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Lena Gurr papers, 1908-1979

Lena Gurr papers, 1908-1979

Gurr, Lena, 1897-1992

Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 7.1 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Lena Gurr (1897-1992) was a painter and printmaker from Brooklyn, N.Y. Attended the Maxwell Training School for Teachers, 1915-1917, the Educational Alliance Art School, 1919, and studied under John Sloan and Maurice Sterne at the Art Students League, 1920-1922. Gurr also studied in Paris, Nice, and Mentone, France. Her first solo exhibition was in 1932 at the Brooklyn Museum. She married painter and photographer Joseph Biel (1891-1943) on November 24, 1931. Biel was born in Russia and studied in the Russian Academy in Paris, and at the Workman's College, Melbourne, Australia. He also established the first Jewish library in Melbourne. Upon his arrival in the United States, he studied under George Grosz at the Art Students League.


Donated by Lena Gurr, 1966-1979. Material on reels 4940-48 microfilmed in 1994 with funds provided by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

Scope and Contents

Resumes, correspondence, notes, an interview on a phonograph record, art work, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs document Gurr's career as well as that of her husband, Joseph Biel.

Correspondence (4 feet), 1921-1979, is between Gurr, family members, galleries, friends and colleagues. Notable correspondents include ACA Gallery, Mary Cecil Allen, Mary Ascher, Herman Baron, Dorothy Block, Emma Ehrenreich, Clare Fasano and her husband Jean De Marco, Ralph Fabri, Juliana Force, Minna Harkavy, Rockwell Kent, Karl Knaths, Louis Lozowick, Ross and Dorothy Moffett, Maria Norman, John von Wicht, and Lynd Ward.

Notes include lists of Gurr's exhibitions, 1926-1954 and a notebook listing serigraphs exhibited and sold, 1938-1972.

Art works include drawings, watercolors, oil sketches, and a lithograph, 1908-1951, 10 sketchbooks, 1930-1932 (includes her sketch of Raphael Soyer and a drawing by George Grosz in the style of Van Gogh), caricatures by Joseph Biel, designs by Gurr and Biel for Christmas cards, 1931-1942, and 2 monoprints by Hy Fogelberg, 1938.

Eight scrapbooks, 1912-1978, contain letters, award certificates, a typescript about Gurr and Elisabeth Model, a few photographs, and printed material concerning Gurr; and one, 1927-1948, contains letters, clippings, and exhibition announcements and catalogs primarily concerning Biel. Printed material, 1926-1974, includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and brochures.

A photograph album, 1912-1939, contains photographs of Gurr's mother, Gurr at the Art Students League, her friends, and with Biel in their Paris studio, at the World's Fair, and camping with Adele and Louis Lozowick. The remainder of the photographs span years 1937-1978, and are of members of Gurr's family; Gurr taken by Biel and others in Provincetown and at her Brooklyn home; Gurr with friends, including Mary Cecil Allen, Minna Harkavy, Jacob Lawrence, the Lozowicks, and Maria Norman; art-related events; self-portrait photographs of Biel; Biel's photographs of George Grosz, 1932, and views of New York City, including shanty towns, bread lines, activities at the waterfront, Times Square, snow scenes, beach scenes, and a photograph of a John Reed Club gathering; art work by Gurr, including an album of work executed at the Art Students League; and Biel's photographs of his paintings and art work by Joe Jones and Louis Lozowick.

Also included is a phonograph record of an interview of Gurr conducted by Jan Gelb from the radio program "Of Interest to Women," 1950.

A scrapbook containing 7 clippings about the death of Mary Cecil Allen and transcripts of 4 letters from Allen's attorney, 1962; and a catalog of Gurr's exhibition at the ACA Gallery, 1963.

Microfilm reels 8 and 4940-4948 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

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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