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Hassel Smith papers, circa 1900-2004, bulk, 1930-1995

Hassel Smith papers, circa 1900-2004, bulk, 1930-1995

Smith, Hassel Wendell, 1915-2007

Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 4.0 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of California San Franciso Bay-area painter and instructor Hassel Smith measure 4 linear feet and date from circa 1900-2004, bulk 1930-1995.

Found within the papers are correspondence, a transcript of an interview conducted by Jan Butterfield in the 1980s, personal business files, teaching files, writings by Smith and others, sketches, printed materials, and photographs of Smith, his family, friends, and Smith's artwork. There are audio recordings of a lecture series organized by Smith and of reviews of Smith's work. Correspondents include Paule Anglim, Elmer Bischoff, Andre Emmerich, Clyfford Still, Wayne Thiebaud, and many others.

Biographical materials include biographical sketches, curriculum vitae, genealogical materials, ephemera, and personal appointment books from the mid to late 1970s. Also found here is a transcript of an in-depth interview of Smith conducted by Jan Butterfield in the 1980s.

There is personal and professional correspondence with Paule Anglim, Elmer Bischoff, Andre Emmerich, Charles Gimpel of Gimpel Fils, Clyfford and Patricia Still, Kathryn Swanson of the New Arts Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud, family members, and many others.

Personal business records include art sales records, exhibition checklists, conservation and condition reports, and personal finance records. Teaching materials include class schedules, student lists, and syllabi. Also found are notes on topics such as American art and literature, artistic traits and forms, illusion, and women artists.

Writings by Smith include artist statements, creative writings, his thoughts on the art market and art institutions, the San Francisco art community, and social criticism. Writings by others consist primarily of essays about Smith and his work. There are also writings by Smith's friend Robert Wollard. Artwork includes sketches, doodles, and Christmas cards done by Smith, and a handful of artwork by others.

Printed materials include clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and posters. Also found here are printed materials about other artists, schools where Smith enrolled or taught, Smith's general interests, and collages and flyers by Robert Wollard. There is a printed copy of the pictorial edition of the Communist Manifesto edited by Smith, and other artists.

Photographs are of Smith, family members, artwork, his studio, exhibition openings and other art events, and friends and colleagues. A family photograph dates from circa 1900 and negatives from 1920. Most of the photographs date from the 1940s through 1990s. Audio recordings include reel to reel tape of reviews of Smith's artwork by John Fitz Gibbon and nine cassettes of graduate student critiques by Smith at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Biographical/Historical Note

Hassel Smith (1915-2007) was a Bay area abstract expressionist painter, painting instructor at the California School of Fine Arts, and a lecturer at the University of California.

Provenance

Hassel Smith donated most of his papers in several increments between 1980 and 1998. His son Joseph donated audio recordings in 1980, and Hassel Smith's widow Donna donated additional materials in 2004.

