Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

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Archives related to: American Art Association

titleAmerican Art Association records, 1853-1924.
locationArchives of American Art
collection titlePapers retained by Kirby, 1910-1923, including photograph and price files on more than 100 auctions, 1910-1913, 1915-1918, and 1921-1923, with sections from a typescript of the history of the firm describing many of the sales; a correspondence and clipping file, 1910-1923, containing letters from William Merritt Chase regarding the sale of his collection, David Belasco, Joseph Widener, Lockwood deForest, John P. Morgan, and others; an address on the history of the Association delivered by Kirby; and a small file of material commemorating the death of Francis Davis Millet, drowned in the sinking of the Titanic, 1912.

REELS 4478-4484: 28 v. of record books, including 14 v. recording sales of paintings, 1885-1921; "Disposition of Pictures," 1886-1891 (mostly 1887), (1 v.); "Pictures Rec'd and Delivered," July 1881-May 1891 (1 v.); Submissions to New York Water Color Club, 1890-1892 (1 v); Sales by other galleries and auction houses, 1853-1902 (4 v.), representing sales in Paris and the U.S., apparently compiled from printed catalogs; stock book, 1887-1917, of "Paintings," (1 v.), and a stock book for furniture of the American Art Association offices, 1912 (1 v.); and 4 albums of photographs of Stanford White's house and collection, auctioned November 1907.

UNMICROFILMED (7.7 linear ft.): Thomas Kirby's correspondence, speeches, partnership agreements, memorabilia, and notes and manuscript pages from his autobiography and biography (both unfinished); speeches and press releases related to the 1922 opening of the American Art Galleries; files on auctions and exhibitions, 1884-1910, compiled by Rose H. Lorenz to aid Charles De Kay in the preparation of Kirby's biography "Art Under the Hammer" (unfinished), containing correspondence, clippings, price lists, photographs and manuscript pages; financial records of auctions, 1918-1922; memoranda and legal papers; clippings, exhibition catalogs, 1853-1917; and photographs.

Among the photographs are several of Thomas Kirby and 1 of Gustavus, and a group of 62 cabinet photographs taken by photographers in Paris, all but a few of French artists, probably related to the Association's involvement in the late 1890s to early 1900s of sales of paintings by French artists.

UNMICROFILMED (13 linear ft.): ca. 172 volumes and packages, including account books (75 v.); Bric-a-Brac (4 v.), salary lists (5 v.), sales of books, etchings, etc. (4 v.), catalog distribution (3 v.), and address books (128 v.). Also included are 9 v. of ledgers from the Blakeslee Galleries, presumably acquired in 1914 when gallery owner Theron Blakeslee died, and the Association auctioned off the Gallery's paintings.
extent50 linear ft. (partially microfilmed on 7 reels) reels 422-425 and 4478-4484
formatsCorrespondence Photographs Clippings Financial Records Notes
accessMicrofilmed portion must be consulted on microfilm. Use of unmicrofilmed portion requires an appointment and is limited to Washington, D.C. storage facility.
record sourcehttp://www.siris.si.edu/
finding aidUnmicrofilmed (7.7 linear ft.): Box inventory available at AAA offices. Reels 4478-4484: Inventory of record books available at AAA offices.
acquisition informationMaterial on reels 422-425 was donated in 1968 by Kirby's daughter, Mrs. Thomas B. Waller. The unmicrofilmed material and record books on reels 4478-4484 were originally given to the American Antiquarian Society by Gustavas T.Kirby, son of Thomas E. Kirby, in 1936. The Antiquarian Society placed the record books on deposit at the Archives of American Art in 1972 and subsequently donated them along with the Kirby material January 1978. An additional 5 items concerning the opening of the Association's new building were donated 1993 by the American Antiquarian Society.
updated03/13/2017 16:17:34
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titleAmerican Art Association records, 1877-1924 (bulk 1910-1924)
locationThe Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library
collection titleThe American Art Association records document a selection of auction sales run by the gallery, as well as Thomas Kirby’s relationship with those who sold their works through the AAA. Records date from 1877-1924, with the bulk dating from 1910-1924. The collection includes correspondence, approximately 1,000 photographs, handwritten and typed notes, fragments of a typescript on the American Art Association, pages from auction sales catalogues, newspaper and periodical clippings, and several sales catalogues.

The records are organized in three series:
I. Auction Sales, 1910-1923
II. Correspondence and Notes, 1877-1924, and
III. Clippings, 1881-1924.

The bulk of the collection concerns specific auction sales conducted by the American Art Association. Files contain inventories of the works, often with prices and names of buyers; black & white photos of the works and several of the exhibition installations; correspondence; sections of a typescript on AAA; handwritten notes regarding the sales; pages from sales catalogues; and clippings. Documentation of 70 sales ranges from a single typescript sentence to multiple folders of correspondence, inventories and hundreds of photographs of the items for sale. An additional 150 auction sales are represented in the files only by cursory handwritten notes. Some of the most heavily documented sales include "57 Paintings Belonging to Ichabod T. Williams" of February 3-4, 1915, "Charles of London, Italian, French & English Furniture, Tapestries, Rugs, Paintings, Porcelains, etc." of November 15-20, 1920 and "Palatial Mansion & Contents Collected by William J. Saloman" April 4-7, 1923.

Also of note in the records is correspondence between Kirby and Arthur B. Emmons regarding several auctions in which works he owned were sold, 16 letters to Charles De Kay from correspondents other than Thomas Kirby, handwritten notes on George Inness, biographical comments on Thomas Kirby, and several letters concerning the controversy over the authenticity of the painting "Blue Boy" at the William H. Fuller Sale of February 25, 1898, including a letter from Francis Davis Millet. A few clippings and letters document Kirby's career prior to his affiliation with the American Art Association.

