A Finding Aid to the Thomas Hess Papers, 1939-1978, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.hessthom
Creators:
Hess, Thomas B.
Dates:
1939-1978
Languages:
Multiple languages
The collection is in English and French
English; French
Physical Description:
10 Linear Feet
Repository:
The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.0 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1978. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, extensive writings and notes, artists and subject files that also include recorded conversations with artists and others, printed materials, photographic materials, and artwork.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York editor and art critic Thomas Hess measure 10.0 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1978. The collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, extensive writings and notes, artists and subject files that also include recorded conversations with artists and others, printed materials, photographic materials, and artwork.
Biographical material includes a certificate, architectural plans, investment information, invoices, publisher and loan agreements, will for Paul Stamm, and resumes. Correspondence is with members of Hess' family including his wife and children, Philip Guston, Meyer Schapiro, David Smith, James Schuyler, Forrest Bess, Elaine de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Larry Rivers, Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and others.
Writings and notes consist of manuscripts and drafts by Hess for Art News, Le Monde, Vogue, New York magazine, and other publications; Hess' senior essay and class notes; notes on Ingres, Italian artists, and travels abroad; notebooks on art and literature; and scattered writings by others.
Artists and subject files contain primarily photographs of artwork, artists, and colleaguesare mostly photographs of artwork, artists, and colleagues. Some of the files also contain printed materials, writings, notes, and other documentation. The file on Willem de Kooning includes a sound recording of a conversation between Hess, de Kooning, and Harold Rosenberg. There are also significant files on Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Adolph Gottlieb, Franz Kline, Carl Milles, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and the Mark Rothko Foundation Inc.
Printed materials include brochures and flyers, clippings, magazines and newspapers, press releases, travel memorabilia, and a printed scarf. Photographs are of of Hess, his wife Audrey, other family members, works of art, travel, Larry Rivers and Ad Reinhardt, and other artists and colleagues. Artwork includes drawings, paintings, collages, cartoons, and holiday cards made by Hess and his children, along with artwork by others including Audrey and Lawrence Campbell, Ad Reinhardt, and unidentified artists.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1945-1977 (0.3 linear feet; Box 1, OV 15)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1945-1978 (1.0 linear feet; Box 1-2, OV 11)
  • Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1940-1978 (2.5 linear feet; Box 2-5, OV 12)
  • Series 4: Artists and Subject Files, circa 1946-1978 (4.5 linear feet; Box 5-9, OVs 13, 15-16)
  • Series 5: Printed Materials, 1943-1978 (0.5 linear feet; Box 9, OV 11)
  • Series 6: Photographic Materials, 1949-circa 1960s (0.8 linear feet; Box 9-10, OV14)
  • Series 7: Artwork, 1939-1978 (0.4 linear feet; Box 10, OV 11)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Thomas Hess (1920-1978) was an editor and art critic who worked in New York City. Hess wrote for Art News magazine for most of his career, serving as editorial associate, executive editor, and as managing editor from 1965-1972. .
Hess was born in Rye, New York to Gabriel Lorie Hess, a lawyer, and Helen Baer. He attended school in the United States and Switzerland. He continued his education at Yale University majoring in French art and literature. After graduating, Hess worked for a short period at the Museum of Modern Art under Alfred H. Barr and Dorothy Miller before entering World War II as a pilot. During this time, he married Audrey Hess with whom he eventually had three children, William, Philip, and Anne Helen.
After the war, Hess began working at Art News as an editorial assistant before becoming the magazine's managing editor from 1965 until 1972. Hess also worked as a correspondent for Le Monde and as an art critic for New York magazine.
Hess was a proponent of abstract expressionists, particularly Barnett Newman and Willem de Kooning with whom he was close friends. He wrote several books including Abstract Painting: Background and American Phase (1951), Willem de Kooning (1959), Barnett Newman (1969), and The Art Comics and Satires of Ad Reinhardt (1975).
Hess became the consultative chairman for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of 20th-Century Art a few months before his death from a heart attack in 1978 at the age of 58.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Mundy in 2017 with funding from the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care Pool Fund, using accelerated processing strategies implemented by the Archives to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
Existence and Location of Copies
The bulk of the collection was microfilmed onto legacy reels 3685-3697, with the exception of the 2014 addition consisting of correspondence, notes, and typed lectures by Hess; photographs of Hess and friends; cartoons (including some by Reinhardt); and printed material. These later materials were integrated with the rest of the papers so the order of the papers on the microfilm does not represent the order of the processed papers. The microfilm reels are available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. All sound recordings in this collection have been copied for research access and digital copies are available in the Archives of American Art offices.
Separated Materials
Materials on legacy microfilm reel 5028 related to Barnett Newman are photocopies. The originals are located at the Barnett New Foundation in New York City.
Author
Sarah Mundy
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Thomas Hess papers were donated in multiple increments from 1985 to 1987 by Hess' children, Anne Helen, William, and Philip Hess, except for a file on Barnett Newman donated by Newman's widow, who presumably had borrowed it from Hess. In 2014, additional correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, and cartoons, including some by Ad Reinhardt, were donated by Elizabeth Wolff, Hess' sister.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Conditions Governing Use
The Thomas Hess 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.
Preferred Citation
Thomas Hess papers, 1939-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Greeting cards Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Illustrated letters Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists -- Italy Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Editors -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Paintings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cartoons (humorous images) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Collages Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Smith, David, 1906-1965 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Noguchi, Isamu, 1904-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Still, Clyfford, 1904-1980 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rosenberg, Harold, 1906-1978 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Schuyler, James Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-2011 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Newman, Barnett, 1905-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
De Kooning, Willem, 1904- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Schapiro, Meyer, 1904- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bess, Forrest, 1911-1977 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rivers, Larry, 1925-2002 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gottlieb, Adolph, 1903-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mark Rothko Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Guston, Philip, 1913-1980 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
De Kooning, Elaine Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kline, Franz, 1910-1962 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Milles, Carl, 1875-1955 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Campbell, Lawrence 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/