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Carl Zigrosser Collection


Held at: Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives [Contact Us]Philadelphia Museum of Art, PO Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

In 1942 Carl Zigrosser began a collection of artists' letters, papers, signatures and photographs here at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He called this the Archives of American Art. In the 1950s the Smithsonian Institution organized a national collection of microfilmed American artists' papers and also called it the Archives of American Art. In 1954 the Smithsonian microfilmed much of Zigrosser's collection to add to their microfilms. Zigrosser acquired the Leila Mechlin and Henry Schnakenberg collections. Later, Kneeland McNulty also added material to the PMA Collection. Previously maintained in the Print Department, the CZC collection is now in the Archives, indexed and arranged alphabetically by artist.

This collection consists primarily of the materials Carl Zigrosser began to compile in 1942 about American artists, which he called the Archives of American Art. Comprised of correspondence, as well as photographs, signatures and other papers that Zigrosser intended for his archives as well as similar material that was added by his successors at the museum, this material makes up the first series, "Research by artist." The second series, "General Reference" consists of various materials Zigrosser did not classify specifically but decided to retain. Most of the material is now arranged by genre, with periodicals comprising the bulk of the group. The "Writings" series consists of only a few of the articles Zigrosser published. The last series is "Memorabilia" and consists of three items.

Greeting cards and postcards were transferred from the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Department in 2006.

Much of the correspondence was microfilmed by the American Archives of Art in 1954. Reel nos. P10, P11 and P14. Copies are available for use in the Museum's Library.

These materials were arranged and described by Merle Chamberlain and Louise F. Rossmassler in 1987. Revised by Bertha Adams in 2007. Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation.

Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Merle Chamberlain and Louise F. Rossmassler (12/31/1987). Revised by Bertha Adams (2007).
Finding Aid Date
Funded by a grant from The Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

The Carl Zigrosser Collection is the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Collection Inventory

Physical Description

7.5 linear feet

Microfilmed material.
Scope and Content Note

Comprised of artists' letters, papers, signatures and photographs, this subgroup represents the material originally compiled by Carl Zigrosser while at PMA, beginning in 1942, and which was later microfilmed by the Smithsonian Institution and incorporated into their Archives of American Art.


Alphabetical by artist.

Indexed material.
Scope and Content Note

Similar in content to the previous subseries, this material was indexed by the Museum archivist upon transfer from the curatorial department. It was not microfilmed.

Later accessions.
Scope and Content Note

This subseries consists of material that previous and current curatorial staff have added as pertinent artist information. There is also a small amount of material that Zigrosser compiled but never incorporated into his original Archives of American Art. Most of the latter material consists of photographs of works by Arhtur Flory, Käthe Kollwitz, José Guadalupe Posada, and Diego Rivera, as well as some candid shots of Zigrosser with the artist Wanda Gäg. Also included is a set of index cards that Zigrosser created as a chronological checklist of works by Adolf Dehn.

WPA artists.
Scope and Content Note

The graphic art works photographed in this subseries were created by artists employed by the W.P.A. While many of the works depict the despair wrought by the depression and felt in equal measure in the cities and rural areas, other works capture the quiet strength of men, women and children at work, at play and at home. A significant number of artists represented here are women. Captions are attached to many of the photographs suggesting their use as press releases, and to specifically note the W.P.A.-related exhibition in which the work of art was included. All the exhibitions noted were held in New York City. The photographs were also created through the W.P.A,. in the New York City photographic division, and both the graphic artist and photographer are credited. The photographs are arranged alphabetically by artist. Also included are several sets of notes, some of which appear to list prices of various works. There is also an undated clipping about the Metrolpolitan Museum of Art selecting approximately 120 W.P.A. prints for its permanent collection, as well as an unidentified glass negative and a miniature exhibition checklist to the 1937 "Prints for the People" exhibition held by the W.P.A. at the International Art Center in New York.

It is believed that Zigrosser compiled this material while employed at the Weyhe Gallery. There are also two folders of his W.P.A. correspondence in Subseries A., filed under "Z," most of which he generated as PMA's curator of prints.

Scope and Content Note

A variety of material comprises this series, which Zigrosser apparently maintained in no particular order. Although most of the material is not identified to indicate why Zigrosser retained it, collectively this series suggests his interests professionally, personally, and often a combination of the two. The first subseries consists of the bulk of material and is arranged by genres. Because of the large number of items of each, "Greeting cards and postcards" and "Periodicals" comprise individual sub-subseries. The sub-subseries "Other genres" houses the remainder.

There are approximately 150 greeting cards and postcards in the first sub-subseries, and all but one are holiday related. Most were sent to Zigrosser and his wife Laura, and inscribed with brief personal messages. The cards vary in style, including photographs of family portraits and residences, traditional comercially-produced cards, cards specially designed with unique themes and formats, and cards commercially-produced depicting works of art. About half the cards pertain to the last category, many depicting objects held at the Philadelphia Musuem of Art. There is also a list of works from the Museum's Prints and Drawings Department that were reproduced as cards. Drawings by Zigrosser's young relatives and any holiday mailings with no visuals or with significant personal writing are part of the "Memorabilia" series. Brochures created as holiday keepsakes are also in the latter series. "Periodicals" are the other large category and just by title give a clear indication of Zigrosser's interest in the arts and often their role in social activisim. Publications range from Art News and the Mask, which is devoted to the theatre, to Art Front, which reported on the activities of the Artists Committee of Action and the Artists Union. The Liberator is the best represented here, with issues from 1918 to 1924. Its subhead declared it to be the "journal of revolutionary progress." Other materials included in the first subseries are a few exhibition catalogues, bulletins, ephemera, foreign and U.S. newspapers, photographs, film and glass plate negatives.

The second subseries represents the few files Zigrosser identified by subject. Almost all are newspaper clippings that pertain to "Cartoons" or "Philadelphia." There is also a chart identifying master engravers and etchers from 1425 to 1925.

Physical Description

4.5 linear feet

Greeting cards and postcards.
Writings. 0.75 linear foot.
Scope and Content Note

These few articles were written by Zigrosser.

Physical Description

0.75 linear foot

Memorabilia. 0.25 linear foot.
Scope and Content Note

This series consists of a handcrafted wooden calendar pad, an autographed print and a published musical score.

Physical Description

0.25 linear foot

Print, Suggest