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Contents and Arrangement | A Finding Aid to the Louise Nevelson papers, circa 1903-1979 | Digitized Collection

Louise Nevelson papers, circa 1903-1979

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Series 1: Biographical Material, 1918-1975
(Boxes 1, 17, OV 21; 0.8 linear feet)

Series consists of scattered material shedding light on different aspects of Nevelson's life and work. Included are the program of her graduation from Rockland High School, the announcement of her wedding to Charles Nevelson, and a draft of last her will and testament; and some additional family papers concerning her son Mike Nevelson, such as his high school diploma and certificate of service as a seaman, an autograph book (containing signatures of artists, Louis Eilshemius, Hans Hofmann, and Kenneth Hayes Miller, among others), a short story, and various exhibition announcements and catalogs; numerous awards and honorary degrees received Nevelson; her teaching certificate, dating from the time she taught in the adult education program of the Great Neck, Long Island public schools; material from various interviews with Nevelson, including transcribed interviews with Louise Elliot Rago and Tal Streeter and an untranscribed interview with Molly Haskell; writings about Nevelson, including a typescript of an article by Robert Rosenblum and a paper by Katherine Rouse; and other miscellaneous papers.
Biographical material is arranged in rough chronological order. The bulk of this series has been scanned. Some printed materials have not been scanned. In some cases, only the cover and title pages of publications were scanned.

Series 2: Correspondence, 1931-1979
(Boxes 1-2; 1.5 linear feet)

Series consists primarily of Nevelson's professional correspondence, as well as some personal and family correspondence. Files are typically made up of letters, invitations, greeting cards, and telegrams received by Nevelson, copies of letters sent on her behalf (by lawyers and assistants) or shared with her by others, and photographs, press releases, clippings, and other printed material enclosed with correspondence. Correspondents include artists, dealers, museums, universities, art critics, collectors, arts-related and social organizations, admirers, along with some friends, colleagues, and family members in addition to her son. (See appendix for a select list of notable correspondents.)
General correspondence details the exhibition of Nevelson's work in various group and one-man shows; the consignment, sale, and disposition of her work, especially her dealings with the Martha Jackson Gallery and Daniel Cordier (in Europe); her donations of art work to museums and universities, and for auction by charitable organizations; and the various honors and awards received by her later in her career (including the Creative Arts Medal in Sculpture from Brandeis University and honorary degrees from the Philadelphia College of Art and Bowdoin College, among others). General correspondence also concerns Nevelson's various art-related activities, including her participation on various panels, and in workshops, conferences, and lecture series on art; her involvement in professional organizations, such as the Sculptor's Guild; and her service on various award juries and arts committees (such as the Arts and Entertainment Committee for the Rockefeller Team).
Correspondence is arranged chronologically. This series has been scanned in its entirety, except for Louise Nevelson's correspondence with her son Mike, which is sealed.

Series 3: Subject Files, 1955-1971, 1977-1978
(Box 3; 0.7 linear feet)

Series consists of files of clippings, newsletters, correspondence, notes, announcements, programs, receipts, loan agreements and receipts, and other material, organized according to subject (name of organization or person, place, activity, format). Files relate to Nevelson's activities with various professional and arts-related organizations (such as Artists Equity Association); her participation in various workshops, panels, and conferences (including Meet the Artists course at New York University and the Tamarind Lithography Workshop); the exhibition of her work in other countries, and in museums and galleries, such as The Museum of Modern Art and Wadsworth Atheneum; the handling of certain business matters (including dealings with the gallery owner, Daniel Cordier, restoration of the Nevelson sculpture owned by Nelson Rockefeller that was damaged by fire, and various photograph orders), usually conducted by Nevelson's assistant, Tom Kendall, on her behalf. Files of biographical information and notes also relate to some of Nevelson's activities in publicizing her art work.
It is not clear whether the subject organization of the files originates with Nevelson (or one her associates) or with Archives staff. The existing organization has for the most part been maintained. Files are arranged alphabetically. Related material can be found amongst the business records and printed material. While most of this material has been scanned, duplicates and some printed material has not.

Series 4: Business Records, 1946-1954, 1958-1962
(Boxes 3-5; 1.8 linear feet)

Series consists of files stemming from Nevelson's business dealings with the Martha Jackson Gallery (her primary representative from 1958 to 1962) and other business matters, usually carried out by her assistant, Tom Kendall, on her behalf. Files include consignment receipts, statements, memos, correspondence, notes, inventories, disposition cards, notebooks, lists, and dummy pages for a Nevelson book (compiled from the text of an interview by Tal Streeter and photographs of Nevelson) that was never completed. Also included are scattered note cards and drawings kept by Nevelson, documenting certain early works and their disposition.
The bulk of the files seem to relate to the large project of inventorying Nevelson's art work, including black wood constructions, white works, bronzes, etchings, and drawings, which was most likely carried out by Nevelson's assistant and gallery staff sometime in the early-1960s. Some inventories provide basic information about art works (including title, dates, dimensions, and so on). More detailed inventories, along with the lists, disposition cards, and notebooks which seem to have been used in compiling them, provide further information about the previous and/or current location, ownership, and disposition of art works. Some photographs and sketches of art work can be found on the disposition cards. Other files relate to the pricing, sale, and exhibition of Nevelson's art work.
Files are arranged by format in rough chronological order. Related material can be found amongst the subject files. This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Series 5: Writings, 1936-1970s
(Box 5; 0.1 linear feet)

