Skip to main content

Max Bohm papers, 1873-1970, bulk 1880-1959

Max Bohm papers, 1873-1970, bulk 1880-1959

Bohm, Max, 1868-1923


Collection Information

Size: 5.6 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Max Bohm measure 5.4 linear feet and date from 1873-1970, with the bulk of the material dating from 1880-1959. Biographical material includes a file concerning the Provincetown artist's club The Beachcombers. Also found within the papers is detailed family correspondence, as well as general correspondence that includes exchanges with patron Mary Bucher Longyear and dealer William Macbeth. Also found are scattered business records; five diaries written by Bohm's wife Zella; other notes and writings; art work including sketchbooks, loose drawings, and oil paintings; printed material; and photographs of Bohm, his family, and colleagues including artists attending a Salmagundi dinner. There is also a motion picture film, "Six Foot Art, in Which Max Bohm, Member of the National Academy Tells How He Does It."

Family correspondence consists of letters exchanged between various Bohm family members during their long periods of separation. Decades of almost daily exchanges of letters offer detailed descriptions of Bohm's activities in pursuit of notoriety as an artist including his frequent travels in Europe and the United States, attendance of art-related and other cultural events, and his thoughts about art, philosophy, and his strong opposition to German aggression in World War I. The often affectionate letters from Bohm's wife Zella describe her concerns over finances and raising the children during Bohm's frequent absences, but also include descriptions of their summers in coastal France.

General correspondence consists of scattered letters discussing art-related business with colleagues including Bohm's longtime patron and Christian Science advocate, Mary Bucher Longyear, and Macbeth Gallery owners Robert and William Macbeth. Scattered business records include price lists for art work, banking records, and miscellaneous receipts.

Five diaries and loose diary pages written by Bohm's wife Zella contain detailed descriptions of daily activities and her observations and thoughts, some drawings, notes, and financial notations. Some of the diaries contain annotations by her daughter, Esther.

Notes and writings include notebooks containing original short stories and miscellaneous sketches by Bohm, lists of art work, miscellaneous notes including several written by Esther Bohm, and miscellaneous writings by and about Bohm including his typescript "An Artist's Philosophy."

Art work consists of fifteen sketchbooks, miscellaneous drawings including a self-portrait, and oil paintings on board and on unstretched canvases including Bohm's studies of works by Titian and Van Dyke, and a painting of a young Esther Bohm looking at the sea. Works by others include a batik design on silk by Zella Bohm, a watercolor by Bohm's aunt, Anna Stuhr Weitz, and an oil portrait of Zella by her granddaughter.

Printed material primarily consists of clippings generated by Bohm's participation in the Paris Salons, in addition to several exhibition announcements and catalogs for Bohm and for others, and reproductions of art work by Bohm and others. The silent, black and white 16mm motion picture film Six Foot Art, in Which Max Bohm, Member of the National Academy Tells How He Does It shows Max Bohm describing his method of preparing mentally and physically to create a painting. There is also a 35mm (negative) copy of this film.

Photographs are of Bohm and his family, colleagues including Clyde du Vernet Hunt in his studio and a Salmagundi Club "Get Together" dinner, views of the town of Etaples, France, and of works of art by Bohm and others.

Biographical/Historical Note

Max Bohm (1868-1923) was a painter in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Max Bohm was born on January 21, 1868, in Cleveland, Ohio. He began his study of art in 1887 and studied in artist communities in Brittany and in Paris at the Academie Julian with Boulanger, Lefebvre, and Benjamin Constant. He and his family spent the next several decades moving between France, England, and various places in the U.S. Eventually, they settled in Bronxville, N.Y. and had a cottage in Provincetown, Massachussets, where Bohm died on September 19, 1923.


The Max Bohm papers were donated in two installments in 1972 by Esther Locke and Elizabeth Schwarz, the artist's daughters.

