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Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910-1998, bulk, 1950-1967

Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910-1998, bulk, 1950-1967

Langsner, Jules, 1911-1967

Art historian, Art critic

Collection Information

Size: 4.4 linear feet

Summary: The papers of southern California contemporary art curator, critic, and historian Jules Langsner measure 4.6 linear feet and date from circa 1910s-1998, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1950-1967.

Found within the papers are biographical material; correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues; writings by Langsner; exhibition files; printed materials; photographs of Langsner, others, travel, and works of art; and audio recordings of Langsner's lectures and eulogies given at his funeral.

Biographical materials consist of an address book and file, committee files, scattered financial statements, and documents related to the Ford Foundation and other foundations, teaching, and traveling.

The 0.9 linear feet of correspondence is of both a personal and professional nature. A significant portion of the correspondence is between Langsner and publications for which he wrote such as Art News, the New York Times, Meridian Books, Craft Horizons, Art International, and Art in America; galleries and museums where he lectured or curated exhibitions including the Art Institute of Chicago, California Water Color Society, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Pasadena Art Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Guggenheim Museum, and the Fine Arts Patrons of Newport Harbor; colleges and organizations where he taught or was involved with such as the Graham Foundation, University of Southern California, International Association of Art Critics, and Ford Foundation; and artists that he worked with or knew personally including Rico Lebrun, William Turnbull, Man & Julie Ray, Lorser Feitelson, Helen Lundeberg, Adelaide Fogg, and Clinton Adams.

Letters to June Harwood were written while Langsner was traveling in 1964 and 1965 and discuss his travels and their relationship which culminated in marriage in Italy in 1965.

Among the 2.8 linear feet of the writings of Jules Langsner are articles for Art News, Art in America, Art International, Arts & Architecture, Aware, Beverly Hills Times, Craft Horizons, Creative Crafts, Goya Revista De Arte, Los Angeles Times, Yomiuri, and Zodiac. There are also essays, lectures, poems, drafts, notes, jottings of ideas, proposals and published and unpublished manuscripts. There are drafts and unpublished versions of "Painting in the Modern World", and numerous other essays on contemporary art. There are also extensive handwritten notes on his travels, Asian art, European art, and other subjects.

Exhibition files concern "Black and White" (1958), "California Hard-Edge Painting" (1964), the Man Ray Exhibition (1966), and the William Turnbull Exhibition (1966).

Printed materials include miscellaneous flyers, brochures, and news bulletins, and press releases.

Photographs are of people, places, works of art, and exhibitions. There are photographs of Jules Langsner, June Harwood, Philip Guston, Musa Guston, William Brice, Eddy Feldman, Rube Kadish, Stanton Macdonald-Wright, Frank Perls, and unidentified individual people and groups. Photographs of Langsner's travels are of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and other locations. Photographs of exhibitions include California Art Club, "Black and White," "California Painters & Sculptors, 35 & Under," and unidentified exhibitions. Photographs of works of art are by William Turnbull, Jack Zajac, Walter Mix, Marion Aldrich, Roger Majorowicz, and Jasper Johns.

Audio recordings include two untranscribed 7" reel-to-reel audio recordings and one cassette tape. The reel-to-reel tapes are labeled "You & Art/Berlin Party," and "Eulogies to Jules Langsner" with speakers Clement Greenberg, Henry Seldis, Peter Selz, Richard Brown, Donald Brewer, Tom Leavitt, Lorser Feitelson, Sam Francis, June Wayne, Gifford Phillips, and others. The cassette tape is a copy of eulogies.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jules Langsner (1911-1967) was an art critic and art historian from Los Angeles, California.


Donated 1973-1996 and 2004 by June Harwood Langsner, widow of Jules Langsner, except material on reel 3090 which was donated 1982 by the Art Library of the University of California, Los Angeles, via librarian Virginia Steele.

A Finding Aid to the Jules Langsner Papers, circa 1910s-1998, bulk 1950-1967, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Jules Langsner (1911-1967) worked primarily in the Los Angeles area as a contemporary art critic, historian, and curator. He curated several seminal exhibitions of contemporary art, including the 1959-1960 show "Four Abstract Classicists" featuring the work of Southern California artists Lorser Feitelson, Karl Benjamin, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin.
Born Julius Harold Langsner in New York City on May 5, 1911, his family moved to Ontario, California in 1922. The family lived on a farm and opened the Paradise Health Resort which was run by Langsner's father, chiropractor Isadore Langsner, and was popular in Jewish and intellectual circles. In Ontario, Langsner became friends with three of the Pollack family sons, Jackson, Frank, and Sanford, as well as Philip Guston, Reuben Kadish, Leonard Stark, and Don Brown as a teenager. Guston, Kadish, and Jackson Pollock were later mentored by Lorser Feitelston which helped to foster in Langsner an interest in avant-garde painting.
Langsner went on to study philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the early 1940s, Langsner married and had a son, Drew Langsner. He divorced in 1946. In 1944, he enlisted in the United States Army and served as a psychiatric social worker and psychologist during World War II in the United States.
Art & Architecture
magazine was the first to publish Langsner's art criticism in 1948. Throughout the 1950s and 60s his work was published widely in
Art & Architecture
as well as
Art News
Art in America
Craft Horizons
Los Angeles Times
, and others. Langsner wrote extensively about art history in both published and unpublished manuscripts, including
Painting in the Modern World
which he worked on until his death. Additionally, he taught art history classes at the Chouinard Art Institute, San Fernando State College, and University of Southern California and lectured for a variety of organizations and occasions.
Langsner curated several influential exhibitions in southern California, including the "Four Abstract Classicists" exhibition for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1959 and in whose catalog he and Peter Selz coined the term "Hard-Edge painting." He curated the first full-scale retrospective of Man Ray in the United States at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1966.
Langsner received a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1964 that allowed him to travel throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Europe for a year studying regional art and architecture. He wrote notes on his travels and corresponded frequently with June Harwood, a Hard-Edge painter, whom he married in Italy in 1965.
Jules Langsner died unexpectedly of a heart attack on September 29, 1967, in Los Angeles.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series. Photographs are arranged by subject, otherwise each series is generally arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1957-circa 1960s (Box 1; 9 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1948-1998 (Boxes 1-2; 0.9 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1934-circa 1960s (Boxes 2-4; 2.8 linear feet)
Series 4: Exhibition Files, 1919, circa 1958-1966 (Box 4; 4 folders)
Series 5: Printed Materials, circa 1960s (Box 5; 2 folders)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1910s-1960s (Box 5; 0.25 linear feet)
Series 7: Audio Recordings, 1954-1967 (Boxes 5-6; 0.25 linear feet)
Donated 1973-1996 and 2004 by June Harwood Langsner, widow of Jules Langsner, except material on reel 3090 which was donated 1982 by the Art Library of the University of California, Los Angeles, via librarian Virginia Steele.
Processing Information note
Multiple accessions were microfilmed upon receipt. All accessions were merged and processed by Margaret Hughes in 2010.

Additional Forms Available

Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 974-980 and 3090 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid may not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.

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

Jules Langsner papers, circa 1910-1998, bulk, 1950-1967. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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