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Leonard Bocour papers and business records, 1933-1993

Leonard Bocour papers and business records, 1933-1993

Bocour, Leonard, 1910-1993


Collection Information

Size: 11.8 linear ft.

Summary: Found within the papers are biographical material; miscellaneous correspondence with artists and colleagues; diaries, daily calendars, notes and writings; personal business records and the business records of Bocour Artist Colors, Inc.; transcripts of interviews with Bocour; and printed material.

Biographical/Historical Note

Art collector, paint manufacturer; New York, N.Y.; d. 1993.


Donated by Mrs. Leonard Bocour, 1994.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Leonard Bocour Papers and Business Records, 1933-1993, in the Archives of American Art
Finding aid prepared by Jean Fitzgerald
Biographical Note
American art collector, paint manufacturer, lecturer, and painter, Leonard Bocour (nèe Leonard Bogdanoff) was born in 1910 in New York City. He studied at the National Academy of Design and at the Art Students League. In 1928, he met German artist Emil Ganso who taught him how to make artists' colors.
In 1932, Bocour established Bocour Hand Ground Artist Colors and sold paint directly to artists, greatly increasing his contacts and acquaintances in the art community. In this Depression era, Bocour often gave away paint to struggling artists who later became successful. Because artists would sometimes trade art work for tubes of paint, Bocour was able to build an impressive art collection that he would later loan for exhibition. He also donated numerous works of art to schools and museums.
Over the years, Bocour maintained a close relationship with artists, most notably Helen Frankenthaler, Philip Guston, Jack Levine, Morris Louis, and Philip Pearlstein. In the late 1930s, Bocour decided to increase his business by selling through retailers and wholesalers, gradually building a successful business.
From 1945 to 1955, Bocour joined the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine and for many years taught a summer technical course. In 1947, he developed Magna, an acrylic resin miscible with oil or turpentine that had the same consistency as oil paint, but dried in a fraction of the time. In 1960, Bocour introduced Aqua-Tec which is an acrylic polymer emulsion miscible with water.
From 1952 to 1970, Samuel Golden was Bocour's partner in the capacity of production manager. A merger with Zipatone, Inc. was carried out in 1982, but was dissolved in 1987. Zipatone, Inc. moved the company to Chicago, but Bocour remained in New York as president and consultant.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Bocour lectured at art schools and various arts organizations, discussing drawing, painting, and different art media as well as demonstrating his own products. He was a member of the National Art Materials Trade Association (NAMTA) and was president of the Art Material Manufacturers' Association, inducted into its Hall of Fame in 1974. Leonard Bocour died on Labor Day 1993.
The collection has been arranged into eight series primarily according to type of material. Materials within each series have been arranged chronologically, except for the Receipts for "Private Deals" and the Business Card File which are arranged alphabetically. Oversized material from various series has been housed in Box 13 and OV 14 and is noted in the Series Description/Container Listings Section at the appropriate folder title.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1940s-1990s (Box 1; 4 folders)
Series 2: Miscellaneous Correspondence, 1950s-1990s (Box 1-4, 13, OV 14; 3.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Diaries and Annotated Calendars, 1955-1987 (Box 4-5; 19 folders)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, circa 1961-1992 (Box 5-7, 13; 2.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Business Records for Bocour Artist Colors, Inc., circa 1942-1992 (Box 7-9, 13; 2.3 linear feet)
Series 6: Notes and Writings, 1960-1993, undated (Box 9-10; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Interview Transcripts, 1970s-1980s (Box 10; 5 folders)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1933-1993, undated (Box 10-13; 1.8 linear feet)
Scope and Content Note
The papers of American art collector, paint manufacturer, lecturer, and painter, Leonard Bocour measure 11.8 linear feet and date from 1933 to 1993. Found within the papers is biographical material, including identity cards, membership cards, and award certificates. Miscellaneous correspondence is primarily with artists and colleagues, including Helen Frankenthaler, Chaim Gross, Philip Guston, Alex Katz, Jack Levine, Morris Louis, David Oxtoby, and Philip Pearlstein and discuss exhibitions and other art-related topics. Also found are diaries and annotated daily calendars; personal business records regarding personal finances, donations, and lectures; business records for Bocour Artist Colors, Inc., including contracts, business correspondence, financial documentation, and printed material; notes and writings including address books and writings by Bocour and others; transcripts of interviews with Bocour that discuss his early career; and printed material including clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, booklets, and brochures.
Donated by Mrs. Leonard Bocour, 1994.
Related Material
Additional Leonard Bocour papers may be found at the Syracuse University Library, Special Collections Research Center.
Processing Information
The papers were processed to an intermediate level in August 2004 by Jean Fitzgerald.

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

Leonard Bocour papers and business records, 1933-1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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