Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Carl Holty Papers, circa 1860s-1972(bulk 1940-1967), in the Archives of American Art

Collection ID:
Holty, Carl, 1900-1973
circa 1860s-1972
bulk 1940-1967
Physical Description:
1.8 Linear feet
The Carl Holty papers are dated circa 1860s-1972 (bulk 1940-1967), measure 1.8 linear feet and contain correspondence, writings, printed material and photographs documenting Holty's career as an abstract painter and painting teacher.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of Carl Holty are dated circa 1860s-1972 (bulk 1940-1967), measure 1.8 linear feet and consist of correspondence, writings, printed material and photographs documenting Holty's career as an abstract painter and painting teacher.
Correspondence with Romare Bearden, Charles Byrne and Hilaire Hiler concerns art, exhibitions and reviews, education, and news of mutual friends. Holty's writings include articles, autobiographical writings, unpublished manuscripts of a monograph, Art In America, and an untitled novel. Also found among his writings is a journal which contains his reminiscences of artist friends and acquaintances, and reflections on art, art history, and his life, personal plans and aspirations.
Printed material consists mainly of clippings about or mentioning Holty, and reviews and publicity relating to The Painter's Mind, a book Holty wrote with Romare Bearden. Miscellaneous records consist of a transcript of an interview with Carl Holty and an identification card issued to his father.
Photographs are of artwork, people and places. Also included are 6 photograph albums of Holty's artwork, and a small number of negatives. The people pictured are mainly Holty, friends and family. There is also a group photograph that includes Joan Miró.

Arrangement note
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 5 series:
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Correspondence, 1940-1972 (Box 1; 5 folders)
  • Series 2: Writings, 1944-1967 (Box 1; 0.6 linear ft.)
  • Series 3: Printed Material, 1931-1972 (Box 1; 5 folders)
  • Series 4: Miscellaneous Records, 1900, 1966 (Box 1; 2 folders)
  • Series 5: Photographs, circa 1860s-1972 (Boxes 1-3; 0.9 linear ft.)

Biographical/Historical note
Biographical/Historical note
Carl Holty was born in 1900 to American parents in Freiburg, Germany, where his father was studying medicine. Carl was still an infant when the family returned to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they lived with his grandparents in a traditional German neighborhood. It was Carl's grandfather who first introduced him to art through visits to a small local commercial gallery.
After showing an interest in being an artist at around age 12, Holty began taking lessons with a local painter. As a teenager he began drawing cartoons and soon set his sights on becoming a poster artist. With that in mind, Holty enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1919. He soon headed to New York and took courses at the Parsons School of Design and then at the National Academy of Design. In 1923 he returned to Milwaukee and opened a portrait painting studio.
Holty married in 1925 and took his bride to Europe, remaining abroad for the next decade. He entered Hans Hofmann's school in Munich in 1926, and exposure to Hofmann's ideas about color, space, and form greatly influenced and transformed his work. In 1927, the Holtys relocated to Switzerland in search of treatment for Mrs. Holty's tuberculosis. Holty and Hofmann remained in touch, and while in Switzerland, Holty increasingly incorporated Hofmann's teachings into his paintings as they grew more abstract in style.
After his wife's death in 1930, Holty moved to Paris for five years where he participated in several exhibitions and his work was well-received. Robert Delaunay invited him to join Abstration-Création, and the group published some of Holty's work in its magazine.
Upon returning to the United States in 1935, Holty settled in New York City where he eventually remarried and had a daughter. He renewed friendships with Hans Hofmann, Vaclav Vytlacil, and Stuart Davis, whom he had known in Paris. A figure in vanguard art circles, Holty was involved in meetings that resulted in the formation of the American Abstract Artists, and in 1938 he served as the group's chairman.
Holty taught drawing and paining at Brooklyn College from 1950 until his retirement in 1970, when he was designated Professor Emeritus. His years at Brooklyn College were punctuated by brief stints as a visiting instructor at the Art Students League, Washington University (St. Louis), and University of Louisville; he served as artist-in-residence at the universities of Georgia, Florida, California (Berkeley), and Wisconsin, and the Corcoran School of Art.
He exhibited widely at major museums throughout the United States including: the San Francisco Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Carnegie Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Holty's work was shown at major New York galleries such as J. B. Neumann, Samuel Kootz Gallery, and Graham Gallery, and is in the permanent collections of many museums including: Addison Gallery of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Butler Institute of Art, Carnegie Institute, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
Carl Holty died March 22, 1973 in New York City, after a short illness.

Catherine S. Gaines
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
The Carl Holty papers were donated in increments between 1972 and 2006. The bulk of the papers were originally loaned in 1968, and later donated by Holty in 1972. Charles Byrne, a friend of Holty, donated a small amount of correspondence, printed material, and photographs in 1976-1977; family photographs were given by Holty's biographer, Virginia Liles, in 2006.
Separated Materials note
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels N68-93 and N68-105), much of which was subsequently donated. Loaned material that was not later donated includes Holty's letters to his wife, Elizabeth, and daughter, Antonia, letters to Zoe Dusanne, letters from Ulfert Wilkie and Erwin Breithaupt, a small amount of general correspondence, and a typescript copy of Holty's journal. This material remains with the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
Existence and Location of Copies note
The bulk of the collection is available on microfilm reels N68-93, N68-105, 439, 670, and 1625 at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm. However, when known, references to reel numbers have been added to folder headings.
Processing Information note
The bulk of the collection was microfilmed in several installments in the order in which it was received and/or loaned on reels N68-93, N68-105, 439, 670, and 1625. The entire collection was merged and re-processed, arranged and described by Catherine S. Gaines in 2007.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation note
Carl Holty papers, circa 1860s-1972 (bulk 1940-1967). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access note
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.

Related Archival Materials note
Six interviews with Carl Holty (in addition to the one described in this finding aid) are available at the Archives of American Art. Three are oral histories conducted by the Archives of American Art, 1964-1968. The others are parts of interview collections accessioned by the Archives: Interviews relating to American Abstract Artists (Ruth Bowman), Anne Bowen Parsons collection of Interviews on Art, and Collette Roberts Interviews with Artists.
In addition, substantial correspondence with Carl Holty is included among the Hilaire Hiler papers and Romare Bearden papers owned by the Archives of American Art.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Painting -- Study and teaching Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photograph albums Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hiler, Hilaire, 1898-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Byrne, Charles B. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
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Victor Building, Suite 2200
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