A Finding Aid to the José de Rivera Papers,
1930-1991
, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.derijose
Creators:
De Rivera, José Ruiz, 1904-1985
Dates:
1930-1991
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
5.6 linear feet
Repository:
The papers of sculptor José de Rivera date from 1930 to 1991 and measure 5.6 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials, letters, scattered personal business records, commission files, art work including four sketchbooks, printed material, and photographs. One of the commission files includes a motion picture film.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of sculptor José de Rivera date from 1930 to 1991 and measure 5.6 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials, letters, scattered personal business records, commission files, art work including four sketchbooks, printed material, and photographs. One of the commission files includes a motion picture film.
Biographical material consists of a biographical account, resumé, military service records, an interview transcript, certificates, addresses, and miscellaneous notes and writings.
Twenty-nine folders of letters are primarily from de Rivera's patron, attorney Howard Goldsmith, but also include single letters from Marcel Breuer, John Canaday, Emlen Etting, Dag Hammarskjold, and G. Vantongerloo.
Scattered personal business records include rental records, sculpture inventories, a contract, receipts, and miscellaneous records.
Commission files contain letters, contracts, receipts, clippings, blueprints, miscellaneous printed material, and photographs concerning several of de Rivera's commissions, including Brussels Construction for the Brussels Universal and International Exhibition, his sculpture for the 1964 New York World's Fair, and Infinity, commissioned for the Smithsonian. A file for Construction #73 completed for the American Iron and Steel Institute also contains a reel of 16mm motion picture film.
Art work consists of four sketchbooks, drawings, and geometric collages including detached cut out shapes.
Printed material includes primarily clippings and exhibition announcements and catalogs. There is also a copy of the book José de Rivera Constructions by Dore Ashton and Joan M. Marter. Photographs are of de Rivera, miscellaneous art-related events, his studio, his art works, and of miscellaneous exhibition installations. Commission files also contain photographs.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 7 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1942-1984 (Box 1; 11 folders)
  • Series 2: Letters, 1938-1988 (Box 1; 29 folders)
  • Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1947-1984 (Box 1; 11 folders)
  • Series 4: Commission Files, 1955-1977 (Box 1-2, 6-7, OV 10, FC 13; 1.1 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Art Work, 1960-1984 (Box 2, 6, OV 8; 0.9 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1931-1991 (Box 2-4, 6; 1.5 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Photographs, 1930-1985 (Box 4-7, OV 9-OV 10; 1.7 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
José de Rivera (1904-1985) worked primarily in New York as an abstract expressionist sculptor known for twisting steel or bronze bands into space-defining three-dimensional shapes.
José A. Ruiz was born on September 18, 1904 in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the son of Joseph and Honorine Montamat Ruiz. He would later take the surname of his maternal grandmother, de Rivera. Early in his life his family moved to New Orleans where his father was a sugar mill engineer on a plantation. De Rivera became adept at repairing machinery and doing blacksmith work with his father. Shortly after completing high school in 1922, de Rivera moved to Chicago where he was employed in foundries and machine shops as a pipe fitter and tool and die maker. His 1926 marriage to Rose Covelli ended in divorce.
Beginning in 1928 de Rivera attended night drawing classes conducted at the Studio School by painter John W. Norton. De Rivera was impressed by the Egyptian collections at the Field Museum. The work of Mondrian, Brancusi, and Georges Vantongerloo also exerted a strong influence on him. In 1932, he traveled through southern Europe and North Africa visiting Spain, Italy, France, Greece, and Egypt. Upon his return to the United States he decided to become a sculptor.
From 1937-1938, de Rivera was employed by the Works Progress Administration-Federal Art Project and created the sculpture Flight for the Newark, New Jersey airport. During World War II, he first served in the U.S. Army Corps from 1942 to 1943. For the following three years, he designed and constructed ship models used as training aids in the U. S. Navy.
De Rivera's first solo exhibition was in 1946 in New York at the Mortimer Levitt Gallery. In 1953, de Rivera taught sculpture at Brooklyn College. For the following three years, he was a critic in sculpture at Yale University and taught at the School of Design at North Carolina State College from 1957 to 1960. De Rivera married Lita Jeronimo in 1955.
In 1961 de Rivera was given a retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. One of his most notable works Infinity was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution for the front of its newly built Museum of History and Technology in 1963.
José de Rivera died on March 19, 1985 in New York City.

Administration
Separated Material
In 1970, José de Rivera loaned some papers for microfilming on Reel N70-32. These materials are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in March 2011. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald
Provenance
The José de Rivera papers were donated by the artist and the Grace Borgenicht Gallery in 1982. Additional material was donated by José de Rivera's son, Joseph A. Ruiz II, in 1998.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
José de Rivera papers, 1930-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The José de Rivera papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Hispanic American artists Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculptors -- New York (State) -- New York -- Interviews Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Collages Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculpture, American -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists' studios -- Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre/Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Iron and Steel Institute Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ashton, Dore Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York World's Fair (1964-1965) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smithsonian Institution Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Exposition universelle et internationale (1958: Brussels, Belgium) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Goldsmith, Howard Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Marter, Joan M. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/