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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.

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.


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.

Scope and Contents

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.

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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