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John Bernard Myers papers, [circa 1940s]-1987, (bulk 1970-1987)

John Bernard Myers papers, [circa 1940s]-1987, (bulk 1970-1987)

Myers, John Bernard, 1920-1987

Author, Editor, Dealer, Art critic

Collection Information

Size: 2.0 linear ft.

Summary: Primarily writings and journals, also correspondence, printed matter, miscellaneous records, and photographs documenting Myers' work as a writer and critic. His work as a gallery director and art dealer is not documented through his personal papers.

Correspondence, mainly incoming letters, 1960-1987, are from colleagues, admirers, friends, and publishers, concerning professional and personal matters. Included are a series of letters from friend and English professor Guy Davenport, a contributor to "Parenthése," the magazine Myers published between 1975 and 1979; a file concerning an incident with critic John Canaday containing letters of complaint to the New York Times and Art In America and an apology from Mr. Canaday; and correspondence concerning "Tracking the Marvelous," including letters from the publisher and editor, contracts, fan mail, and Myers' rebuttal to an unflattering review.

Writings, 1959-1987 and n.d., include manuscripts of published and unpublished books, articles and essays, and miscellaneous pieces by Myers. Included are the manuscript of his autobiography, "Tracking the Marvelous;" "Knowing what I Like, Essays by John Bernard Myers," 1985 (unpublished); and "Forward and Backward-A Chronicle in Fragments and Episodes," ca. 1976, about Mark Rothko's suicide (published later as part three of "Tracking the Marvelous"). Among the articles and essays are "New York Letter," 1959, and "New York Painting since Surrealism". Miscellaneous writings are book and exhibition reviews, poems, and notes on puppets. Diaries, 1969 and 1974-1983 (11 vols.) record Myers' experiences and reflections. Writings by other authors are poems; "Random Thoughts on the Gimmickists," an essay by Tibor de Nagy; and submissions to "Parenthese," a journal of words and pictures edited by Myers, ca. 1975-1979.

Printed matter, 1951-1987, by Myers includes his book, "Tracking the Marvelous;" exhibition catalogs and announcements, 1977-1987; articles, 1964-1983; and book and exhibition reviews, 1970-1975. Publications edited by him include "Semi-Colon," 1953-ca. 1956; "Parenthese," 1975, 1979, and proofs of an issue dated 1977. Other printed matter consists of exhibition catalogs; clippings about Leonid Berman, Grace Hartigan, Mark Rothko, and reviews of "Tracking the Marvelous."

Miscellaneous papers include artwork, consisting of collages by Arthur Cady, (illustrations for "Another Medici Child," by Myers), and original artwork for a Tibor de Nagy Gallery announcement of a Red Groom's exhibition featuring extension painting, ca. 1962; a resume, ca. 1980, and memorial pamphlets; transcripts of interviews conducted by Myers of Alexandra Anderson, Red Grooms, and Marisol, and an interview of Myers conducted by Alfred Sturdevant. Records of the Southampton Artists' Theatre Festival (John Bernard Myers, Producer) consist of "Director's notes on Second Season, ATF," 1969, notes and music by Ann Sternberg for a 1969 production of the musical "Gertrude Stein's First Reader," and music from unidentified productions. Also, minutes and memoranda of the Ingram Merrill Foundation (John Bernard Myers, Secretary), 1983-1984.

Photographs, 1940s-1985, are of Myers and unidentified friends; color slides and transparencies of the interior of his home in Brewster, N.Y., 1978; puppets; and "St. George," a painting by Grace Hartigan.

Biographical/Historical Note

Critic, editor, writer, art dealer; New York. N.Y. Born Buffalo, N.Y., 1919 or 20; d. 1987. Myers had llifelong interests in poetry, puppets, and painting. He was a partner in the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 1951-1970, and served as gallery director; went on to operate the John Bernard Myers Gallery, 1970-1975. He was managing editor of "View" magazine, 1944-1947, edited several poetry and art publications including "Semi-Colon" and "Parenthese," and wrote extensively on art. Myers' autobiography, "Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World," was published in 1984.


