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National Arts Club records, 1898-1960

National Arts Club records, 1898-1960

National Arts Club (New York, N.Y.)

Collection Information

Size: 32.25 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

National Arts Club (founded 1898) was founded by Charles de Kay for purposes of providing exhibition space for types of art not otherwise adequately shown in New York City, publishing and circulating news about the arts, and promoting social relations between artists and art lovers. The Club's focus includes performing and creative arts, as well as the visual arts. The Clubhouse on Gramercy Park, once the mansion of Samuel Tilden, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976; it provides studio space and living quarters for some members, accomodations for visitors, and meeting and office space for organizations with compatible interests.

Provenance

The National Arts Club donated its records to the Archives of American Art in 1987. Although a limited amount of printed matter was available at various libraries and on microfilm through the Archives of American Art, scholars have not had access to unpublished records of the Club until this time.

Scope and Contents

Records of the National Arts Club, spanning the period 1898 to 1960, document the founding of the organization, and its governance, administration, finances, exhibitions, and social activities. There are large gaps in the records and many of those surviving are incomplete, which can be explained by a 1932 resolution of the Board of Governors that "old files and letters and bills in the storeroom prior to 1922 may be destroyed at the discretion of the Secretary and Treasurer."

Minutes and reports of the Board of Governors and Executive Committee are fairly complete through 1949, but sparse thereafter. Records do not exist for all standing and special committees, and those remaining tend to be concentrated in the early twentieth century.

Correspondence of the officers, for the most part, is routine and relates to administrative matters. Financial records cover the period 1917 to 1950, with a large number of gaps.

A small number of records of the Arts Realty Co. (later known as 15 Gramercy Park, Inc.) are extant. These include lists of stockholders, correspondence concerning mortgage bonds, and minutes.

Membership records, arranged alphabetically, are available for the years 1931 to 1959, and there are rosters arranged by membership category, 1940-1952; in addition, printed membership lists were issued circa 1900-1951.

More than four hundred exhibitions are known to have been held in the galleries of the National Arts Club between 1899 and 1960. Catalogs for 124 National Arts Club exhibitions are available at the Archives of American Art; 69 titles are to be found among the Club's records and an additional 55 were microfilmed previously as parts of other collections. Other exhibition documentation includes printed matter such as invitations, entry blanks, publicity, and photographs (see Appendix A). For some exhibitions, supporting documentation such as correspondence with exhibitors and collectors, sales and consignment records, and shipping receipts have survived. These files are mainly confined to Books of the Year exhibitions, Arts and Crafts/Decorative Arts exhibitions, and a smaller number of exhibitions of Living American Etchers, 1928-1957.

General social events, activities sponsored by Arts Club committees, and special commemorative occasions are documented by invitations, programs, publicity, calendars of events, and photographs. The majority of this material is contained in seventeen scrapbooks, 1898-1940. Programs of the Men's Open Table, 1915-1950, are particularly well documented by the Chairman's correspondence and three volumes containing meeting notices with signatures of members in attendance.

In addition to printed matter relating to exhibitions and events, scrapbooks, 1898-1940, contain general publicity, clippings concerning members, and samples of National Arts Club printed matter such as form letters to the general membership, brochures, ballots, house rules, published membership lists, year books, and the like. Loose printed matter augments that preserved in the scrapbooks. These sources combined provide a fairly complete set of the Bulletin, but the number of year books is small, and there are catalogs of only slightly more than a third of the exhibitions identified.

Photographs, in addition to those recording exhibitions and events, include portraits of governors, officers, distinguished visitors, speakers, and performers; views of Gramercy Park and the interior and exterior of the clubhouse; and works of art in the permanent collection.

Miscellaneous material includes information on the National Arts Club's first home on West 34th Street, and the Tilden Mansion, its current clubhouse on Gramercy Park; histories of the organization; unpublished speeches presented at Club occasions; and copies of legal documents, including the Club's charter and act of incorporation.

The bulk of the collection is available on microfilm reels 4237-4269. The microfilm is available for interlibrary loan.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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