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Herbert Waide Hemphill papers, 1776-1998, bulk bulk 1876-1998

Biographical Note

Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr., (1929-1998) lived in New York city and was a prominent curator, historian, and collector of American folk art. Hemphill was one of the founding members of the Museum of American Folk Art, organized several large exhibitions of folk art, and co-authored Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artist.
Hemphill was born on January 21, 1929 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the son of businessman Herbert Waide Hemphill, Sr., and Emma Bryan Bradley Hemphill whose uncle, William Clark Bradley, was one of the owners of the Coca-Cola Company.
Hemphill was reared in his mother's home town of Columbus, Georgia, and attended Wynnton School. At the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and the Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, Hemphill's principle interests were in art and theater. In 1948, he spent a year studying fine arts at Bard College under Stefan Hirsch, a painter and folk art collector.
Hemphill developed his interest in collecting while accompanying his mother on her shopping forays searching for Dresden china. His first acquisition was a wooden duck decoy purchased when he was seven years old. His early collections were of glass bottles, marbles, stamps, and puzzle jugs. In 1949, Hemphill moved to Manhattan and began to focus on modern European and American art and African sculpture, but after 1956 he concentrated exclusively on 19th and early 20th century American folk art. He often discovered artists during his extensive travels, especially in the American South.
In 1961, Hemphill became one of the six founding trustees of the Museum of Early American Folk Art, later named the Museum of American Folk Art, in New York City. Between 1964 and 1973, he was the museum's first curator and curated many exhibitions, helping to promote awareness of work created by self-taught or visionary artists. He later served as Trustee Emeritus for many years.
Between 1974 and 1988, Hemphill loaned portions of his extensive personal collection to 24 museums nationwide and in 1976, the American Bicentennial Commission selected works from his collection for a goodwill tour of Japan. He was named guest curator at the Brooklyn Museum in 1976 and at the Abby Aldrich Folk Art Collection in 1980, and often appeared as guest lecturer at various universities, the Smithsonian Institution, and at the Library of Congress. In 1986, Hemphill donated more than 400 folk art works to the Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum, resulting in a landmark exhibition Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection of the National Museum of American Art.
Hemphill's publications include books Twentieth Century American Folk Art and Artists, co-authored with Julia Weissman in 1974, Folk Sculpture USA for the Brooklyn Museum in 1976, and Found in New York's North Country: The Folk Art of a Region, co-authored with Varick A. Chittenden in 1982 for the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute.
Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. died on May 8, 1998 in New York City.