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Leon Polk Smith papers, 1938-1997

Leon Polk Smith papers, 1938-1997

Smith, Leon Polk, 1906-1996

Sculptor, Painter, Printmaker

This site provides access to the papers of Leon Polk Smith in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2011. The bulk of this collection has been scanned and totals 9,145 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Leon Polk Smith Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 7.2 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Leon Polk Smith (1906-1996) was a painter from New York, N.Y.

Provenance

The papers of Leon Polk Smith were donated by the artist's partner, Robert Jamieson, in 1998. Additional materials were donated by Jamieson in 2002.

Funding

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Leon Polk Smith Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Scope and Contents

The papers of New York abstract painter Leon Polk Smith measure 7.2 linear feet and date from 1938 to 1997. The papers consist of biographical material, business and personal correspondence, interview transcripts and an interview video recording, writings, financial records for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc., printed material, photographic material, and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings.

Biographical material includes official affidavits, certificates, passports, expense receipts, and a travel expense notebook. A curriculum vitae, family history, and medical records are also included in the series.

Correspondence, both business and personal, comprises the bulk of the collection. This includes correspondence between Smith and his life companion, Robert Jamieson; art critics Arthur C. Danto, Claudine Humblet, and David Galloway; and artists Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt) and Ray Johnson. Business correspondence relates to Smith's various gallery and museum exhibitions, loans, and sales. There is extensive correspondence between Smith and the Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of American Art, Di Laurenti Gallery, Edition and Galerie Hoffmann, Galerie Denise Rene, Meyers/Bloom Gallery, Washburn Gallery, and the Wilhelm-Hack Museum. The business subseries also includes correspondence between Smith and his alma mater, East Central University, formerly known as Oklahoma State University.

Interviews consist of six typewritten transcripts of interviews conducted with Smith over the course of his professional career from 1950 to 1993, a 1995 video interview of museum director Robert T. Buck discussing the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of Leon Polk Smith for the television program National Arts, and a 1965 interview transcript with gallery owner Lucile Horsley.

Writings include sixteen published and unpublished scholarly essays on Smith and his work. The series also includes notes and a brief artist's statement by Smith regarding the pros and cons of modern art galleries.

Financial records are 1978-1989 federal income tax filings and routine tax preparation and payment receipts for the corporate entity Leon Polk Smith, Inc. Smith's personal filing records from 1987-1989 are also included in this series.

Printed material consists of two books, including the Brooklyn Museum's monograph, "Leon Polk Smith: American Painter," newspaper clippings reviewing Smith's work, and exhibition announcements and catalogs of Smith's museum and gallery shows from 1941 to 1997.

A scrapbook contains newspaper clippings documenting Smith's years as an educator and artist in Oklahoma in the 1930s and 1940s.

Photographs are of Smith and his acquaintances circa 1930-1960, and a representative selection of photographs and color slides of Smith's artwork from 1939 to 1960.

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2011 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website. Blank pages, blank versos of photographs, photographs of artwork, duplicates, and medical and routine financial documents have not been scanned. In most cases, only the cover, title page, and individual relevant pages have been scanned from published materials.

The video recording in this collection was digitized for research access in 2011 and is available at the Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the original cassette for the archival notations on it, but the original cassette is not available for playback due to fragility.

This site provides access to the papers of Leon Polk Smith in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2011. The bulk of this collection has been scanned and totals 9,145 images.

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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