A Finding Aid to the Bernard J. Reis Papers, circa 1913-1983, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.reisbern
Creators:
Reis, Bernard J.
Dates:
circa 1913-1983
Languages:
English
English
Physical Description:
2.1 Linear Feet
Repository:
The papers of New York accountant and art collector Bernard J. Reis measure 2.1 linear feet and date from circa 1913 to 1983. The papers document his friendships with artists, his role as accountant for Art of This Century and the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, and executor of the Mark Rothko Estate. Included are biographical and family papers, correspondence, professional files, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of New York accountant and art collector Bernard J. Reis measure 2.1 linear feet and date from circa 1913 to 1983. The papers document his friendships with artists, his role as accountant for Art of This Century and the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, and executor of the Mark Rothko Estate. Included are biographical and family papers, correspondence, professional files, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.
Biographical and family papers includes a biographical essay, a caricature of Bernard Reis by Abe Birnbaum, documents regarding Rebecca Reis's 1963 cookbook and Barbara Reis Poe's art career, as well as memorabilia from tours of the Reis house and art collection.
Correspondence is with family, friends, and artists, such as Marc Chagall, Sir Herbert Read, and Robert Motherwell. Also found is correspondence with art organizations, galleries, and museums, including the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Modern Art.
A small set of professional files include copies of others' correspondence, miscellaneous legal documents and reports, Marlborough Gallery records from Reis's time as a New York Director, and copies of wills drawn up by Reis, including those of Edward Albee, Willem De Kooning, Peggy Guggenheim, Beverly Pepper, Abraham Rattner, Man Ray, and Larry Rivers.
Art of This Century and Peggy Guggenheim Foundation records are comprised of accountant's reports, an architect's essay, papers concerning exhibitions and films, a catalog of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Foundation dissolution documents, meeting minutes, gift agreements, and news clippings. Also included is correspondence between Peggy Guggenheim and Bernard and Rebecca Reis, correspondence between Peggy Guggenheim and her son, Sindbad Vail, and financial correspondence.
Mark Rothko Estate papers include administrative records, financial documents, inventories, sales records, papers concerning the Mary Alice "Mell" Rothko Estate, news clippings, and two scrapbooks. Also found are Mark Rothko's correspondence and estate correspondence. Of note are papers related to the Rothko estate trial.
Printed material consists of exhibition announcements and catalogs, copies of articles by Reis, news and magazine clippings, and printed materials regarding Marc Chagall.
Photographs depict Bernard Reis, Reis with wife Rebecca and friends, the Reis home and collection, and Reis at events. Also found are photographs of Peggy Guggenheim's Palazzo in Venice.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 7 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical and Family Papers, circa 1943-1975 (Box 1; 8 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1935-1979 (Box 1, OV 3; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Professional Files, circa 1947-1975 (Box 1; 9 folders)
  • Series 4: Art of This Century and Peggy Guggenheim Foundation Records, circa 1942-1978 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Mark Rothko Estate Papers, circa 1958-1983 (Box 1-2; 0.9 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, circa 1913-1978 (Box 2, OV 3; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Photographs, circa 1920-1975 (Box 2, OV 3; 0.3 linear feet)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Bernard J. Reis (1895-1978) was an accountant and art collector in New York, as well as the exector of Mark Rothko's estate.
Reis was born in New York City, in 1895. He received a degree in Commercial Science from New York University in 1915 and graduated from the New York University School of Law in 1918. He passed the New York State Bar Examination but was unable to complete the required one year clerkship as he was supporting his parents financially, and subsequently became a Certified Public Accountant in 1921.
Reis and his wife, Rebecca, built a collection of art in their home, which they opened for charity tours starting in 1948. During this time, Reis became acquainted with many individuals involved in the art world. He developed friendships with art collector Peggy Guggenheim and artists Marc Chagall and Mark Rothko. Reis served as a director for Art of This Century Films and the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation, as well as Guggenheim's personal financial advisor and confidant.
Following the death of Mark Rothko in 1970, Reis was named one of the executors of his estate. The estate was largely managed by the Mark Rothko Foundation, of which Reis was a director. Reis and the other executors entered into an agreement with Marlborough Gallery to sell Rothko's paintings, and in 1971, Mark Rothko's daughter, Kate, accused the estate and gallery of fraudulent practices and sued to release the estate from the sale agreement. The case was not fully resolved until after Reis's death in 1978.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and described in a finding aid by Rebecca McCormick in 2017.
Author
Rebecca McCormick
Provenance
The papers were donated in 1979 and 1980 by Bernard J. Reis's widow, Rebecca G. Reis.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Bernard J. Reis papers, circa 1913-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Bernard J. Reis 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.

Related Materials
Also found at the Archives of American Art is an interview of Bernard Reis conducted June 3-10, 1976, by Paul Cummings. Bernard and Rebecca Reis papers, circa 1924-1985, are also located at the Getty Research Institute in California.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Collectors and collecting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Accountants Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Read, Herbert Edward, Sir, 1893-1968 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pepper, Beverly Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ray, Man, 1890-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Peggy Guggenheim Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motherwell, Robert Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Marlborough Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rivers, Larry, 1925-2002 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reis, Rebecca G., 1896-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Vail, Sinbad Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rothko, Mary Alice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
De Kooning, Willem, 1904- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Chagall, Marc, 1887- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Albee, Edward, 1928- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rattner, Abraham Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Birnbaum, Abe, 1899-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Poe, Barbara Reis 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/