A Finding Aid to the Hassel Smith Papers,
circa 1900-2004, bulk 1930-1995
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.smithass
Author
Finding aid prepared by Michael Yates
Biographical Note
Hassel Smith (1915-2007) was a California Bay area abstract expressionist painter, painting instructor at the California School of Fine Arts, and a lecturer at the University of California. His students included Roy De Forest, Sonia Gechtoff, and Frank Lobdell. Smith was also associated with the famed Los Angeles Ferus Gallery.
Hassel Smith was born on April 27, 1915, in Sturgis, Michigan, settling later with his family in San Mateo, California. He attended Northwestern University with the intention of becoming a chemist, but switched his majors to english and art history and graduated in 1936. Returning to California, Smith enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), and studied with the painter Maurice Sterne.
In 1937, he left school, and shared housing with his adopted brother Lewis in the Haight-Ashbury district and maintained a studio on Steiner Street. At the same time he worked as a social worker with men on "skid row" in San Francisco for the California Relief State Administration. Declared 4F by the draft board, Smith served various government agencies during World War II, including the Farm Security Administration and the U.S. Forest Service. During this period, he met and married June Meyers. He later described his government service and social work as having a strong influence on his art and politics.
In 1941, the University of California, Berkeley awarded Smith with the Abraham Rosenberg Fellowship, which allowed him to travel and paint outdoors at Angel's Camp in the Mother Lode of the Sierra foothills, along with Richard Hackett.
At the end of the war, Smith began teaching at the CSFA, joining faculty members Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, and Clyfford Still. Smith taught there until 1952. His students included Roy De Forest, Sonia Gechtoff, and Frank Lobdell. Smith continued to paint and exhibit work throughout the 1950s, and in 1958 became affiliated with the Ferus Gallery founded by Walter Hopps and Ed Kienholz. His wife June passed away in 1958. One year later, Smith remarried Donna Rafferty Harrington, and they had their son Bruce in 1960.
After an exhibition at the New Arts Gallery in Houston, London-based dealer Charles Gimpel invited Smith to exhibit his work in England. As a result of this, Smith moved to England in 1962, and spent a year living in Mousehole, a fishing village in Cornwall. He moved back to California and between 1963 to 1966 was a visiting lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1966, Smith accepted a position as Senior Lecturer at the West England College of Art in Bristol, England where he stayed until 1978. He finished his teaching career as a Principal Lecturer at the Cardiff College of Arts in Wales from 1978-1979.
Smith spent most of the next two decades painting and exhibiting, which included exhibitions at the Oakland Museum and the San Jose Museum of Art. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the San Francisco Art Institute (formerly the California School of Fine Arts). Due to failing health, Smith was forced to stop painting in 1997. Smith died in 2007 in Warminster, England, at the age of 91.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 9 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1930-2004 (Box 1; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1930s-2003 (Boxes 1-2; 1.0 linear foot)
Series 3: Personal Business Materials, 1953-2003 (Box 2; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 4: Teaching Materials, 1960s-1980s (Box 2; 18 folders)
Series 5: Writings, 1940s-1994 (Box 2; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 6: Artwork, 1928-1995 (Box 2; 8 folders)
Series 7: Printed Materials, 1928-2003 (Boxes 3-4; 1.25 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographic Materials, 1900s-2004 (Box 4; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 9: Sound Recordings, 1965-1980 (Box 4; 10 items)
Scope and Content Note
The papers of Southern California painter and instructor Hassel Smith measure 4 linear feet and date from circa 1900-2004, bulk 1930-1995. Found within the papers are correspondence, a transcript of an interview conducted by Jan Butterfield in the 1980s, personal business files, teaching files, writings by Smith and others, sketches, printed materials, and photographs of Smith, his family, friends, and Smith's artwork. There are audio recordings of a lecture series organized by Smith and of reviews of Smith's work. Correspondents include Paule Anglim, Elmer Bischoff, Andre Emmerich, Clyfford Still, Wayne Thiebaud, and many others.
Biographical materials include biographical sketches, curriculum vitae, genealogical materials, ephemera, and personal appointment books from the mid to late 1970s. Also found here is a transcript of an in-depth interview of Smith conducted by Jan Butterfield in the 1980s.
There is personal and professional correspondence with Paule Anglim, Elmer Bischoff, Andre Emmerich, Charles Gimpel of Gimpel Fils, Clyfford and Patricia Still, Kathryn Swanson of the New Arts Gallery, Wayne Thiebaud, family members, and many others.
Personal business records include art sales records, exhibition checklists, conservation and condition reports, and personal finance records. Teaching materials include class schedules, student lists, and syllabi. Also found are notes on topics such as American art and literature, artistic traits and forms, illusion, and women artists.
Writings by Smith include artist statements, creative writings, his thoughts on the art market and art institutions, the San Francisco art community, and social criticism. Writings by others consist primarily of essays about Smith and his work. There are also writings by Smith's friend Robert Wollard. Artwork includes sketches, doodles, and Christmas cards done by Smith, and a handful of artwork by others.
Printed materials include clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and posters. Also found here are printed materials about other artists, schools where Smith enrolled or taught, Smith's general interests, and collages and flyers by Robert Wollard. There is a printed copy of the pictorial edition of the
Communist Manifesto
edited by Smith, and other artists.
Photographic materials are of Smith, family members, artwork, his studio, exhibition openings and other art events, and friends and colleagues. A family photograph dates from circa 1900 and negatives from 1920. Most of the photographs date from the 1940s through 1990s.
Sound recordings include 1 sound tape reel of the radio show,
Art Review
, with host John Fitz Gibbon reviewing Smith's artwork, and nine sound cassettes of student critiques overseen by Smith at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Provenance
Hassel Smith donated most of his papers in several increments between 1980 and 1998. His son Joseph donated audio recordings in 1980, and Hassel Smith's widow Donna donated additional materials in 2004.
Related Material
Also found in the Archives of American Art is an oral history interview with Hassel Smith conducted by Paul Karlstrom, September 5, 1978 and a video interview with Hassel Smith conducted by Paul Karlstrom, January 15, 1986.
Processing Information
Portions of the papers were microfilmed upon receipt on reels 2008-2009, 2062, and 3472 - these reels are no longer in circulation. Microfilmed portions were merged with later additions and processed and arranged by Michael Yates in 2007 with funding provided by the Getty Foundation. The collection was prepared for scanning by Judy Ng and fully scanned in 2011 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. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Hassel Smith papers, circa 1900-2004, bulk, 1930-1995. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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