Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Ad Reinhardt Papers, 1927-1968, in the Archives of American Art

Collection ID:
Reinhardt, Ad, 1913-1967
Physical Description:
3.9 Linear feet
The papers of Ad Reinhardt measure 3.9 linear feet and date from circa 1927 to 1968. The collection documents Reinhardt's career as an abstract painter, cartoonist, and writer through biographical material, correspondence, writings, printed material, scrapbooks, and artwork.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of Ad Reinhardt measure 3.9 linear feet and date from 1927 to 1968. The collection documents Reinhardt's career as an abstract painter, cartoonist, and writer through biographical material, correspondence, writings, printed material, scrapbooks, and artwork.
Biographical material includes personal and professional records, such as passports and membership cards as well as an artist's chronology, and material documenting Reinhardt's time at Brooklyn College and his work for the WPA. Correspondence is of a general nature, including letters from art galleries, museums, and art dealers about exhibitions and artwork, colleges and universities concerning lectures and workshops, and letters from friends, art critics, and fellow artists, including Lucy Lippard, Abe Ajay, and George Rickey. Also found are letters from magazines and various art and social organizations. Writings and notes include calendars, and a small amount of notes and draft writings by Reinhardt. Printed material comprises the largest series in the collection and contains exhibition materials, including invitations and catalogs, and a large number of magazine and news clippings, primarily about Reinhardt's career and modern art, but also covering other topics of interest to him, such as Asian art. Also found in this series are clippings of his published cartoons and artwork. Scrapbooks contain additional printed material documenting his high school and college days, as well as his career. as an artist. Also found within the papers is a small amount of artwork by Reinhardt, primarily small sketches.

The collection is arranged into 6 series.
    Missing Title
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1928-1967 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1930-1967 (Boxes 1-2; 1.1 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1953-1966 (Box 2; 7 folders)
  • Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1927-1968 (Boxes 2-4; 1.7 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Scrapbooks, circa 1928-1959 (Boxes 4-5; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Artwork, circa 1946, 1950, 1961 (Box 4; 4 folders)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Ad Reinhardt was born Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt in 1913 in Buffalo, New York. Shortly after he was born, his family moved to Queens, New York. As a child he copied "funnies" and made collages from newspapers and won many school and community prizes for his artwork. In the fall of 1931 he entered Columbia University and studied art history under Meyer Schapiro, who encouraged him to get involved in radical campus politics. Reinhardt became the editor and cover designer of Jester, a campus magazine. After graduating in 1935, he trained as a painter at the National Academy of Design under Karl Anderson, and at the American Artists School under Francis Criss and Carl Holty, until 1937. At this time he joined American Abstract Artists and became affiliated with American artistic-political groups and other artist organizations. From 1936 to 1941 he worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project, Easel Division, while simultaneously developing his mature style of linear, abstract painting.
When his work for the Federal Art Project ended, Reinhardt worked as a commercial and freelance writer and graphic artist for pamphlets and magazines. Most notably, he was a reporter and cartoonist for the newspaper PM from 1942 to 1947. After serving in the Navy from 1946 to 1947, he took a position as an art history professor at Brooklyn College where he taught for twenty years. During his career as a professor he was also a visiting lecturer at several universities, including Yale University from 1952 to 1953, and the California School of Fine Arts in 1950. Reinhardt had a keen interest in Asiatic art and would often lecture and write on this subject. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he traveled to Japan, India, Persia, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan.
Reinhardt began exhibiting his paintings early in his career. In 1946 he joined the Betty Parsons Gallery, which also represented many other prominent Abstract Expressionists, including Mark Rothko, Barnet Newman, and Jackson Pollock. Reinhardt rejected the emotionalism found in Abstract Expressionism and sought to produce geometric, minimalist paintings. In developing his own aesthetic theory, he wrote extensively for art periodicals such as Art News and Art International. His artwork culminated in the 1960s with his series of black paintings, which drew much attention from the art community and the public. A major retrospective of his work was held at the Jewish Museum in New York, NY, in 1960. Reinhardt continued to write and work on his series of black paintings until his death in 1967.

Erin Corley
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Separated Material
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reels N69-99 - N69-103) including additional notes, writings, correspondence, photographs of artwork, and travel logs. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Rita Reinhardt, Ad Reinhardt's widow, donated papers and lent material for micorfilming in 1969.
Alternative Forms Available
This site provides access to the papers of Ad Reinhardt in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in
, and total
Documents containing sensitive personal information and clippings and documents unrelated to Ad Reinhardt have not been scanned.
Materials lent for microfilming are available on 35mm microfilm reels N69-99- N69-103 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Processing Information
The collection received some processing shortly after it was donated in 1969 and prior to microfilming on Reels N69-99 - N69-104. Previously microfilmed and unmicrofilmed portions were merged, arranged, and described in accordance with archival standards by Erin Corley in 2006 and digitized in 2010 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers 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.
Preferred Citation
Ad Reinhardt papers, 1927-1968. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Material
Related collections found in the Archives includes Ad Reinhardt postcards (to Katherine Scrivener), Ad Reinhardt letters and artwork (loaned material, available on microfilm only), Abe Ajay correspondence with Ad Reinhardt, Marjorie Grimm printed material and letters received from Ad Reinhardt, one photograph of Ad Reinhardt and Colette Roberts by William R. Simmons, and a 1955 painting by Ad Reinhardt.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Works of art Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cartoonists -- New York (State) -- New York Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brooklyn College -- Faculty Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Works Progress Administration Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
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Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001