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Gertrude Abercrombie papers, 1880-1986, bulk, 1935-1977

Gertrude Abercrombie papers, 1880-1986, bulk, 1935-1977

Abercrombie, Gertrude, 1909-1977


Collection Information

Size: 5.7 linear ft.

Biographical/Historical Note

Surrealist painter Gertrude Abercrombie (1909-1977) lived and worked in Chicago and was a prominent member of Chicago's Hyde Park arts community. Abercrombie's work is associated with Chicago's Surrealist school. She was the center of an informal salon style group of literary figures, artists and jazz musicians.


Donated 1978 and 1986 by Don Baum, executor of the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust.

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Scope and Contents

The papers of surrealist artist Gertrude Abercrombie date from circa 1880-1986, with the bulk of the material dated 1935-1977, and measure 5.7 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical material; correspondence (mostly incoming letters) with friends, museums, and galleries; artists files; writings and notes, including five journal-type notebooks; scattered personal business records; two sketchbooks by Abercrombie and additional sketches and drawings, some by others; printed material, audio recordings, one scrapbook, photographs, and estate records.

Biographical material consists of biographical notes, Gertrude Abercrombie's will, address books, and a file titled "memorabilia." Personal and professional correspondence consists mainly of incoming letters and some drafts of Gertrude Abercrombie's outgoing letters. Letters from museums and galleries concern loans of paintings and exhibitions. A large amount of the personal correspondence consists of post cards including many antique ones, as well as cards containing original art work by Julio de Diego, Jerry [Jerome] Karidis, Karl Priebe.

Artist files consist of correspondence, printed material, and photographs concerning painters, writers, a jazz musician, and a photographer. The individuals represented are: Dudley Huppler, Jerome Karidis, Karl Priebe, James Purdy, Sonny Rollins, Carl Van Vechten, Wendell Wilcox, John Wilde, and Thornton Wilder

Writings and notes include reminiscences, miscellaneous writings and notes, and a girlhood diary with brief entries. Five notebooks contain a variety of writings dating from 1953 through 1975, and undated. One volume concerns only her second husband Frank Sandiford.

Business records include a painting catalog on file cards, mailing and guest lists, and miscellaneous sales records. In addition, six notebooks record expenses, sales, inventories, mailing lists, a register of paintings, and a guest book.

There are two sketchbooks, Christmas card designs, sketches and drawings done by Gertrude Abercrombie. There are also prints, drawings, and a painting by Emil Arman, B. Evans, de Diego, and unknown artists.

Printed material consists of articles and clippings about Gertrude Abercrombie, exhibition catalogs, and reproductions. Also included are books by friends inscribed by the authors, among them: Nelson Algren, Richard Armour, Dudley Huppler, James Purdy, Ned Rorem, Paul Warren [pen name of Abercrombie's second husband, Frank Sandiford], Studs Terkel, and Thornton Wilder.

Audio recordings (33-1/3 rpm phonograph alums) are inscribed to Gertrude Abercrombie by the artists. Orlando's album cover, designed by Abercrombie, incorporates one of her paintings.

Records of the Estate of Gertrude Abercrombie and the Gertrude Abercrombie Trust, Donald Baum, Executor, consist mainly of correspondence with the institutions that were offered works of art by Gertrude Abercrombie and from her personal collection. Also included are general correspondence, financial and tax records, and legal documents.

There is one scrapbook dated 1943 containing photographs and printed material.

Photographs are of art work, people, places, and miscellaneous subjects; negatives, slides, and transparencies are included in this series, too. Photographs of art include the work of Gertrude Abercrombie, Karl Priebe, and Charles Sebree. People pictured are Gertrude Abercrombie and family, including her parents, Richard I. Livingston, Dinah Livingston, and Frank Sandiford. There are also 19th and early 20th century photographs of ancestors. Among the images of friends are: Ivan le Lorraine Albright, Arnold Blanch, Dudley Huppler, Doris Lee, Karl Priebe, and Richard Purdy. Photographs of jazz artists include: Louis Armstrong, George Davis, Erroll Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Orlando, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Sarah Vaughn, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Of particular note the portraits of Gertrude Abercrombie and Dizzy Gillespie by Carl Van Vechten.Among the photographs of places are interior views of Gertrude Abercrombie's home and studio, unidentified landscapes, travel pictures of San Francisco and commercially produced stereopticon slides of other locations. Miscellaneous subjects are automobiles, cats, exhibition installations, and a still life setup.

A portion of the collection is available on microfilm reels 1429-1435, and for interlibrary loan. The arrangement on microfilm may differ from the current arrangement.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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