Historical Note:
Thomas E. Kirby (1846-1924), with his partners James F. Sutton and R. Austin Robertson, founded the American Art Association (AAA) in 1883, one of the premier art auction houses of its time. Known for his “million dollar voice,” Kirby conducted the sales himself, and is credited with creating the style of modern art auctions, instituting an atmosphere of elegance and style, and enforcing standards in order to counteract the negative reputation held by auctioneers of the day. Kirby’s son Gustavus joined the firm in 1912 and became half owner in 1915, upon the death of James Sutton. The galleries, located on East 23rd Street on Madison Square South, moved to 30 East 57th Street in 1922. In 1923, Kirby sold AAA to Cortlandt Field Bishop, who contracted Hiram Parke and Otto Bernet to run the auction house. In 1929 it merged with the Anderson Auction Company.

Location
The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

Call Number
MS.15
extent3.75 linear feet
formatsPhotographs Financial Records Correspondence Clippings Notes
accessThese records are open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives access policy. Contact the Archives Department for further information at archives@frick.org
record linkhttp://www.frick.org/archives/FindingAids/AmericanArtAssociation.html
record sourcehttp://arcade.nyarc.org:80/record=b920817~S6
finding aidFinding aid available in the repository.
acquisition informationThe records were a gift of Mrs. Thomas W. Waller (Wilhelmina), granddaughter of Thomas Kirby, in 1956. These records are just a portion of those donated; an additional 12 linear feet of scrapbooks containing auction sales newspaper clippings have not yet been processed. Mrs. Waller also donated books and sales catalogues, which have been integrated into the Library’s collection. The bulk of the American Art Association's records (an additional 50 linear feet) are located in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
updated11/12/2014 11:29:47
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titleAmerican art auction catalog collection, 1785-1962.
locationArchives of American Art
collection titleAuction catalogs from the holdings of various libraries and auction houses in the United States, borrowed for microfilming for AAA's Auction Catalog Project, 1961-1965.

The majority of the catalogs are for auctions held in New York City and Philadelphia, although other locales are represented. Firms with significant numbers of catalogs include: American Art Association, Anderson Galleries, Associated Auctioneers, Bangs & Co., Barker, Benjamin S. Wise, Birch & Son, Bleecker & Van Dyke, C.F. Wetmore, C.G. Sloan & Co., Charles F. Libbie & Co., Chicago Book & Art Auctions, Clarke's Art Galleries, C.W. Brown, Daniel A. Mathews, Davis & Harvey, E. A. Haaseman Galleries, Elder Coin & Curio Company, Elliott, Blakeslee & Noyes, Field, Morris, Fenner & Co., Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, Galton-Orsburn Co., George A. Leavitt & Co., Haseltine Galleries, Henry A. Hartman, Leeds, Miner, Hiram H. Parke, Duveen, Leonard & Co., Hudson's, James P. Silo, J.C. Morgenthau & Co., Kende Galleries, Knickerbocker, Kreiser Gallery, Levy & Spooner, Lewis J. Bird & Co., Lihou Art Gallery, Merwin-Clayton Sales Company, Metropolitian Art Association, Miller & Morris, Monarch, Moore's, M. Thomas & Sons, National Art Galleries, Ortgies & Co., O. Rundle Gilbert, Parke-Bernet, Philadelphia Art Galleries, Plaza Art Auction Galleries, Rains Galleries, Ritter Galleries, Samuel T. Freeman & Co., Savoy, Schenck's Art Gallery, Scott & O'Shaughnessy, Stan V. Henkels, Swann Auction Galleries, Thomas Kirby, Walpole Galleries, William B. Norman, William D. Morley, and Young's Art Gallery; many others were also microfilmed.
extentca. 30,000 items (on 559 microfilm reels)
formatsMicrofilm Auction Catalogs
accessPatrons must use microfilm copy.
record sourcehttp://www.siris.si.edu/
finding aidA list of auction houses and related microfilm reel numbers is available at AAA offices. In addition, the Washington, D.C. reference desk's copy of Harold Lancour's "American Art Auction Catalogs: A Union List" (1944) has been annotated with reel and frame numbers.
acquisition informationLent for microfilming for AAA's Auction Catalog Project, 1961-1965. Among the institutions who participated are the American Antiquarian Society (29 reels), Art Institute of Chicago (2 reels), Boston Public Library (1 reel), Brooklyn Museum (16 reels), Cleveland Museum of Art (2 reels), Cooper Union (21 reels), Enoch Pratt Free Library (1 reel), Huntington Library (1 reel), Library Co. of Philadelphia (1 reel), Library of Congress (1 reel), Metropolitan Museum of Art (25 reels), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, New York Historical Society (23 reels), New York Public Library (284 reels), New York State Library (1 reel), Parke-Bernet Galleries (128 reels), Pennsylvania Historical Society (2 reels), Philadelphia Museum of Art (10 reels), Walters Art Gallery (1 reel), and others.
updated11/12/2014 11:29:52
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titleJ.W. Riley autographs, 1882-1916.
locationBall State University Libraries
collection titleA collection of James W. Riley's holograph letters, manuscript poems, and autographs from the Anderson Galleries (no. 224, 225) and American Art Association (catalogues no. 570, 575, 636, 769, 771, 772, 773, 788).
extent10 portfolios ; 31 cm.
formatsCorrespondence Manuscript
accesscontact repository for restrictions
record sourcehttps://liblink.bsu.edu/cgi-bin/login.pl
updated11/12/2014 11:29:54
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titleAuction Catalogs Collection, 1800-. Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit
locationNew York State Library
collection titleThe auction catalogs collection, representing 69 auction houses, spans rare book-selling activity from 1750, with the majority dating from 1860 to 1938, and offers an historical view of the rare book business in America. The houses are primarily American, with a smattering of British, French and German houses. The collection is arranged alphabetically by auction firm name and then chronologically by date of sale. P

The majority of the catalogs focus on Americana, books relating in one way or another to the history of the United States. However, there are numerous examples of general sales where the catholic nature of collection building can be seen.

