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Thomas Hess papers, 1939-1978

Hess, Thomas B., 1920-1978

Editor, Author, Arts administrator, Art critic

Collection Information

Size: 10 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.0 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1978. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, extensive writings and notes, artists and subject files that also include recorded conversations with artists and others, printed materials, photographic materials, and artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

Thomas B. Hess (1920-1978) was an editor, art critic and curator who worked in New York City. He was on the staff at Art News for 26 years (1946-72). Starting as an editorial associate, he was named managing editor in 1948, then executive editor in 1954; he assumed the top editorial post in 1965 upon the death of long-time editor Alfred Frankfurter. In his critical writing from the late 1940s on, he was an influential supporter of the Abstract Expressionists. He wrote widely on other topics as well. In 1972 he left Art News after an ownership change. He then became the art critic for New York magazine (1972-78), a large-circulation weekly reaching a much larger public. (He was also, in the late '60s, a correspondent for the French daily newspaper Le Monde .)


The Thomas Hess papers were donated in multiple increments from 1985 to 1987 by Hess' children, Anne Helen, William, and Philip Hess, except for a file on Barnett Newman donated by Newman's widow, who presumably had borrowed it from Hess. In 2014, additional correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, and cartoons, including some by Ad Reinhardt, were donated by Elizabeth Wolff, Hess' sister.

Related Materials

Language Note

The collection is in English and French


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.