Scope and Contents
The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.01 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 material includes a certificate, architectural plans, investment information, invoices, publisher and loan agreements, will for Paul Stamm, and resumes. Correspondence is with members of Hess' family including his wife and children, Philip Guston, Meyer Schapiro, David Smith, James Schuyler, Forrest Bess, Elaine de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Larry Rivers, Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and others.
Writings and notes consist of manuscripts and drafts by Hess for Art News, Le Monde, Vogue, New York magazine, and other publications; Hess' senior essay and class notes; notes on Ingres, Italian artists, and travels abroad; notebooks on art and literature; and scattered writings by others.
Artists and subject files contain primarily photographs of artwork, artists, and colleaguesare mostly photographs of artwork, artists, and colleagues. Some of the files also contain printed materials, writings, notes, and other documentation. The file on Willem de Kooning includes a sound recording of a conversation between Hess, de Kooning, and Harold Rosenberg. There are also significant files on Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Carl Milles, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and the Mark Rothko Foundation Inc.
Printed materials include brochures and flyers, clippings, magazines and newspapers, press releases, travel memorabilia, and a printed scarf. Photographs are of of Hess, his wife Audrey, other family members, works of art, travel, Larry Rivers and Ad Reinhardt, and other artists and colleagues. Artwork includes drawings, paintings, collages, cartoons, and holiday cards made by Hess and his children, along with artwork by others including Audrey and Lawrence Campbell, Ad Reinhardt, and unidentified artists.
There is a .01 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated in 2022 that includes a six page typed manuscript, "Think, American Painting," undated, by Thomas Hess and the book American Realists and Magic Realists, The Museum of Modern Art, 1943, signed by Hess.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
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. A small addition was donated in 2022 by Anne Hess, Thomas Hess' daughter.
Materials on legacy microfilm reel 5028 related to Barnett Newman are photocopies. The originals are located at the Barnett New Foundation in New York City.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Mundy in 2017 with funding from the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care Pool Fund, using accelerated processing strategies implemented by the Archives to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.