Of particular note to researchers of American history are the autograph collections. The letters being auctioned frequently have at least part of the text of the letters.

While most of the auctions listed are devoted to books, a few are devoted to pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, manuscripts, autographs, bookplates, coins, stamps, paintings or furniture.

The catalogs document the names of the sellers and the specific items sold. Some of the catalogs are annotated with the names of the buyers and the prices fetched. They provide evidence that certain books once existed, even though no copies may be known today.
extentca. 40 linear feet plus 4 cu.ft. The 4 cu.ft. of Parke-Bernet catalogs cover the years 1944 to 1955
accessPlease consult a librarian in the Manuscripts and Special Collections Unit of the New York State Library for access to this collection. Material may be photocopied, digitally scanned, or photographed, depending on condition.
record sourcehttp://www.nysl.nysed.gov
finding aidavailable online http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/msscfa/qc16542.htm
acquisition informationThe collection was formed in large part from catalogs that were used as acquisition tools by the New York State Library. As such, the collection offers great insight into the formation of the original collection of the library, considered at the time to be one of the ten best collections in the world. Of even more significance are the catalogs from the years immediately following the destruction of a major portion of the collection by the 1911 New York State Capitol/New York State Library fire. The post-1911 catalogs help to document the effort to rebuild the collection to its former level. The many catalogs with order-department lists of items desired, bids offered, and the results from the library’s agents offer a limited but enlightening window onto the rebuilding process.
updated08/06/2012 14:12:27
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titleRobert Lehman papers, ca. 1880s-1977
locationThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
collection titleThe Robert Lehman papers primarily include the records related to the collecting of art by financier Robert Lehman (1891-1969) and his father, Philip (1861-1947), both of New York City.

For almost sixty years, first Philip and then Robert built a collection that included among other objects, the 2,600 works that were donated to The Metropolitan Museum of Art after Robert’s death in 1969.

Documenting the acquisition and cultivation of the collection, the Robert Lehman papers include correspondence, invoices, insurance records, object descriptions, and photographs, among other formats.

The papers also include photographs, memorabilia, and other materials regarding the Lehman family; Robert’s military service and travels, etc. There is little material regarding the Lehman Brothers firm.

Biographical/Historical note
The Robert Lehman Collection
On May 27, 1975, the newly-constructed Robert Lehman Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened to the public. The wing had been erected specifically to house and to display the Robert Lehman Collection, a collection of 2,600 works including paintings, drawings, manuscript illuminations, sculpture, glass, textiles, antique frames, majolica, enamels, and precious jeweled objects. The approximately three hundred paintings are particularly rich in the field of the Italian Renaissance, notably the Sienese school, as well as early Northern European works. Included in the 750 drawings ranging from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries is a significant group of eighteenth century Venetian works, as well as other distinguished Italian, French, and Northern European examples. The collection is also renowned in several areas of decorative arts: Renaissance majolica, Venetian glass, and antique frames.

The collection had been formed over the course of almost sixty years by two men who earned their wealth in the world of finance: Philip Lehman (1861-1947) and his son, Robert (1891-1969), both of the Lehman Brothers firm. At the time of his death in August 1969, Robert, who was Chairman of the Board and a longtime trustee of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, had been in discussion with the Museum regarding building design proposals to house the collection, in anticipation of a donation. At his death, the greater part of Lehman’s collection was bequeathed to the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc., a philanthropic organization he had formed in 1943.

The Foundation continued Lehman’s discussions with the Museum, leading to the announcement in September 1969 that the collection would be transferred to the Metropolitan with the stipulation that it be exhibited together as a collection, a condition satisfied with the completion of the Lehman wing in 1975. Set in galleries intended to evoke the ambience of private interiors and, in some instances, recreate the Lehman family residence, the Lehman Collection provides an example of twentieth-century American collecting.

With the donation of the art collection, the Metropolitan also received the extensive records that Philip, Robert, and the various staff members they employed created and maintained over the decades in connection with the collection. It is these archival documents, now referred to as the Robert Lehman papers, that are the subject of this finding aid and that are described in it. The following biographical and historical sketch, while not comprehensive in scope, is intended to provide useful context and background information for researchers considering the use of these papers.

Early Lehman Family History
The Lehman family traces its roots to Bavaria and the birth of Abraham Lehman in 1778. Settling in the town of Rimpar, Abraham married Harriet Rosenheim and had several children, including the three sons Henry, Emanuel, and Mayer. In 1844, Henry emigrated to the United States, where he settled in Montgomery, Alabama, and started a dry goods business. In 1847, Emanuel left Bavaria, joining Henry in Montgomery.

Shortly afterward, the third brother, Mayer, also came to America, and by 1850, the three brothers were together in business in Montgomery, forming the Lehman Brothers enterprise that would last into the early twenty-first century.

During the 1850s, the Lehman brothers expanded their business into cotton brokerage, and, in 1858, Emanuel moved to New York City, establishing an office there, at 119 Liberty Street in lower Manhattan. Emanuel also started a family in New York, marrying Pauline Sondheim in May 1859. But there were setbacks. In 1855, the eldest brother, Henry, died. And the start of the Civil War in 1861 disrupted the business and the lives of the two surviving brothers, who supported the Confederacy. Emanuel left New York, possibly to join the Confederate Army, leaving his wife in the city, where their son, Philip, was born on November 9, 1861.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, Emanuel returned to New York. Joined there by Mayer, the two brothers rebuilt the Lehman Brothers business, expanding it over the coming decades from cotton brokerage to a broader range of commodities trading. In the latter decades of the nineteenth century, the firm would expand further, into securities brokerage and merchant banking. By this time, Emanuel’s son, Philip, had joined the family firm in 1882, becoming a partner in 1887. In 1897, Mayer Lehman, the second of the founding Lehman brothers, died.

