This site provides access to the papers of Guild Art Gallery in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2023, and total 1,402 images.
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Founded by painter Anna Walinska (1906-1997) and painter and illustrator Margaret Lefranc (1907-1998), the Guild Art Gallery opened in August 1935 at 37 West 57th Street in New York. Walinska and Lefranc were known for their promotion of modern art and their gallery was the venue for Arshile Gorky's first solo exhibition in the city. The gallery was also committed to promoting Jewish artists during a time of growing antisemitism at home and abroad.
In 1935 Walinska and Lefranc were quoted in Art Digest as stating that their plans for the new gallery were to "exhibit, without charge, the work of contemporary artists, whether known or unknown; to develop, through a receptive audience, a better understanding of the creative expression and the problems of creative expression and the problems of contemporary society; and to illustrate the relationship of painting with the other arts." The gallery's opening exhibition featured work by both Walinska and Lefranc, as well as by Boris Aronson, Don Forbes, Henry Major, Rosa Newman, Philip Reisman, Ben-Shmuel, Ary Stillman, and, notably, Arshile Gorky. Gorky's first solo exhibition in New York was subsequently held at the gallery in December 1935.
Walinska's interest in promoting Jewish artists is evidenced in records of a 1936 letter writing campaign to seek prospective Jewish clients for the work of School of Paris painter Sigmund Menkes and, in particular, his painting The Torah. Walinska wrote in her letters "It seems to me in view of the fact that a renewed interest in Jewish culture has been awakened by recent world events, that effort should be made towards a development and conservation of Jewish Art." Jewish artists were represented in three-quarters of the gallery's inaugural exhibition season, and consistently thereafter.
Walinska and Lefranc initially sponsored lectures on modern art to generate income but outgoing 1936 letters indicate the gallery was struggling financially and Walinska and Lefranc sought support from prominent and wealthy figures in the art and business worlds such as Winslow Ames, George Gershwin, Juliana Force, A. Conger Goodyear, William Randolph Hearst, Albert C. Barnes, and Alfred H. Barr.
After almost two years in operation, the Guild Art Gallery closed in 1937.