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William Chapin Seitz papers, circa 1930-1995

William Chapin Seitz papers, circa 1930-1995

Seitz, William Chapin, 1914-1974

Art historian, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 32.5 linear feet

Summary: The papers of educator, painter, and art historian William Chapin Seitz measure 32.5 linear feet and date from circa 1930-1995. The collection includes biographical information, correspondence, notebooks, subject and people files, thesis research files, interviews and lecture recordings, teaching files, personal business records, scattered printed materials, photographs, and artwork. The bulk of the papers focus on Seitz's research and teaching career.

Biographical materials consist of resumes and CV's, identification cards including one from the WPA, documents from the memorial held at the University of Virginia for Seitz, poetry written by Irma, for William, on their wedding anniversaries, and x-rays.

The majority of Seitz's correspondence is professional and concerns job offers and opportunities, lectures requests, recommendation letters for Seitz and for others by Seitz, the Kress Fellowship, exhibitions, awards, and organizations. Also found are posthumus materials to Irma Seitz concerning book royalties. Personal correspondence is scattered and includes condolence letters sent to Irma.

Personal business records focus on Seitz's personal art collection, copyright information, publishing records including royalty statements, reports, scholarship and fellowship information, and professional organization membership records.

The bulk of the collection consists of research and writing files which include notebooks, subject and people files, thesis research files and drafts, general research which include writings by Seitz, card files, and recordings of lectures and interviews. Subject and people files may include correspondence, printed materials, research notes, photographs, works of art, and writings concerning and by artists, art historians, curators, subjects, and art movements. Research files are found for Dore Ashton, Alfred H. Barr Jr., William Baziotes, Bruce Conner, Rene D'Harnoncourt, Marcel Duchamp, Arshile Gorky, Adolph Gottlieb, Rockne Krebs, George Segal, James Rosati, and Frank Stella among many others. Also found are research materials on Claude Monet, some of which are written in French.

Teaching files contains extensive reference material likely used by Seitz during his career as well as correspondence, exams, and lecture materials used in specific classes.

Printed material is scattered and includes clippings, exhibition announcements, and articles. Exhibition announcements and catalogs are for Seitz's personal works and for exhibitions he curated.

The bulk of the photographs are of works of art by William Seitz, Irma Seitz, and others which were likely owned by Seitz. Also found are phtographs of exhibition installations at the Univeristy of Virginia and scattered photographs of Seitz with others.

Artwork include several pencil sketches by Seitz, two works by Ellen Banks-Woodson, and a sketch by Phil Elliott.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Chapin Seitz (1914-1974) was an art historian and painter from Charlottesville, Va., who taught at the University of Virginia.

Provenance

The William Chapin Seitz papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Seitz's widow, Irma Seitz, in 1975 and 2003. A transcript of an interview with Mark Tobey by Seitz was donated by Rebecca Massie Lane in 1988. Seitz gave these transcripts to Lane for her graduate work and they remined in her possession after his death.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the William Chapin Seitz Papers,
circa 1930-1995
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.seitwill
Biographical/Historical note
William Chapin Seitz (1914-1974) was an art historian and scholar, painter, educator, and museum curator who worked primarily in New York and Virginia. He completed the first dissertation on Abstract Expressionism while a student at Princeton University in 1955.
Born in 1914 in Buffalo, New York, William Chapin Seitz studied at the Albright Art School at the University of Buffalo and the Art Institute of Buffalo. Seitz met artist Irma J. Siegelman, whom he married in 1938. Due to the Depression, he left school and worked with the Federal Arts Project in New York City in the 1930s and worked as an aircraft fuel cell deigner for the Hewitt Rubber Company during World War II. Returning to the University of Buffalo after the war, Seitz completed his undergraduate degree and remained by accepting a teaching job.
Although he saw success as a painter and exhibited in one-man shows, Seitz focused his career in academia and enrolled at Princeton University for a graduate degree in Art History. Princeton faculty held divided views on Seitz's desire to write a dissertation on the Abstract Expressionist movement and debated the subject for over a year. Seitz's dissertation topic was eventually approved and in addition to writing the first dissertation on Abstract Expressionism, Seitz received the first PhD in Modern Art from Princeton. Seitz remained at Princeton as an assistant professor and advised students such as Frank Stella.
In 1960, he accepted a job as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. At MOMA, Seitz curated The Art of Assemblage (1961), The Responsive Eye (1965), and an exhibition on Monet (1960). Other MOMA exhibitions focused on artists Mark Tobey, Arshile Gorky, and Hans Hofmann. Additionally, he served as director of the Rose Art Museum of Brandeis University from 1965-1970. During that time, Seitz organized the United States exhibition at the Ninth Biennial in Sao Paulo (1967) and the Seventh Biennial of Canadian Painting (1968). In 1971, Seitz returned to teaching at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia and was the Visiting Kress Professor at the National Gallery of Art from 1972-1973.
In addition to his successes in painting, education, and the curatorial field, Seitz was an accomplished writer. He published many articles, essays, and books on art and artists including
Art in the Age of Aquarius
, on which he worked until his death.
William Seitz died of cancer in 1974.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 8 series:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1930s-1974 (Box 1; 7 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1945-1995 (Boxes 1-2; 1.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Business Records, circa 1947-1990 (Boxes 2-3; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 4: Research and Writing Files, 1940s-1970s (Boxes 4-26; 23.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Teaching Files, 1945-1970s (Boxes 27-31, OV 34-35; 5 linear feet)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1937-1984 (Boxes 31-2; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, 1940s-1981 (Box 32, 33; 11 folders)
Series 8: Artwork, circa 1950s-1972 (Box 32, 33; 6 folders)
Provenance
The William Chapin Seitz papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Seitz's widow, Irma Seitz, in 1975 and 2003. A transcript of an interview with Mark Tobey by Seitz was donated by Rebecca Massie Lane in 1988. Seitz gave these transcripts to Lane for her graduate work and they remined in her possession after his death.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed by Jayna Hanson in 2011 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

William Chapin Seitz papers, circa 1930-1995. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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