Philip Lehman
Philip Lehman married Carrie Lauer, daughter of Emanuel and Nannie (née Simon) Lauer, in New York in 1885, just a few years after joining Lehman Brothers. The Lauers were originally from Cincinnati, arriving in New York sometime in the 1860s or 1870s, with Emanuel succeeding in a clothing business. Philip and Carrie would have two children: Pauline, born about 1887, and Robert, born on September 29, 1891.

In 1899-1900, Philip had a new residence built for his family at 7 West 54th Street, designed by prominent architect John H. Duncan. Among Philip’s neighbors were John D. Rockefeller and his family, across the street at 10 West 54th. (The Lehman house still stands, although no longer in the family, and was designated a Landmark by New York City in 1981.)
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Lehman Brothers continued to do well as it also changed.

The firm increasingly became involved in investment banking, beginning especially in 1906 with an alliance between Lehman and the firm Goldman, Sachs in underwriting companies in the promising retail industry. In 1907, Emanuel Lehman, the last of the original brothers, and Philip’s father, died, and Philip became head of the firm.

At home, Philip and Carrie’s daughter, Pauline, married banker Henry R. Ickelheimer in 1905 and moved out of the West 54h Street townhouse. Their son, Robert, graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in 1908 and headed for Yale University. In 1907, Philip built a summer home (no longer extant) at the ocean in Deal, New Jersey, also designed for him by Duncan, that was featured in American Homes and Garden magazine in 1908.

In 1895, Philip purchased a Caspar Netscher painting from Louis R. Ehrich, who owned a gallery in New York City and had some connection to Philip and his father. But this seems to have been the only purchase of an Old Master painting that Philip would make for many years, until 1911, as he approached his fiftieth birthday. In February of that year, Philip bought John Hoppner’s Portrait of the Countess of Darnley and Lady Elizabeth Bligh (no longer in the collection, referred to as “ExL”) from Knoedler. This was followed in March by the purchase of Portrait of a Man Seated in an Armchair (MMA accession number 1975.1.139), attributed at that time to Rembrandt, also from Knoedler. Philip continued to acquire Old Master paintings and within less than three years, in November 1913, he was listing 28 such works by Crivelli, Velázquez, Cossa, Gerard David, Goya, El Greco, ter Borch, and others on an insurance policy with Lloyd’s, covering his collection at an insured value of £215,000.

Philip’s acquisitions of paintings continued through the 1910s and into the 1920s. To note just a few important examples of these: in 1914, Niccolò di Buonaccorso’s Coronation of the Virgin (MMA-1975.1.21) from Kleinberger; in 1915, Hans Memling’s Portrait of a Young Man (MMA-1975.1.112) from Knoedler; in 1916, Portrait of a Woman (MMA-1975.1.129), attributed at the time to the Master of Moulins, from Kleinberger; and in 1917, Giovanni di Paolo’s The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise (MMA-1975.1.31) from Kleinberger. In 1920, Philip acquired the Osservanza Master panel St. Anthony in the Wilderness (MMA-1975.1.27) and Memling’s Annunciation (MMA-1975.1.113) through Duveen Brothers, and the Petrus Christus A Goldsmith in his Shop [St. Eligius] (MMA-1975.1.110) from Y. Perdoux.

In addition to paintings, throughout this time Philip also purchased other forms of fine art from Duveen Brothers and other dealers, including furniture, Italian majolica and other ceramics, bronzes and other metalwork, and tapestries. To take just one example, the well-recognized aquamanile Aristotle and Phyllis (MMA-1975.1.1416) was acquired by Philip in 1919 from Duveen. Carrie Lehman joined her husband in collecting, focusing her attention on textiles.

Philip’s engagement with the art market and his purchasing activities would continue for much of the rest of his life. But the pace of his acquisitions of paintings slowed significantly by the mid-1920s or so. Though not quite a final punctuation mark, in 1929, Philip’s son, Robert, organized the production of a sumptuous catalogue of his father’s paintings.

Limited to 300 copies, the catalogue was distributed by the Lehmans to a select, and no doubt strategic, list of recipients, including Bernard Berenson, R. Langton Douglas, Max Friedländer, Edward Hutton, Paul Sachs, Lionello Venturi, and important institutions like the Uffizi and the Louvre. Though Philip’s pace of acquisitions may have slowed, Robert’s had merely begun.

Robert Lehman
Robert graduated from Yale University in 1913. He seems to have spent much of the next three years traveling in Asia and Europe, while acting as something of an on-the-ground adviser to and representative of his father in both art and business matters, though he was not a member of Lehman Brothers at this time. In 1917, the United States entered World War I, and Robert joined the military. After training at various bases in the South and Southwest, Robert served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France as a captain in Battery B of the 318th Field Artillery, 81st Division.
After the armistice in November 1918, Robert returned to the United States, joining Lehman Brothers in 1919.

He was named a partner of the firm two years later, in 1921. Over the course of the 1920s, Philip, then in his 60s, would gradually shift leadership of the firm from himself to his son. In 1925, Robert became principal partner of the firm and, in 1927, took Philip’s place as a member of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

In 1929, as Lehman Brothers continued to grow and to modernize its corporate structure, The Lehman Corporation was founded and began selling shares on the NYSE the next year. RL became an officer and director of the company, and replaced Philip as the Chief Executive Officer in 1936. Through the 1920s and 1930s and into the mid-twentieth century, Robert’s leadership expanded Lehman Brothers’ underwriting business into the emerging and profitable fields of commercial aviation, radio, motion pictures, television, and electronics.

Robert’s passion for art and collecting was evident at least as early as 1914, and likely before that, as he corresponded with his parents during his travels. As a young man in the 1910s still financially dependent on his father, Robert had limited resources, yet still sought to buy for himself objects of high quality that were within his reach. Among these were works from Asian cultures, a direction he was enthusiastic about, though ultimately he did not fully pursue it.

