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Harry Sternberg papers, 1927-2000

Harry Sternberg papers, 1927-2000

Sternberg, Harry, 1904-2001

Painter, Educator, Lithographer

Collection Information

Size: 3.2 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of painter, printmaker, and teacher Harry Sternberg date from 1927 to 2000 and measure 3.2 linear feet. The collection documents Sternberg's career as an artist in both New York City and California, and as an art instructor at the Art Students League and the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts through biographical material, letters, personal business records, writings, printed material, photographs, artwork and audio-visual materials.

Biographical material includes an interview of Sternberg conducted by art curator Malcolm Warner. Business records comprise two ledgers documenting business activities, scattered financial and legal documents, and files regarding a few of his projects, including the film "Many Worlds of Art."

Sternberg's personal and professional correspondence is with friends, artists, including Harry Wickey, Rockwell Kent, Philip Evergood, and Peter Blume, collectors and curators such as Hudson Walker and Carl Zigrosser, and art organizations, universities, and galleries.

The small number of writings by Sternberg in this collection includes drafts of articles and lectures, a manuscript for a book on etching, and notes. Writings by others consists of draft writings about Sternberg, draft exhibition catalogs, and writings by the artists Arthur Secunda and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Over one-third of this collection is printed material, including exhibition catalogs and announcements, news clippings, books written by Sternberg, school publications, and material regarding art events.

Also found are photographs of Sternberg in his studio, with students, with his wife Mary, and at the Idyllwild School. Other photographs include group photographs of Art Students League faculty as well as photographs of exhibitions, murals, and artwork. The collection also contains original artwork including two sketchbooks and three loose drawings by Sternberg and one scrapbook of news clippings and exhibition materials. Audio and video materials include several interviews of Sternberg and a video copy of his film "Many Worlds of Art."

Biographical/Historical Note

Harry Sternberg (1904-2001) was a painter and graphic artist from New York, N.Y. and Escondido, Calif. Sternberg taught at the Art Students League from 1933 to 1936, where his colleagues included George Grosz and Will Barnet. In 1935, he worked with Stuart Davis and others to organize the American Artists' Congress against war and fascism. He is best known for his murals and for his prints. He is the author of "Silk Screen Color Printing," (1942).


The Harry Sternberg papers were donated by Sternberg in several installments from 1967 to 2001.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Harry Sternberg Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Harry Sternberg (1904-2001) was a New York painter, muralist, printmaker, etcher, teacher, and political activist who relocated to California in 1957.
Harry Sternberg was born in 1904 in the Lower East Side of New York City and grew up in Brooklyn. As a child he attended his school art club where he met and became lifelong friends with artists Peter Blume and Philip Reisman. He took free Saturday art classes at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for two years and attended the Art Students League part time from 1922 to 1927 where he studied with George Bridgman. In 1926 he shared a studio with Philip Reisman where they received private instruction in etching from Harry Wickey. Sternberg began exhibiting his etchings and intermittently had drawings published in
New Masses
, a prominent American Marxist publication. In the late 1920s he became friends with Hudson Walker who also became a major collector of his work. In 1933 Sternberg was hired as instructor of etching, lithography, and composition at the Art Students League and continued teaching there for the next 33 years. Also around this time he became politically active in artist rights organizations, serving on the planning committee to create the American Artists' Congress and later serving as an active member of the Artists Equity Association. In 1935 he became the technical advisor of the Graphic Art Division of the Federal Art Project. From 1937 to 1939 he completed three federal mural commissions. His first mural
Carrying the Mail
was created for the Sellersville, Pennsylvania post office in 1937. His most famous mural
Chicago: Epoch of a Great City
was painted for the Lakeview post office in Chicago. It depicts the history of the city and its workers, particularly life for the workers in Chicago's stockyards and steel mills.
During the 1940s Sternberg remained very active in arts organizations, as one of the founders of the National Serigraph Society and a member of the Committee on Art and Education in Society. In 1942 he published the first of five books on printing. Sternberg had his first retrospective in 1953 at ACA Galleries, and in 1957 he taught summer painting courses at the Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts in California. He continued teaching in the summers there from 1960 to 1967 and 1981 to 1989. Suffering from lung disease, Sternberg moved with his wife, Mary, to Escondido, California in 1966 in hopes that the climate would improve his health. In 1972 he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. During the 1970s and 1980s Sternberg traveled extensively throughout the US and Mexico where he found new inspiration for his artwork. He continued teaching, exhibiting, and creating new work until his death in 2001.
The collection is arranged into 8 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1927-2000 (Box 1, OV 5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1928-2000 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1940s-2000 (Box 1, 4; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1933-2000 (Box 1-3; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1930s-1998 (Box 3, 4; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 6: Artwork, circa 1928-1980s (Box 3, OV 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 7: Audio Visual Material, circa 1980s-2000 (Box 3; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Scrapbook, 1929-1958 (Box 4; 0.2 linear feet)
The Harry Sternberg papers were donated by Sternberg in several installments from 1967 to 2001.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection received a preliminary level of processing at some point after donation. Portions of the papers were microfilmed on reels D339, 138, and 146; later donations were not microfilmed. The microfilm reels are no longer in circulation as they do not represent the entire collection. All accretions were integrated and fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2008 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Harry Sternberg papers, 1927-2000. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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