Donated by the estate of Ricky Dale Horton, 1990.

Related Materials

Other material relating to John Bernard Myers in the Archives of American Art includes an interview with Myers conducted by Barbara Rose, circa 1969.

A Finding Aid to the John Bernard Myers Papers,
circa 1940s-1987
bulk 1970-1987
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
During his youth in Buffalo, New York, John Bernard Myers developed life-long interests in poetry, puppets, and painting. As a teenager, he wrote poetry and established his own marionette theater. He first learned about modern art and became especially interested in Surrealism through reading European magazines and exhibition catalogs in the library of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Through helping to edit
, an avant garde literary magazine, he met many like-minded friends. Myers was deemed unqualified for military service due to ruptured eardrums, so instead went to work in an airplane factory. But his membership in the Young Communist League and participation in efforts led by a Socialist Workers party colleague to upgrade job assignments and pay for qualified minorities created problems and Myers soon departed. His final two years in Buffalo were spent working in a bookstore.
In 1944, Myers sent issues of
to Parker Tyler, editor of
, whom he had met a few years earlier through mutual friends involved with the Communist party. A few months later Tyler offered him the position of managing editor of
, a magazine devoted to the Neo-Romantics and Surrealists in exile. Myers moved to New York City and remained with the magazine until it ceased publication in 1947. A large portion of his time at
was spent selling advertising space. Since this involved calling on gallery owners each month, he came to know many dealers, had the opportunity to study the exhibitions and meet many of the artists. During this period he began attending art history courses taught by Meyer Schapiro at the New School. His responsibilities at
also included assisting with editing and layout, and he became well-acquainted with Marcel Duchamp and André Breton when special issues devoted to them were published. His association with the magazine resulted in many invitations; Myers enthusiastically attended parties practically every night of the week, enlarging his already impressive circle of friends and acquaintance in the art and literary worlds.
Puppets were another of Myers' special interests. After
ceased publication in1947, he edited poetry and art publications, but to earn his living he resumed puppeteering. Around 1948 Myers met Tibor de Nagy, a cultured Hungarian immigrant with a background in banking and finance, who, for immigration purposes, needed a business that bore his name. The Tibor de Nagy Marionette Company gave performances at schools in and around New York City and staged elaborate productions for both children and adults at fine hotels. After several years of physically exhausting work with the marionette company and falling profits, the two decided to try another business venture.
Over the years, several of Myers' friends and acquaintances had suggested he open an art gallery. Myers was interested and had many appropriate contacts, but lacked sufficient capital and had no business experience. An old friend, Dwight Ripley, offered to back a gallery and in 1951 the Tibor de Nagy Gallery opened at 219 East 53rd Street with John Bernard Myers as the gallery director. Tibor de Nagy was the gallery's business manager, and at the same time pursued a full-time career in banking. Following the good advice of his friends Jackson Pollock,Lee Krasner, and Clement Greenberg, Myers decided to seek out and promote the artists of his own generation. Artists affiliated with the Tibor de Nagy Gallery included Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Goodnough, Red Grooms, Grace Hartigan, Alfred Leslie, Barnett Newman, Kenneth Noland, Fairfield Porter, and Larry Rivers.
Myers and de Nagy remained partners in the Tibor de Nagy Gallery for 19 years. In 1970 Myers left in to open a gallery which he ran for about five years under his own name. After retiring from the gallery, he was a private dealer and lecturer; he also served as a consultant to the Kouros Gallery. He continued to organize exhibitions including a Joseph Cornell exhibiton at A.C.A. Gallery in 1977, and "Tracking the Marvelous" at the Grey Gallery, New York University in 1981.
For more than thirty years after