In the 1910s, as Robert met on his own in Europe with F. Mason Perkins, R. Langton Douglas, Bernard d’Hendecourt, Joseph Duveen, and other collectors, advisers, and dealers, he developed his own level of expertise, provided advice to Philip, and on occasion even took the initiative to commit Philip to particular purchases. Perhaps the most dramatic example of the latter instance was Robert’s acquisition of the Bellini Madonna and Child (MMA-1975.1.81) as he traveled in Europe in 1915-16, taking advantage of an unforeseen opportunity to outmaneuver Duveen, with the help of Luigi Grassi, to win the painting for Philip. Still, even in these early years, Robert, operating both in tandem and parallel to his father, was able to form a core of his own collection; by 1922 he was able to list about 47 paintings, mostly Italian, he owned apart from his father.

By the 1920s, then a partner in Lehman Brothers, Robert could begin to collect more aggressively for himself. Perhaps most notable at this time were his acquisitions of drawings in 1923 at the Victor Koch and Marius de Zayas sales at Anderson Galleries.

These were among the earliest drawings in his collection, an area of particular strength that he would pursue throughout his life. These 1923 acquisitions were followed in 1924 by the purchase of 34 drawings at the Luigi Grassi sale at Sotheby’s in London, where Robert was represented by Duveen Brothers. He also began to acquire illuminations and continued purchasing paintings, among them, in 1928, Lucas Cranach the Younger (then thought to be by the elder) Nymph of the Spring (MMA-1975.1.136) from A.S. Drey, a Botticelli Annunciation (MMA-1975.1.74) from Boehler & Steinmeyer, and [Workshop of] Lucas Cranach the Elder Martin Luther (MMA-55.220.1) from Henry Reinhardt & Son.

Development of the Collection, 1930-1947
Through at least 1929, Philip and Carrie Lehman’s home at 7 West 54th Street seems to have been the principal, and perhaps only, place in which the separate acquisitions of Philip and Robert were located, aside from objects that were kept in storage at Duveen Brothers, French & Co., and elsewhere. It is unclear, but it appears that Robert, still single, lived in his parents’ house at least until 1929. In that year, Robert married Mrs. Ruth Rumsey (née Lamar), daughter of J. Spencer Lamar of Evanston, Ill., in a private ceremony in Montreal.

By the early 1930s, Robert was living in apartments outside the townhouse, at the Waldorf-Astoria. In 1934, he divorced his first wife and married Mrs. Ruth (Kittie) Meeker (née Owen), moving around that time to apartments at 625 Park Avenue, where he would reside the rest of his life. Kittie's grandfather was the politician William Jennings Bryan and her mother, also politically active, was then serving as the U.S. Minister to Denmark. Closer to home, Kittie had three daughters, Wendy, Kaywin, and Helen, from her previous marriage, giving Robert the responsibilities of fatherhood for the first time, at age 43. In 1936, a son, Robert Owen, also known as Robin, would be born.

Robert kept an extensive portion of his collection at the Waldorf and later Park Avenue apartments. At some point, perhaps in the 1920s, Robert also came to own a home on Plum Beach Point Road in Sands Point, Port Washington, on Long Island and he kept some art at that location as well. Yet throughout his life, the townhouse was an important location for much of Robert’s collection. In the early decades, while Carrie and Philip were alive, this meant that the ownership of any particular object at the townhouse could be fraught with confusion, a matter that was not fully resolved until the mid-1940s.

In 1914, presumably for some estate planning purpose, Philip sold to Carrie for one dollar all of the present and future contents of the townhouse, including the “pictures.” In 1922, Carrie transferred a long list of specified paintings, furniture, majolica, and other objects in the townhouse into a trust to be managed by Philip for the benefit of Robert and his sister, Pauline Ickelheimer. Explicitly acknowledging the potential for confusion, Robert and Philip signed a letter of understanding, identifying the objects at the townhouse owned by Robert and therefore not subject to Philip and Carrie’s agreements. This was done in 1922, with subsequent updates. In 1936, the trust created by Carrie was terminated and the objects distributed equally between Robert and Pauline, but both of the siblings left the objects in the townhouse in the care of their parents. In effect, while ownership of the art was changing on paper, Philip and Carrie still had the collection around them as always, to enjoy in the last years of their lives.

Further complicating matters was that Philip and, especially, Robert continued to separately acquire objects through the 1930s and into the 1940s, despite the Great Depression and the rise of fascism and the increasing threat of war in Europe. Among the paintings acquired by Robert in the 1930s were [Workshop of the] Master of Frankfurt Adoration of the Christ Child (MMA-1975.1.116) from Bottenwieser Galleries, Ugolino da Siena Last Supper (MMA-1975.1.7) from Frank T. Sabin, and Charles Philips The Strong Family (MMA-44.159), then known as The Churchill Family, from Ehrich- Newhouse. He also began to show an interest in modern paintings with the purchase from Durand-Ruel of three Renoirs and two Edzard Dietzs (all ExL).

Robert also participated in several auctions in the 1930s at which he acquired drawings, plaquettes, medals, majolica, enamels, jewels, and other objects. Among these were the 1936 Henry Oppenheimer sale at Christie's where, represented by John Hunt, Robert acquired about 100 medals, 28 drawings, and other objects. At the 1939 Pringsheim sales at Sotheby’s, represented by Julius Goldschmidt, he acquired about 69 pieces of majolica.
The de Clemente, Durlacher, Damiron, and Schiff sales were among the other auctions in the 1930s at which Robert gained objects for his collection. But the late 1930s and first half of the 1940s were also difficult times for the Lehmans. In 1937, Robert’s mother, Carrie, died. Philip donated her collection of textiles in 1938, about 363 objects, to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

In 1940, Pauline’s husband, Henry Ickelheimer, died. The threat and eventual outbreak of war in 1939 prevented the Lehmans from their frequent European sojourns and ill health seems to have increasingly restricted Philip. With the possibility of hostilities reaching the United States, Robert in 1941 began to transfer large parts of his and his family’s collection out of New York, dispersing it among institutions. Much of the collection was stored at Whitemarsh Hall in Pennsylvania, along with that of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection would begin to move back to New York in 1943 as the threat to the East Coast subsided, with everything returned by 1945.

