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Moses Soyer papers, circa 1905-1974

Moses Soyer papers, circa 1905-1974

Soyer, Moses, 1899-1974

Painter, Lithographer

Representative image for Moses Soyer papers, circa 1905-1974

The papers of Moses Soyer in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2009. The bulk of the papers have been scanned, and total 5,741 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 3.8 linear feet

Summary: The papers of realist painter Moses Soyer date from circa 1905 to 1974 and measure 3.8 linear feet. Within the papers are scattered biographical materials, general correspondence with friends, artists, galleries, art organizations, and others, as well as correspondence with his family, including his son David, writings and notes by Soyer and others, exhibition materials, news clippings, and other printed material, numerous photographs of Soyer, his family, fellow artists, friends and his artwork. Also found are book illustrations and loose sketches by Soyer.

Biographical/Historical Note

Moses Soyer (1899-1974) was a painter from New York, N.Y. Noted for social realism.

Provenance

Portions of this collection were donated by Moses Soyer between 1966 and 1969, including some materials which he previously loaned for microfiliming in 1965. Additional material was donated by his son David Soyer in 1974 and 1975.

Related Materials

Funding

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

A Finding Aid to the Moses Soyer Papers,
circa 1905-1974
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.soyemose
Author
Finding aid prepared by Erin Corley
Biographical Note
Moses Soyer (1899-1974) and his twin brother Raphael (1899-1987) were born on December 25, 1899, in the Russian town Borisoglebsk. Their father Abraham was a scholar and Hebrew teacher who encouraged all of his children to sketch and paint. After the family was deported from Russia, they settled in the Bronx, New York, in 1912. Moses and Raphael briefly attended school, but at 16 they began working various jobs to help support their family. They also began taking free art classes at Cooper Union and for a brief time at the National Academy of Design. Moses then enrolled at the Educational Alliance Art School where he met close friend Chaim Gross. He participated in his first exhibition in 1923 and also taught classes at the Education Alliance Art School until 1926 when he received a traveling scholarship to Europe.
Before leaving for Europe, Soyer married Ida, a former student and dancer. They spent most of their time during the next two years in France. Their son David was born in 1928. Shortly after his birth they returned to the New York City where Moses found greater inspiration for his social-realist paintings. During the Depression, he was commissioned to do artwork for the WPA and for the Federal Arts Project, depicting people doing everyday tasks. During this time Soyer also taught classes at the Contemporary Art School and the New School for Social Research.
Throughout the 1940s and 1950s Soyer continued with this subject matter, even as the abstract art movement became more prominent. Speaking out against abstract art as well as regionalism, he exhibited his work constantly, becoming a significant figure in the social realist movement. His work was represented by the American Contemporary Art (ACA) Gallery beginning in 1944, and he was also a member of several art organizations, including the Artists Equity Association. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1963 and to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1966. Soyer's later work focused on more sensitive portrayals of the female figure, especially dancers. He also painted portraits, including many of his artist friends such as Chaim Gross, Joseph Stella, and David Burliuk. He illustrated several books, including the
First Book of Ballet
and wrote
Painting the Human Figure
, which was published in 1964. Soyer continued to paint until his death in 1974.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 6 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1925-1974 (Box 1, 5, OV 6; 12 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1928-1974 (Box 1-2, 5; 1.0 linear foot)
Series 3: Writings & Notes, circa 1930s-1968, undated (Box 2; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1926-1974 (Box 2-3, 5, OV 6; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1905-1974 (Box 3-5, OV 6; 1.1 linear foot)
Series 6: Artwork, circa 1940s-1960s (Box 4-5; 0.2 linear feet)
Scope and Content Note
The papers of realist painter Moses Soyer date from circa 1905 to 1974 and measure 3.8 linear feet. Within the papers are scattered biographical materials, general correspondence with friends, artists, galleries, art organizations, and others, as well as correspondence with his family, including his son David, writings and notes by Soyer and others, exhibition materials, news clippings, and other printed material, numerous photographs of Soyer, his family, fellow artists, friends and his artwork. Also found are book illustrations and loose sketches by Soyer.
Biographical materials include awards, business documents such as records for the loan of his artwork, passports, his marriage certificate, and other official documents. Soyer's 1966 membership to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and several awards from the National Academy of Design are found here as well. Correspondence is with friends and artists such as Leonard Baskin, Isabel Bishop, Alex Dobkin, Philip Evergood, Chaim Gross, and his brother Raphael Soyer, as well as with students, galleries, art organizations, museums, universities, and others. Also found is correspondence with his son David and his grandchildren that include many letters illustrated by Soyer.
Writings and notes include Soyer's draft writings for his book
Painting the Human Figure
, autobiographical essays, desk diaries, and miscellaneous writings and notes. There are also writings by Ida and David Soyer, artist Philip Evergood, and others. Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs and announcements, news clippings about Soyer's career and realist painting, and scattered material such as newsletters, programs, and magazines.
The papers contain numerous photographs of Soyer, including photographs of him working in his studio, with models, with family, and with fellow artists such as David Burliuk, Nicolai Cikovsky, Chaim Gross, Raphael Soyer, and many others. Additional photographs are of Soyer's family, fellow artists, friends, events, and his artwork. Among the photographers is Arnold Newman. Original artwork includes book illustrations for
First Book of Ballet
and loose sketches by Soyer.
Provenance
Portions of this collection were donated by Moses Soyer between 1966 and 1969, including some materials which he previously loaned for microfiliming in 1965. Additional material was donated by his son David Soyer in 1974 and 1975.
Related Material
Also found at the Archives of American Art are the Abe Lerner papers concerning the book
Moses Soyer
, 1961-1970, a Moses Soyer letter to Herbert S. Schimmel, and a Moses Soyer letter and two photographs, donated by Marilyn Mark. Also available at the Archives are the papers of Raphael Soyer, Moses Soyer's twin brother.
Processing Information
The collection was microfilmed in the order in which it was received on reels D283, D359, and 1198-1203. The entire collection was merged, fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2007 and scanned in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

This collection has been scanned in its entirety and is available online via AAA's website.

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

Moses Soyer papers, circa 1905-1974. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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