Series consists of writings by Nevelson, which shed light on different aspects of her creativity and on her ideas about art in general and her work in particular. Included are a journal of sorts in which she recorded her dreams for a two-month time period (from April 21 to June 21) in 1936; various poems and fragments of writings; various writings on art, including titled pieces, such as "The Birth of Painting (Picture Happy)" and "The Winged City," drafts of speeches on the artist Rose Newman-Wolinska and on sculpture, an article on sculpture for the
Christian Science Monitor
; statements which seem to have been written for
The Whitney Review
(1961-1962); and salutes to others, including a poem for Dorothy Dehner which appeared in an exhibition catalog for one of her shows and the draft of a short piece (possibly a speech) in honor of Merce Cunningham.
Writings are arranged in rough chronological order. This series has been scanned in its entirety.

Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1935-1970
(Boxes 5, 18-19, OV 22-27; 1.3 linear feet)

Series consists of scrapbooks kept by Nevelson (or by someone on her behalf), documenting her early career roughly spanning from the 1930s to the mid-1950s. Also included are a scrapbook of sorts on Mike Nevelson, as well as various scrapbooks compiled by others and then presented to Nevelson as a memento of a particular event involving the artist, such as being awarded the Distinguished Service Award from State University College at Buffalo and an exhibition at the Galerie Jeanne Bucher in Paris.
A lot of the material is duplicated in the different scrapbooks kept by Nevelson. Much of the same and related material can be found amongst printed material.
Scrapbooks are arranged in rough chronological order. Many were removed from their original bindings at some previous time. Loose clippings and photographs of art work that were originally in scrapbooks, and were likewise removed at some previous time, are arranged in files at the end of the series. More detailed descriptions for certain scrapbooks are provided below. The bulk of this series has been scanned, except for duplicates, photographs of works of art, and some newsclippings. In some cases, only the cover and title pages have been scanned for published items.

Series 7: Books and Printed Material, 1916, 1930s-1979
(Boxes 6-13, 19, OV 28; 8 linear feet)

Series consists of books and printed material collected by Nevelson and/or her assistants, documenting her various professional and artistic achievements throughout her career, her critical and commercial success, and her role as a personality and minor celebrity in the mass media late in her career. Books include ones given as gifts to Nevelson by friends or admirers and ones about or featuring segments on Nevelson. Printed material includes clippings from magazines and newspapers of reviews, articles, and routine listings of Nevelson's exhibits, as well as some publications featuring the same; exhibition catalogs, announcements, and invitations for Nevelson's group and solo shows, as well as some for the shows of others; and press releases, newsletters, bulletins, announcements, calendars of events, catalogs, programs and other printed material relating or referring to Nevelson or merely featuring her name in print. The extent of this material is suggestive of Nevelson's concern and effort to document and keep a record of her accomplishments.
Printed material is arranged in rough chronological order according to type. Some material is arranged in files according to subject at the end of the series. Books, clippings, and other voluminous amounts of printed materials were not scanned. Nevelson's exhibition catalogs were scanned.

Series 8: Art Work, 1905-1929
(Boxes 13, 20; 0.3 linear feet)

Series consists of some of Nevelson's early art work. Included are drawings she made as a child and adolescent; watercolor copies of Old Master paintings (including a slightly changed version of the Mona Lisa), watercolor landscapes, and drawings of period furniture created while she was taking art classes in high school; and various watercolors created while she was studying art in the 1920s. Art work found here documents Nevelson's artistic tendencies as a youth and her early development as an artist, and provides an interesting contrast to the later work for which she became famous. Also included are four printing plates mounted on wood blocks, presumably used in making relief prints of certain Nevelson sculptures.
Art work is arranged in chronological order according to type. This series has been scanned in its entirety, except for printing plates.

Series 9: Photographs, circa 1903-1979
(Boxes 14-15, 20, OV 29; 2.3 linear feet)

Series consists of photographs of Nevelson, her family, and her art work.
The Photographs series is arranged into five subseries:
9.1: Family and Personal, circa 1903-1930s
9.2: Artist, circa 1955-1979
9.3: Exhibitions and Installations, 1959-1979
9.4: Art Work, 1940s-1970s
9.5: Slides, 1950s-1970s
This series has been scanned in its entirety, except for negatives, photographs of art work, and slides.

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.