At this time, Robert began to donate or sell a considerable number of objects from the collection. Beginning in 1941 and extending into the later 1940s, drawings, majolica, medals, and other objects were donated to Allen Memorial Art Museum, Joslyn Memorial Art Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Yale University Art Gallery, and others. Gifts were also made to the Metropolitan, where Robert was elected to the Board of Trustees in December 1941, a position he would hold for the rest of his life. In addition, Robert sold eighteen paintings to the Kress Foundation in 1943, including his Piero della Francesca Saint Appolonia, now in the National Gallery of Art.

During this time, in 1943, Pauline accepted Robert’s proposal to purchase sixteen paintings from her, including the Petrus Christus Goldsmith (MMA-1975.1.110). Questions about the adequacy of documentation concerning ownership allocation among Philip, Robert, and Pauline for the objects in the townhouse seem to have surfaced while the law firm arranged the transaction between Robert and Pauline, leading to continued research by the firm and a 1946 report assigning ownership and a clarification as to which objects Philip still owned and who he had bequeathed them to. The report was tragically timely as Philip died the following year, in March 1947.
As the war ended, Robert continued to add to the collection.

In 1945, he acquired two significant pieces, the Rembrandt Gerard de Lairesse (MMA-1975.1.140) from Knoedler and the da Vinci drawing Study of a Bear Walking (MMA-1975.1.369) through Richard Ederheimer from the Schaeffer Galleries. And after his father’s death, Robert purchased from Pauline in October 1947 an extensive number of majolica, bronzes, furniture, and paintings, including the Memling Annunciation (MMA-1975.1.113), likely many of the objects that had either been bequeathed to her by Philip or had been distributed earlier to her from the trust but that had remained at the townhouse.

In effect, by the close of 1947, Robert had culled, consolidated, and rationalized a collection that had been split among three or four family members, positioning himself to carry Philip’s legacy forward with his own parallel acquisitions, while also preparing to move the collection in new directions. On the other hand, Robert did not, and never would, physically unify his entire holdings, but would display them in, principally, two residential settings: the townhouse and his Park Avenue apartment.

Development of the Collection, 1948-1969
Philip and Robert had long been concerned about documenting their collection. In the 1910s, Philip kept a notebook of his art purchases, with letters of attribution. Photographs were taken of the objects in the collection in the 1920s, if not before, and shared with Bernard Berenson and others to solicit attributions. Invoices and correspondence were filed, typically by secretaries at Lehman Brothers headquarters at 1 William Street, where the firm had moved in 1928. At some point by the late 1930s, and possibly before, records of transactions and object descriptions were compiled. Certainly by February 1937, the Lehmans had hired Helen Holstein (her later married name was Helen Siegfried) as an art secretary and librarian to inventory and document the collection.

Many of the earliest so-called price lists and datasheets in the papers are likely her work, though others might have helped with collection administration before her. Holstein worked with the Lehmans until 1940 or 1941. The art secretary position was then filled by Elisabeth A. (Nicky) Atanasoff (Gunnill was her married name after July 1943), until about 1947.

At that point, Robert turned to Martin Weinberger of New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts (NYU-IFA) to assist in maintaining inventories, descriptions, and other records of the collection, particularly with respect to documenting new acquisitions. Weinberger would be kept very busy.
In 1948, Robert traveled to Europe for the first time since before World War II. He spent two months there, from April to June, conducting business, renewing acquaintances, and buying art. His purchasing started before his trip and continued afterward, and his acquisitions were extensive.

They also differed decidedly from his and Philip’s acquisitions of the past 35 years in that they were principally modern paintings. Among these acquisitions were Bonnard Before Dinner (MMA-1975.1.156) from Galerie O. Pétridès; Vuillard Mme Vuillard in a Set Designer's Studio (MMA-1975.1.223) from Jacques Seligman; Derain Palace of Westminster (MMA-1975.1.168) from Delius Gallery; Matisse Espagnole: Harmonie en bleu (MMA-1975.1.193) and Cross Place de Clichy (MMA-1975.1.210) from Sam Salz; Sisley Allée of Chestnut Trees (MMA-1975.1.211) and Pissarro The Harvest, Pontoise (MMA-1975.1.197) from Knoedler; van Gogh Madame Roulin and Her Baby (MMA-1975.1.231) from Walter Feilchenfeldt; and Renoir Two Young Girls at the Piano (MMA-1975.1.201) from J.K. Thannhauser. Robert also acquired drawings and watercolors by Signac, Cross, Seurat, Renoir, and others from various dealers. And he acquired thirty drawings directly from Philip Hofer, among them Goya Self-Portrait in a Cocked Hat (MMA-1975.1.976).

Robert also engaged Giuseppe Mindak in Italy to find and purchase frames, which Mindak did, acquiring 85 frames or more in a fairly short time. And this is merely a brief sampling of Robert’s acquisitions for just 1948.