Related Materials

Location of Originals

  • Reels 420-421: Originals returned to Kathryn Locke after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the Max Bohm Papers,
bulk 1880-1959
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Max Bohm was born on January 21, 1868, in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Henry and Emilie Bohm.
Bohm began his study of art in 1887 when he accompanied his aunt, Anna Stuhr, on the first of several voyages to France. He studied in artist communities in Brittany and in Paris at the Académie Julian with Boulanger, Lefebvre, and Benjamin Constant. He also traveled to Belgium, The Netherlands, and Germany.
In 1895, Bohm attended an open school of painting in Etaples on the coast of France, and during the winter months he taught painting at a school in London, England. His painting
En Mer
was awarded the Gold Medal by the Paris Salon of 1897.
While teaching in Etaples in 1898, Bohm married one of his pupils, Zella Newcomb, an art teacher from Carlton College in Minnesota. In 1900, the Bohms traveled to Italy for several months before returning to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Bohm established a studio. After trying to find affordable studio and living space in New York City, Bohm moved his family back to France in 1902. Bohm established a studio in Paris for two years and during the summer months his wife and children moved to the less expensive and cooler coastal towns of France. Bohm continued to display his work in the annual Paris Salons.
From 1905 until the summer of 1908, the Bohm family lived primarily in England. In 1909, Bohm entered and won the Cleveland Court House mural competition, prompting the family to return to the United States for several months. They returned to Paris the following year, where Bohm established a studio and worked on the Cleveland Court House mural. Again, Bohm's wife and children would live in French coastal towns, while Bohm was on extended visits to Paris, London, or the United States.
Sometime around 1911, Bohm became acquainted with Mrs. Mary Bucher Longyear, a wealthy follower of Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science. Over the next decade, Mrs. Longyear commissioned many works by Bohm and supported his career. In May of 1912 Bohm's mural,
First New England Town Meeting
, was installed in the new Cleveland Court House and arrangements were made with Macbeth Galleries to exhibit Bohm's work. Late in 1913, Bohm became involved with the Pan-Pacific International Exposition where his painting
won the Gold Medal in 1915.
During World War I, the Bohm family fled France and temporarily settled in Tuckahoe, New York, and Bohm made frequent visits to his patron, Mrs. Longyear, in Boston. In 1916, the Knoedler Gallery exhibited Bohm's murals for Mrs. Longyear's music room. Also during this time, the family enjoyed spending summers in Provincetown, where Bohm joined The Beachcombers, an organization of artists.
In 1919, the Bohms built a house in Bronxville, New York, for easy access to New York City, while simultaneously purchasing a cottage in Provincetown. While the house was being constructed, Zella and the children became boarders in the home of painter Spencer Nichols, who also lived in Bronxville. During this year, Max Bohm, Jr., entered Harvard University while Mrs. Longyear continued to provide commissions for Max Bohm's art work.
Between 1922 and 1923, Bohm had exhibitions in Greenwich, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and at the Grand Central Galleries, with his painting
En Mer
being exhibited at the National Academy of Design.
Max Bohm died on September 19, 1923 in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The papers have been organized into 9 series. Each series is arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1898-1970 (Box 1, OV 8; 7 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1880-1955 (Boxes 1-4, 7; 3.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Business Records, 1910-1933 (Box 4; 13 folders)
Series 4: Diaries, 1887-1916 (Box 1; 8 folders)
Series 5: Notes and Writings, 1882-1945 (Boxes 4, 7; 11 folders)
Series 6: Art Work, 1873-1951 (Boxes 4-5, 7, OVs 9-10; 31 folders)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1886-1957 (Boxes 5-6; 30 folders)
Series 8: Photographs, 1886-1959 (Boxes 6-7; 7 folders)
Series 9: Motion Picture Film, 1923 (Box 6; 1 folder)
The Max Bohm papers were donated in two installments in 1972 by Esther Locke and Elizabeth Schwarz, the artist's daughters.
Location of Originals
  • Reels 420-421: Originals returned to Kathryn Locke after microfilming.
Processing Information
The Max Bohm papers were processed in March 2008 by Jean Fitzgerald.

Additional Forms Available

The collection is also available on microfilm reels 420 and 421at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. The current arrangement of the papers may not match the arrangement on microfilm.

Restrictions on Access


How to Cite This Collection

Max Bohm papers, 1873-1970, bulk 1880-1959. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available