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Martin Birnbaum papers, 1862-1967

Martin Birnbaum papers, 1862-1967

Birnbaum, Martin, 1878-1970

Collector, Dealer

Collection Information

Size: 3.2 linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York art dealer, critic, and author Martin Birnbaum measure 3.2 linear feet and date from 1862-1967, with the bulk of the material dating from 1920-1967. The papers document Birnbaum's association with the firm of Scott and Fowles, the lives and activities of his friends and colleagues, and his literary work, through biographical material, correspondence, writings and notes, business records, printed material, a scrapbook, scattered artwork, and photographs of Birnbaum, friends and colleagues, and artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

New York art dealer, critic, and author Martin Birnbaum (1878-1970) was the manager of the American branch of the Berlin Photographic Company in New York City from 1910-1916, and a longtime partner in the art firm Scott and Fowles.

Provenance

The collection was donated in an anonymous gift in 1970 and by Martin Birnbaum's great-nephew, Jerome Ziegler, in 1975.

Location of Originals

  • REELS N698-N698A, N698B: Originals returned to lender, Martin Birnbaum, after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the Martin Birnbaum Papers, 1862-1967, bulk 1920-1967, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.birnmart
Author
Finding aid prepared by Stephanie L. Ashley
Biographical/Historical note
New York art dealer, critic, and author Martin Birmbaum (1878-1970) was the manager of the American branch of the Berlin Photographic Company in New York City from 1910–1916, and a longtime partner in the art firm Scott & Fowles. He spent the later part of his career building the Grenville Lindall Winthrop Collection, now at the Fogg Museum.
Birnbaum immigrated to the United States from Hungary as a child. He was an accomplished violinist who studied at City College of New York, and graduated with a law degree from Columbia University in 1901, but developed a life-long interest in art during visits to Europe. As manager of the Berlin Photographic Company he had great success in staging art exhibitions at the company's New York galleries, which led him to a junior partnership in the Fifth Avenue firm of art dealers, Scott & Fowles. Birnbaum traveled widely and built relationships with many of the prominent artists and art collectors of his day and, in addition to the Grenville Lindall Winthrop collection, was influential in developing other important art collections including those of Edward Davis, Reginald Davis, and Henry P. McIlhenny.
Birnbaum wrote widely about his experiences and encounters in the world of wealthy socialites, literary salons, artists, art patrons, and collectors in publications such as
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley
(Berlin Photographic Co., 1911),
Oscar Wilde: Fragments and Memories
(J.F. Drake, Incorporated, 1914) ,
Vanishing Eden:Wanderings in the Tropics
(New York: William E. Rudge's Sons, 1942),
Angkor and the Mandarin Road
(Vantage Press, 1952), and
The Last Romantic
(Twayne Publishers, 1961). He died in 1970 at the age of 92.
Arrangement note
Collection is arranged as 8 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1890-1950s (0.3 linear feet; Box 1, OVs 4-5)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1862-1967 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1890-circa 1960 (0.45 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 4: Business Records, 1918-1967 (0.15 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1895-circa 1960 (0.15 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 6: Scrapbook, 1960-1961 (1 folder; Box 3)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1890-circa 1960 (0.15 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 8: Photographs, circa 1900-circa 1960s (0.3 linear feet; Box 3)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of New York art dealer, critic, and author Martin Birnbaum measure 3.2 linear feet and date from 1862-1967, with the bulk of the material dating from 1920-1967. The papers document Birnbaum's association with the firm of Scott & Fowles, the lives and activities of his friends and colleagues, and his literary work, through biographical material, correspondence, writings and notes, business records, printed material, a scrapbook, scattered artwork, and photographs of Birnbaum, friends and colleagues, and artwork.
Correspondence, primarily letters received by Birnbaum in New York, and throughout Europe from 1917-1960s, reflects Birnbaum's association with Scott & Fowles, particularly Stevenson Scott, and includes many details about the lives and activities of his correspondents, among them: artists Edward Bruce, Cecilia Beaux, Beniamino Bufano, Stephen C. Clark, Louise Dillingham, William Hunt Diedrich, Luis Fernandez, Herbert Haseltine, Jan Hoowij, Malvina Hoffman, Leonebel Jacobs, Lenard Kester, Lois Mailou Jones, Paul Manship, Gari Melchers, Maxfield Parrish, Charles S. Ricketts, William Rothenstein, John Singer Sargent, Janet Scudder, Carl Sprinchorn, Maurice Sterne, Albert Sterner, Carl N. Wertz, and Stanley Wilson. Also found is correspondence with art collectors and patrons including Mabel Choate, Edmund Davis, Reginald Davis, Henry P. McIlhenny, James Parmalee, Edith Wetmore, and Grenville Windall Linthrop, and museums including the Fogg Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then curator Gisela Marie Augusta Richter, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Correspondence with scholars, writers, and publishers including George Coedes, Edmund Dulac, Joseph Francis Charles Rock, Upton Sinclair and others, documents aspects of Birnbaum's literary and scholarly work.
Writings include drafts of
The Last Romantic
, including Upton Sinclair's revision, and some of Birnbaum's early published and unpublished writings, as well as notes on Aubrey Beardsley.
Business records include financial records such as bills, receipts, canceled checks and statements for sales of artwork, and scattered legal records.
A small amount of printed material primarily consists of programs for musical events which evidence Birnbaum's early success as a violinist, as well as scattered news clippings, 2 exhibition catalogs, and announcements for the publications of
Angkor and the Mandarin Road
and
The Last Romantic
. Additional printed material about Birnbaum can be found in the dismantled scrapbook, 1960-1961.
Artwork includes 2 etchings and a sketch by Birnbaum, bookplates by various artists, circa 10 sketches by other and unidentified artists, and 3 cards with original artwork.
Photographs include snapshots and portraits of Birnbaum and artists and friends, among them: Robert Chanler, Charles Despiau, Norman Douglas, Luis Fernandez, Herbert Haseltine, Augustus John, Paul Manship, Gari Melchers, Elie Nadelman, Albert Sterner, Stevenson Scott, and Grenville Lindall Winthrop. Also found is a photo of Birnbaum with Edward Bruce, Alfred Potterton, Leon Stein, and Maurice Sterne, circa 1915-1916, and photographs proposed for use in
The Last Romantic
, travel snapshots, and photos of artwork.
Provenance
The collection was donated in an anonymous gift in 1970 and by Martin Birnbaum's great-nephew, Jerome Ziegler, in 1975.
Location of Originals
  • REELS N698-N698A, N698B: Originals returned to lender, Martin Birnbaum, after microfilming.
Processing Information note
Portions of the collection were loaned and microfilmed prior to receipt. The entire collection was arranged and a finding aid written by Stephanie Ashley in 2016 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reels N698, N698a, N698b, 108, and 1023-1027 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

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. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

How to Cite This Collection

Martin Birnbaum papers, 1862-1967. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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