He continued this pace of acquiring modern paintings through 1949 and into the 1950s; to note just a few: in 1949, he acquired Seurat The Mower (MMA-1975.1.206) from Knoedler, Marquet Sergeant of the Colonial Regiment (MMA-1975.1.192) from René Gas, and several paintings directly from the artist, Marcel Dyf; in 1950, Gauguin Tahitian Women Bathing (MMA-1975.1.179) from Knoedler; in 1952, Renoir Young Girl Bathing (MMA-1975.1.199) from Dalzell Hatfield, and van Dongen Avenue du Bois (MMA-1975.1.227) and five paintings by Albert André from Durand-Ruel.
Robert also continued building his collection of drawings such as with his 1952 acquisitions of Rembrandt Cottage near the Entrance to a Wood (MMA-1975.1.792) from Jacob Hirsch; four Dürer drawings, including Self-portrait, Study of a Hand and a Pillow (MMA-1975.1.862) from Paul Drey Gallery; and about 24 drawings by Signac, Cross, and Vuillard from the Madame S. sale at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris through Paul Ebstein of the Galerie de L'Élysée.

Robert still acquired the occasional Old Master, such as the Sano di Pietro Madonna and Child (MMA-1975.1.40) from Knoedler in 1949 and El Greco Christ Carrying the Cross (MMA-1975.1.145) through Marlborough Fine Art in 1954. In 1952, his aunt and Carrie’s sister, Sophie Goodhart died; Robert acquired paintings from the estate, including Lorenzo Veneziano Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Donors (MMA-1975.1.78).
Perhaps by the mid-1950s, Robert was ready again to trim his collection as he consigned many objects to Sotheby’s, Hammer Galleries, and Lock Galleries to sell or to donate to institutions. But he still continued to buy, ranging from Ingres Princesse de Broglie (MMA-1975.1.186) from Wildenstein in 1957 to the Balthus Nude Before a Mirror(MMA-1975.1.155) from the Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1958; from the Lorenzo Monaco The Crucified Christ between the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist (MMA-1975.1.67) through Marcello Guidi in 1958 to the Vlaminck Sunlight on Water (MMA-1975.1.220) from Charles Lock in 1961; from the Rousseau Barbizon painting The Pond (MMA.1975.1.205) from Lock in 1958 to the Chagall Le Pont de Passy et la Tour Eiffel (MMA-1975.1.161) also from Lock in 1966. In 1961, after various earlier attempts, Robert succeeded in acquiring a Monet for his collection, the Houses on the Achterzaan (MMA-1975.1.196) from Marianne Feilchenfeldt.

Drawings were also collected in various ways. Since at least the late 1930s, Robert had known Agnes Mongan, the respected authority on drawings at the Fogg Art Museum. In the 1950s and 1960s, he turned often to her for advice on drawings and at times, such as in 1958, authorized her to purchase drawings for him when she was traveling in Europe.

Robert also bought 124 drawings directly from Paul Wallraf in 1963, including works by Canaletto, Guardi, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. That same year, he acquired 15 drawings, all attributed at the time to Rembrandt, from the Louis Silver estate through Knoedler, including Rembrandt's Satire on Art Criticism (MMA-1975.1.799) and Elsje Christiaens Hanging on a Gibbet (MMA-1975.1.803). By the early 1960s, he had also ranged into American artists, with drawings or watercolors by Glackens, Maurice Prendergast, and David Levine.
Until the very last years of his life in 1969, Robert continued to build his collection of paintings, drawings, and watercolors.

In addition, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he also purchased decorative arts, especially furniture, bronzes, Meissen statuettes, Sèvres porcelain objects, and the like from Rosenberg & Stiebel, French & Co., E. Pinkus, and other dealers. A notable purchase, made in 1958 through Mattheisen Galleries, were the twelve lots of Verre de Nevers glass objects obtained at Sotheby’s Viva King sale.

Collection Loans
Philip and Robert were frequently asked to lend objects from their collection. Perhaps most were declined, but many of these requests were agreed to. Certainly by the 1930s, and likely before this date, the Lehmans seemed willing to consider a range of exhibition settings and purposes, given those to which they lent.

These could be scholarly affairs, such as the loan of fifteen drawings in 1935 to Gordon Washburn’s Master Drawings exhibition at Albright Art Gallery. They could be for a benefit held at a New York dealer, such as the loan in 1949 of Robert’s Rembrandts Gerard de Lairesse and Gentleman Seated in an Armchair for exhibition at Wildenstein for the benefit of the Public Education Association. They could be for exhibitions arranged as an alternative to placing the objects in storage for the summer, such as the 1931 loan to the Fogg of seven paintings. Other loans supported student initiatives, such as the 1936 loan of two drawings to Paul Sachs at the Fogg for use in his Museum Studies spring exhibition.

Some were in high visibility settings, such as the loan of twelve paintings and a tapestry to the Masterpieces of Art exhibition at the 1939 World's Fair in New York, or the loan of Robert’s Boddhisattva to the 1939 Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. And in the early 1940s, with much of the collection dispersed during wartime, parts of the collection were exhibited at the custodian institutions.

The loans of one or a few objects for exhibitions continued throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s, and even after Robert’s death in 1969 as previous commitments were honored and some new loan requests were approved. But there were also noticeable differences in certain of the loans in the 1950s, differences that would echo down to the present. First, the scale was markedly different, with hundreds of objects loaned at one time in some instances.

And in those instances, the loan exhibition was entered not just on individual objects, but on the collection and collecting, as a whole.
The first of these instances occurred on a fairly small scale in 1951 at the Colorado Fine Arts Center. With the United States at war in Korea, Robert had shipped part of his collection to Colorado as a wartime protective measure. While the objects were there, the Center exhibited some of the paintings and bronzes, with the organizing theme being that their source was the Lehman collection. The second of these instances occurred and the Metropolitan supported his activities as objects moved in and out of the Museum, but generally the Lehman collection themed galleries would remain until the early 1960s.

In the second half of the 1950s, two major exhibitions with hundreds of objects were mounted that explicitly pointed to the Lehman collection as their thematic core. The first was the Exposition de la Collection Lehman de New York, held at the Louvre's Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris from June to September 1957. The second was The Lehman Collection exhibition held at the Cincinnati Art Museum from May to July 1959. The Cincinnati exhibition sought to re-create the Paris event, even hiring Serge Royaux, the non-English speaking designer of the Orangerie exhibition, to replicate his work in Cincinnati.