ceased publication, a number of art and poetry publications benefitted from Myers' editorial skills. Among them were Prospero Pamphlets, a series of chapbooks produced between 1946 and 1948, featuring contemporary poets Wallace Stevens, Charles Henri Ford, Parker Tyler, and Paul Goodman. Brunidor Editions, a portfolio of graphics by Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Kurt Seligmann, Max Ernst, Wilfredo Lam, Matta, and William Stanley Hayter was issued in 1948. From 1953 until 1956, Tibor de Nagy Gallery published
, a poets' newsletter edited by Myers. Gallery Editions, a series of pamphlets paired the work of a poet and painter, among them: John Ashbury and Jane Freilicher, Frank O'Hara and Larry Rivers, Kenneth Koch and Nell Blaine, and Barbara Guest and Robert Goodnough. Myers devoted a great deal of time to
, a magazine of words and pictures, that was published between 1975 and 1979. In addition, he compiled and edited
Poets of the New York School
, an anthology with photographs by Francesco Scuvullo published by the University of Pennsylvania Art Department in 1968.
For much of his life, John Bernard Myers kept a diary recording daily activities and his reactions to an reflections on his experiences. His autobiography,
Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World
, published in 1984, quotes extensively from diaries written as early as 1939. He wrote many book reviews, exhibition reviews, and articles about art and art criticism that were published in
Art in America
Art and Literature
Art International
Art News
Craft Horizons
, and
Knowing What I Like
, a selection of his own essays and articles that Myers compiled and edited in 1983, remains unpublished. He also wrote poetry and song lyrics.
John Bernard Myers died July 26, 1987.
1919 or 1920
Born, Buffalo, New York
circa 1939
Began puppeteering and eventually established his own puppet theater
circa 1942-1944
Assisted with editing
, an avant garde literary magazine
Rejected from military service due to ear problems; employed in airplane factory, and later at Ulbrich's Bookstore in Buffalo
Managing Editor,
, a magazine devoted to the Neo-Romantic and Surrealist artists in exile
Prospero Pamphlets
, a series of chapbooks featuring Wallace Stevens, Charles Henri Ford, Parker Tyler, and Paul Goodman
Brunidor Editions
, portfolios of graphics featuring Yves Tanguy, Joan Miró, Kurt Seligmann, Max Ernst, Wilfredo Lam, Matta, and William Stanley Hayter; started a professional marionette company with Tibor de Nagy as business manager
Tibor de Nagy Gallery opens at 219 East 53rd Street, backed by Dwight Ripley, with Myers as gallery director and de Nagy its business manager
Tibor de Nagy Gallery moves to 24 East 67th St.
, a poets' newsletter emphasizing brief prose and verse
Producer and Artistic Advisor, The Artists' Theater; during this time 36 plays by poets, with appropriate décors and music by modern painters and composers
Gallery Editions
, a series of poetry pamphlets pairing poets and painters (Frank O'Hara and Larry rivers, Kenneth Koch and Nell Blaine, Barbara Guest and Robert Goodnough)
Producer, Southampton Artists' Theatre Festival, Long Island University
Leaves Tibor de Nagy Gallery and opens John Bernard Myers Gallery at 50 West 57th Street
Closes his gallery and in retirement becomes a private dealer
, a little magazine of words and pictures
Parenthése Signatures
, each deluxe limited edition portfolios paired an artist and poet
Tracking the Marvelous
, exhibition at Grey Gallery, New York University
Publication of
Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World
Consultant to Kouros Gallery, New York
Dies July 26, Danbury, Conn.
The collection is arranged into 5 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1960-1986, undated (box 1, 6 folders)
Series 2: Writings, 1959-1987, undated (boxes 1-2, 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 3: Printed Matter, 1951-1987, undated (box 2, 0.5 linear ft.)
Series 4: Miscellaneous, circa 1962-1987, undated (box 2, 0.25 linear ft.)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1940s-1985, undated (box 2, 6 folders)
Donated by the estate of Ricky Dale Horton, 1990.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Catherine S. Gaines in 2001.

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

John Bernard Myers papers, [circa 1940s]-1987, (bulk 1970-1987). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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