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Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner papers, 1853-1977

More Information

Judy Ng
Scope and Contents
The papers of art historian and museum director Wilhelm Reinhold Valentiner measure 6.9 linear feet and date from 1853 to 1977. Found within the collection are biographical materials, including information on the Lepsius and Valentiner families; correspondence with family, friends, art collectors, and art historians; seven diaries; additional writings and notes; printed materials; three clippings scrapbooks; artwork in the form of prints and woodcuts; and photographs of Valentiner and his family and friends, including two photograph albums.
Biographical materials include certificates, membership cards, a curriculum vitae, and genealogical information on the Valentiner and Lepsius families.
Correspondence includes letters in German from Valentiner's parents, siblings, extended family members, and his wife and daughter. General correspondence includes letters and cards in German and English from art historian mentors and peers, including Wilhelm von Bode, Cornelius Hofstede de Groot, Carl Heise, and Herman Colenbrander, as well as art collectors and friends, including John McIlhenny, Andrew Mellon, Edsel Ford, Maria Sarre, and Helen Wills Moody Roark.
Seven diaries dated 1910-1939 were written in German, some of which also contain sketches, photographs, and other enclosures. Additional writings and notes consist of autobiographical writings, numerous essays, lectures, and monographs on Italian and Dutch art and artists, and reports and lectures on exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Lecture seminar notes appear to have been written while Valentiner was a student in Germany, and materials related to Arbeitsrat für Kunst date from the period after Valentiner's military service when he served as a chairman to the newly formed Working Council for the Arts, prior to his return to America in 1921.
Printed material includes bulletins, exhibition catalogs, clippings, and three clippings scrapbooks, which document Valentiner's professional career in New York and Detroit.
Photographic materials are of Wilhelm Valentiner, his immediate and extended family members, and his friends. Photos of Valentiner are from his youth, military service in Germany, and his personal and professional career in the U.S. Photographs of friends include art scholars, collectors, and family friends, including Maria Sarre, Helen Wills Moody Rorke, and Anne Morgan, the daughter of Pierpoint Morgan. There are also a handful of reproductions of artwork used as scholarly references in his writings. The two photo albums focus on Valentiner's family and friends from his youth in Germany, and Valentiner with family members later in his life.
Artwork in the collection consists of prints from a page in a German book, a bookplate, and two woodcuts by unidentified artists.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
From 1972 to 1977, Valentiner's papers were gathered from various sources by historian Margaret Sterne who was researching and writing a biography of Valentiner. Sterne died just prior to publication and the papers were sorted by Archives' staff and returned to the lender when known. After publication of the biography, the bulk of the papers were returned to their respective lenders (primarily the University of North Carolina) and the remaining papers were sorted and accessioned by the Archives. Donors are listed as unknown or anonymous.
Separated Materials
In 1981 and earlier, the Archives microfilmed the William R. Valentiner papers that were on deposit from the North Carolina Museum of Art onto reels D31 and 2140-2144. The papers were returned to the North Carolina Museum of Art, but the microfilm is still available for use at the Archives research centers and for interlibrary loan.
Reel D31 includes diary entries, 1914-1957, describing Valentiner's service in the German army, 1914-1918, with the War Information Office in Berlin, the overthrow of the monarchy and German politics, relations between Germany and Russia and communist activity in Germany, the administration of Berlin museums and radical artists' activities, his work with the L.A. County Museum, Detroit Institute of Fine Arts, the North Carolina Museum of Art, and private collectors, impressions of friends, including Henry Ford, Carl Hamilton, the Hohenzollerns, Franz Marc, Rainer Maria Rilke, Walter Rathenau, Helen Wills, Benjamin Altman, J. Pierpont Morgan, and recollections of women art collectors, including Mrs. August Belmont, Rita Lydig, and Mrs. Leonard Thomas. A very small portion of the filmed materials may be found among the Valentiner papers at the Archives, but most of the materials were returned to the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Loaned materials on reels 2140-2144 consist of 26 diaries, 1904-1958; autobiographical writings; manuscripts and lectures by Valentiner; correspondence with family, friends, authors, museums, galleries, and dealers, including Harry Bertoia, Charles Culver, Lyonel and Julia Feininger, Walter Gropius, Paul and Mary Weschler, and Morris Graves; and a scrapbook containing clippings, drafts of speeches, and invitations.
Related Materials
Also found in the Archives of American Art are the Mary E. Adams letters from Wilhelm Valentiner and an oral history interview with Mary and Clinton Adams conducted by Paul Karlstrom, April 24, 1998. The North Carolina Museum of Art also holds papers of Wilhelm Valentiner, most of which are also available at the Archives on microfilm reels D31 and 2140-2144.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
Processing Information
Materials received a preliminary level of arrangement and were microfilmed onto reels 272-276 and 3963-3967. All accessions were merged and the collection was described and prepared for digitization by Judy Ng in 2016, with funding provided by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.