Robert also made at least two other sizable exhibition loans around this time. In 1958, he loaned about 22 pieces of glass to the exhibition Three Great Centuries of Venetian Glass, 1470-1770 held at Corning Museum of Glass. In 1960, he lent 29 paintings, drawings, and bronzes to the Yale Art Gallery for their exhibition based on the collections of alumni.

By the 1950s, in addition to lending to major exhibitions, Robert was also playing a broader role in the world of art. He had joined the Metropolitan’s Board in 1941 and was named a Vice President in 1948. In 1967, he would be named to the newly-created position of Chairman of the Board. Robert was also on the advisory councils and Boards of other institutions. Among these was the NYU-IFA, which Robert supported in many important ways, including assisting in the negotiations in the 1950s that led to the donation of Harold Acton’s villa in Florence, La Pietra, to New York University. On the occasion of Bernard Berenson’s 90th birthday in 1955, with Berenson’s approval, Robert created a fellowship at the NYU-IFA to support study at Berenson’s villa, I Tatti.

In 1951, Robert and his second wife, Kittie, divorced. The next year, he married Mrs. Lee Lynn (née Anz). Lee had a daughter, Pamela, from her previous marriage. Robert and Lee traveled to Europe together on several occasions, including for the opening of the Orangerie exhibition. On at least one of these occasions, in 1954 or 1955, Robert brought her to I Tatti to meet Berenson. Through the 1950s, Robert maintained a communication with Berenson, who would die in 1959, that he seems not to have done with other of his earliest advisers, including F. Mason Perkins (died 1955) and Edward Hutton (died 1969).

Installation of the Collection at the Townhouse
Prior to the exhibitions of the 1950s, the only way that one could see such large numbers of objects from the collection would be to visit Philip’s townhouse or Robert’s Park Avenue apartment. Many individuals did ask to visit and though it is hard to tell how frequently this occurred, the Lehmans did make their collections available to some extent to scholars, students, and friends. Still, both locations were residences, so there were, no doubt, constraints.

After Philip’s death, visits to the townhouse were still accommodated. It appears that Martin Weinberger of the NYU-IFA, along with other collection management help he gave Robert, would assist by bringing visiting scholars to the townhouse. In 1954, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where, in 1954, the Museum opened many newly refurbished galleries, among them four galleries presenting loaned works exclusively from Robert’s collection. Robert would lend very actively over the next several years, Weinberger left the U.S. for Europe and Robert hired an art secretary, Ralph Straight.
Straight would remain in Robert’s employ until 1963.

Although Straight was not trained as an art or museum professional, he was able to handle the administrative aspects of the visits, and of the intense exhibition schedule, continuing acquisitions, and other matters. As the 1950s closed, Robert began to move in a new direction. Instead of sending his collection out on loan, he brought it back into the townhouse, newly refurbished as a private gallery that could support more regular usage. The townhouse was not opened generally to the public, but was configured to accept moderate numbers of people at any one time for benefits or other events.

Still, there was also an emphasis on not losing the original context of the collection, so the galleries retained in many instances the original ambience of Philip and Carrie’s townhouse rooms.

Planning for the townhouse refurbishment began in about 1960, intensifying in 1961. Serge Royaux, the designer for the Orangerie and Cincinnati exhibitions, was called on for the project. Robert used the construction and purchasing capabilities from the company of his friends, the Gimbels. The longstanding loans to the Metropolitan galleries were returned. By 1962, the townhouse refurnishing was complete and the first event was held there, a benefit for the NYU-IFA that drew over 700 people over the course of several evenings in November and December of that year.

In the following years several other benefits and events would be held at the townhouse, such as the benefits for the Spence School in 1964 and Centennial Fund for Hunter College in 1966. Scholars and students continued to have access to the collection, perhaps even more regularly now. And it attracted some celebrity as well; both First Ladies Jacqueline Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson visited the collection in the early-mid 1960s. And, although Robert did decline exhibition loan requests citing the need for the collection to be available in the townhouse, he also continued to make such loans, as with his 1964-65 loan to the Arts Council of Great Britain of the Corot Diana and Actaeon (MMA-1975.1.162) and his 1968 loan of four Rembrandt drawings to the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 1963, Robert hired his first professionally-trained curator of the collection, William Johnston. After several months, though, Johnston resigned to take a job in Montreal. And Ralph Straight, who had remained on as art secretary, also left Robert’s employ by the end of 1963, apparently because of recurring ill health. Robert then hired George Szabo as curator. Szabo would remain as curator of the collection for the rest of Robert’s life and well into the 1980s.

After Robert died and an agreement was reached with the Metropolitan, one of Szabo’s responsibilities would be to oversee the transition of the collection to temporary storage at the Museum in 1970-71, and then into the new Robert Lehman Wing in May 1975.

Sources: The above note was developed principally by reference to documents found in the Robert Lehman papers. Other important sources included documents from the Lehman Brothers Records, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School; from articles and obituaries in The New York Times, obtained on line; and from resources available at The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s webpage

(Biographical/Historical note above was taken directly from the finding aid: see the link below)


extent97.3 linear feet (approximately 174 boxes, 10 reels of film)
formatsCorrespondence Financial Records Photographs Administrative Records Printed Materials
accessThe papers are part of the Robert Lehman Collection. Although the papers are open for research, access is limited and by appointment only. See the finding aid for further information regarding the conditions governing access.
record linkhttp://libmma.org/digital_files/archives/Robert_Lehman_papers_b1848688.pdf
record sourcehttp://library.metmuseum.org/record=b1848688~S1
finding aidAvailable in the Robert Lehman Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and on the Internet.
acquisition informationGift of the Robert Lehman Foundation, 1975
updated11/12/2014 11:30:17
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