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Ruth Bowman papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999

Ruth Bowman papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999

Bowman, Ruth, 1923-

Curator, Art historian

Collection Information

Size: 21.1 linear feet

Summary: The papers of art historian and museum educator Ruth Bowman are dated 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999, and measure 21.1 linear feet. Professional correspondence and subject files document Bowman's relationships with colleagues and reflect her interests, activities including curatorial work, and accomplishments as a museum educator. Writing and related research materials include her thesis, "Thomas Pollock Anshutz, 1851-1912" (M.A., Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, 1971), and unfinished projects. Also found are interviews conducted by Bowman with a wide range of individuals for a variety of purposes.

Biographical materials consist of certificates, resumes, and a few photographs of Ruth Bowman. Correspondence concerns Bowman's professional activities and interests. Among the most frequent correspondents are: American Association of Museums, Craft and Folk Art Museum (Los Angeles), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art.

Writings by Ruth Bowman, published and unpublished, include a thesis and articles about Thomas Pollock Anshutz, catalogs for American Federation of Arts and The Newark Museum exhibitions, lectures, as well as articles about museum education and visual arts programs. Research relates to her writings about Anshutz, and to unrealized projects concerning Anshutz, Cézanne, Eakins, Picasso, and other subjects. Also found are two brief writings about Bowman.

Subject files - general subjects, artists' files, Ruth Bowman activities, and "Sunrise Semester" - contain the majority of Bowman's professional correspondence along with printed material, writings, photographs, and sound recordings. Among the most thoroughly documented general subjects are: The Brooklyn Museum's Trustees Retreat, Canadian Museums Association, a 1981 Craft Symposium, International Network for the Arts, Long Beach Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Museum Directors' Forum", New York University Art Collection, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Council for the Arts. Artists' files are comprised mainly of printed material with a small amount of correspondence and some photographs. The Les Levine file consists of the first issue of Art-Rite featuring a brief article about Levine on its cover; Thomas Wilfred's file includes information about Lumia. Ruth Bowman activities include lectures, radio and television appearances, and participation in professional events. "Sunrise Semester," a collaboration between CBS television and New York University, offered early morning courses for college credit. Ruth Bowman was the instructor for "20th Century American Art," which is documented by general information, scripts, and sound recordings of all 46 classes.

Interviews conducted by Bowman are with English museum administrators and educators; people knowledgeable about a controversial proposal for an Annenberg Fine Arts Center at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; guests on KUSC radio shows "Sounds of Seeing" and "Live from Trump's"; and guests on the WNYC radio program "Views on Art." Interviews with miscellaneous individuals include Josef Albers, Hans Burkhardt, Carl Holty, Isamu Noguchi, and Helen Farr Sloan. Bowman interviewed a dozen American abstract artists - Ilya Bolotowsky, Rosalind Bengelsdorf Browne, Burgoyne Diller, John Ferren, Carl Holty, Harry Holtzman, Ibram Lassaw, Jacques Lipchitz, Alice Mason, George McNeil, George L. K. Morris, and Ad Reinhardt - for a thesis on the subject, but eventually wrote on a different topic. Two interviews with Bowman were conducted by Duncan MacDonald and an unidentified interviewer.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ruth Bowman (1923- ) is an art historian and museum educator who worked in New York City and Los Angeles.


Donated by Ruth Bowman in 2004.

A Finding Aid to the Ruth Bowman Papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Ruth Bowman (b. 1923) is an art historian and museum educator who worked in New York City and Los Angeles. She is known for her interest in using new communications technology for museum education, discovering Arshile Gorky's long forgotten murals at Newark Airport, and expertise in the work of Thomas Anshutz.
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College (B.A. 1944), where she had studied art history and classical archaeology, Ruth Bowman began a museum career in New York as an assistant curator at the Jewish Museum in the early 1960s. From 1963-1974 Ruth Bowman served as curator of the York University Art Collection and was involved in its transition to the Grey Art Gallery and Study Center. Bowman wrote her master's thesis on Philadelphia artist Thomas Pollock Anshutz and received a degree from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University in 1971. During this same period, she was a staff lecturer at The Museum of Modern Art and taught art history in divisions of New York University. She was the instructor for a "Sunrise Semester" 20th century American art course broadcast nationally on CBS.
In 1974 Bowman and her family moved to California and she began an association with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Director of Education. She attended summer courses in arts administration at Harvard University (1975) and similar training provided by the British Arts Council (1976). She taught at University of California Santa Barbara, as well as at California State University at Fullerton and Long Beach. Bowman was active in the Council of the American Association of Museums (vice president), the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles (vice president), and has served as a consultant to several museums and a corporate collection.
Ruth Bowman with her friend Harry Kahn (1916-1999) developed a collection of self-portraits by 20th century American artists, which she donated to the National Portrait Gallery in 2002. Mrs. Bowman is the widow of R. Wallace Bowman and currently resides in New York City.
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged as 5 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1964-1984 (Box 1; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1963-1996 (Box 1; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings and Related Research, 1942-1999 (Boxes 1-3; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Subject Files, 1936-2006 (Boxes 3-12, 26; 9.6 linear feet)
Series 5: Interviews, 1963-1989 (Boxes 12-25; 9.2 linear feet)
Donated by Ruth Bowman in 2004.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared in 2013 by Catherine S. Gaines.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

Restrictions on Use

Research material including correspondence, writings and notes, photographs, and printed material on Cezanne, Thomas Eakins, and Picasso: Authorization to publish, quote or reproduce must be obtained from: Ruth Bowman, 200 East 66th Street, Apt. B-2101, New York, NY 10021.

How to Cite This Collection

Ruth Bowman papers, 1936-2006, bulk 1963-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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