among the documentaries are a film, "Baltimore Federal" (1977), by Mark Mikolas, about the public sculpture installed at the Baltimore, Md. Federal Building, and a video copy of a film by Sue Marx entitled "Seven Artists Seven Spaces, In a Hospital" (1976), about a public art project in Detroit, Mich.

An addition of 5.0 linear feet donated 2016 includes biographical material consisting of statements, brief biographies, résumés and chronologies, passports, papers regarding George Sugarman's service in the U.S. Navy and his memorial service, engagement calendars and address lists; administrative files regarding George Sugarman's estate and foundation including two DVDs and a list of artists who received grants from the foundation; correspondence; personal business recordings including contracts, price lists, inventories of works of art, and index cards of paint forumlas used by Peter and George Sugarman; photographs of George Sugmarman and works of art and slides of works of art; printed material consisting of exhibition catalogs and newspaper and magazine clippings; and 12 DVDs of images of works of art created by the foundation as a catalog raisonné.

Biographical/Historical Note

George Sugarman (1912-1999) was a sculptor and painter from New York, N.Y. Sugarman studied sculpture with Zadkine in Paris. He received the second prize for sculpture at the 1961 Pittsburgh International, and was one of the sculptors selected to represent the United States at the Sao Paulo Biennal in 1963. In 1960, Sugarman became a teacher in the graduate school at Hunter College in New York City.

Provenance

In 1970 George Sugarman lent papers for microfilming (reels N70-50-51). In 1980 and 1983 Sugarman he donated portions of the material previously lent, along with additional material. More additions were received in 1999 and 2000 by the Arden Sugarman, Sugarman's neice. The collection was processed in 2003 with funding provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation. In 2006, the Sugarman Foundation via Arden Sugarman donated the audio and video recordings and additional papers in 2016.

Related Materials

The transcript and audiotapes of an interview with George Sugarman conducted by Paul Cummings in 1974 for the Archives of American Art's Oral History Program is available at the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Location of Originals

  • Reel N70-50 (part)-N70-51: Originals returned to the lender, George Sugarman, after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the George Sugarman Papers,
1912-2001
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.sugageor
Biographical Note
George Sugarman was a painter and sculptor who disliked labels because he believed they oversimplified the complexity of art, and Sugarman's artwork, like the artist himself, resists classification and oversimplification. Although he was influenced by Surrealist imagery, Cubist ideas of space, Baroque sculpture, and Abstract Expressionism, Sugarman's sculptures also display a musical quality, reflecting his interest in jazz music and improvisation. Sugarman was a pioneer in the use of color in sculpture and is probably best known for his large, polychrome aluminum sculptures.
Sugarman made the decision to become an artist relatively late in life. Born in New York on May 11, 1912, he studied at City College in New York and graduated with a B.A. in 1934. After serving in the United States Navy from 1941 until 1945, he attended evening classes at Museum of Modern Art. At the age of 39, George Sugarman traveled to Paris to study painting under the GI Bill of Rights. While in Paris, he decided to study sculpture with Ossip Zadkine and began creating wood carvings and terra-cotta sculptures. Over the next few years, Sugarman traveled to Italy and Spain, studying Baroque sculpture and architecture. He was particularly attracted to the work of Bernini and to Bernini's use of space.
Sugarman returned to New York in 1955 and began working with laminated wood. In order to support himself, he accepted a job teaching carpentry at a private school. He joined the Brata Gallery in 1957 and helped found the New Sculpture Group. A few years later, Sugarman received major recognition of his work by winning second prize in sculpture at the Pittsburgh International Exhibition. Sugarman went on to win a Longview Foundation Grant, a Ford Foundation Grant for his work at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
In the 1960s, Sugarman began working on large painted-aluminum sculptures and completed his first outdoor sculpture at the Xerox Building in El Segundo, Calif. in 1969. Many of Sugarman's outdoor sculptures generated intense controversy, particularly his sculpture for the Edward A. Garmatz Federal Building and Courthouse in Baltimore, but he was devoted to his belief in the social as well as aesthetic importance of public art. Sugarman saw public sculpture as a "metaphor for the human condition" and as a way to transcend what he called the "indoor eye," the eye which views art in isolation from its physical and social environment.
Sugarman taught at the Graduate School of Hunter College in New York City from 1960 until 1970 and served as visiting Associate Professor at the Yale University Graduate School of Art from 1967 to 1968. Sugarman was a prolific artist, participating in numerous one-man shows, group exhibitions, and competitions all over the world, yet recognition of his talent came almost a decade later in the United States than in Europe. His works are in major collections including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. George Sugarman died on August 25, 1999.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into ten series. Series are arranged by type of material; materials within series are arranged alphabetically by name or by type of material and then chronologically. Series 10 is unprocessed.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1912-2000, n.d. (Box 1; 9 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1959-2001, n.d. (Boxes 1-3, OV 8; 2.9 linear feet)
Series 3: Project Files, 1968-1997, n.d. (Boxes 3-4; 1 linear foot)
Series 4: : Exhibition Files, 1965-1993, n.d. (Boxes 4-5, OV 8; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 5: Writings, 1951-1992, n.d. (Box 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 6: Address and Appointment Books, 1972-1997, n.d. (Boxes 5-6; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Business and Financial Records, 1962-1998, n.d. (Box 6; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1954-1999, n.d. (Boxes 6-7, OV 8; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 9: Photographs, 1966-1981, n.d. (Box 7; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 10: Sound and Moving Image Material, 1972-1990 (Box 9, FC 10; 1.2 linear feet)
Provenance
In 1970 George Sugarman lent papers for microfilming (reels N70-50-51). In 1980 and 1983 Sugarman he donated portions of the material previously lent, along with additional material. More additions were received in 1999 and 2000 by the Arden Sugarman, Sugarman's neice. The collection was processed in 2003 with funding provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation. In 2006, the Sugarman Foundation via Arden Sugarman donated the audio and video recordings and additional papers in 2016.
Location of Originals
  • Reel N70-50 (part)-N70-51: Originals returned to the lender, George Sugarman, after microfilming.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Rachel Edford with 2003 with funding provided by the Judith Rothschild Foundation.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reels N70-50-N70-51 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

George Sugarman papers, 1912-2001. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available