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Nathan Halper business records, 1952-1979

Biographical Note

Nathan Halper (1907-1983) worked in Provincetown, Massachusetts as a contemporary American art dealer, writer, and James Joyce scholar.
Nathan Halper first moved to Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1936 where he met and eventually married his wife, Helen Marjorie Windust Halper. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, their circle of friends included artists, writers, and academics drawn to the Provincetown art colony. Through friendships with Adolph Gottlieb and Fritz Bultman, Halper was introduced to Hans Hofmann, his students, and other abstract expressionist artists.
In 1949, Halper was invited to give a talk on James Joyce at Forum 49, a Provincetown summer lecture series on the future of art organized by Weldon Kees and held in a gallery at 200 Commercial Street. Speakers ranged from Jackson Pollock to poet laureate Howard Nemerov, and the series also presented one of the first major exhibitions of abstract expressionism in America. In 1952, Halper became the treasurer of the Provincetown Art Association (est. 1914), an influential social nexus that connected artists, galleries, patrons, and the public through memberships and annual events.
In 1953, he entered into a partnership with New York art dealer Sam Kootz and helped establish the Kootz Gallery in Provincetown. Their stable initially consisted of abstract expressionists Kootz represented in New York: Robert Motherwell, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Fritz Bultman, and William Baziotes. Halper and Kootz mutually agreed to dissolve their partnership in 1954 and Halper opened the H-C Gallery with John Murray Cuddihy in 1955. After Cuddihy's departure at the end of the 1956 season, Halper opened the HCE Gallery (1957-1967), a name inspired by Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. In 1962, Halper entered into a one year partnership with Noah Goldowsky to help finance and run the Sun Gallery.
After the dissolution of the Kootz Gallery, Halper continued to represent Motherwell and, for a short time, Gottlieb in the Provincetown area, but quickly added other artists to the HCE stable. Through its relationship with New York dealers, such as Martha Jackson Gallery, Andre Emmerich Gallery, and Waddington Galleries, HCE was able to exhibit and sell works by Milton Avery, Gandy Brodie, Anthony Caro, Edwin Dickinson, Marsden Hartley, Hans Hoffman, Wolf Kahn, William King, Jan Muller, Elie Nadelman, David Smith, Richard Stankiewicz, Tal Streeter, and Anthony Vevers, among others.