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Samuel Putnam Avery papers, 1857-1902

Avery, Samuel Putnam, 1822-1904

Dealer, Engraver, Art patron


Collection Information

Size: 800 Items, (on 3 microfilm reels)

Summary: Correspondence, including letters, calling cards and sketches from American and European artists, among them Albert F. Bellows, Eugene Benson, Edwin H. Blashfield, Rosa Bonheur, Adolph W. Bouguereau, Samuel Colman, Clarence Cook, Jasper F. Cropsey, F. O. C.Darley, Charles F. Daubigny, John Du rand, Sanford R. Gifford, E. D. E. Greene, Augustus Hoppin, Victor Hugo, John La Farge, Jules Lefebvre, Jervis McEntee, Charles H. Moore, William S. Mount, Thomas A. Richards, Launt Thompson, Henry T. Tuckerman, and James McNeill Whistler; five diaries, 1871-1882, detailing annual buying trips to Europe; catalogs, clippings, and miscellaneous publications pertaining to the Avery Art Gallery.
Travel diaries were written exclusively during the summers of 1871-1882 while in Europe (ca.780 p.). Avery visited England, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Italy, visiting galleries and studios, and attending sales in the major cities. In his entries, he lists the works that he sees and art purchases that he makes, detailing prices, sizes, and frame requirements. Avery spent most of his time visiting dealers, making shipping arrangements, and commissioning work from a variety of artists. He visited auction houses such as Christie's in London, and "bric a brac shops" where he purchased not only paintings, but also furniture, tapestries and jewelry. He mentions several dealers throughout Europe, especially the P.L. Everard Company and Mr. Boughton in London, and Mr. Van Hinsberg in Belgium. His social engagements included gallery exhibitions, concerts, trips to the opera, and dinners. He describes the French city of Ecouen and the Italian countryside vividly. Avery also records his meeting with the Spanish artist Cutazzi, and describes in detail the finery of the Makart studio in Vienna. Throughout the diaries, he corresponds and meets with Mr. Everard, Mr. Boughton, James McNeill Whistler, Vincent Van Gogh, and people he refers to only as Sam and Mary. Avery writes often of his occasional traveling companion, Mr. Lucas. Beginning in 1873, he mentions his wife, letters to her, and gifts that he buys her. At the end of the diary, he lists his accounts during these years.

Biographical/Historical Note

Copper and wood engraver, art dealer, connoisseur and advisor to important collectors. Eventually Avery gave up commercial engraving and devoted himself exclusively to collecting and dealing art; particular specialty being old Dutch paintings and romantic French landscape painters. A founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, many of the paintings in that collection were selected by him. He gave notable collections of architectural books to Columbia University, and of engravings and etchings to the New York Public Library.


Lent for microfilming 1964 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Language Note

English .

Location of Originals

  • Originals in Metropolitan Museum of Art.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels NMM26, NMM26a, NMM27 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

The Archives of American art does not own the original papers. Use is limited to the microfilm copy.

How to Cite This Collection

Samuel Putnam Avery papers, 1857-1902. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.