A Finding Aid to the Hedda Sterne Papers in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.sterhedd
Creators:
Sterne, Hedda, 1910-
Dates:
1939-1977
Languages:
Multiple languages
English; French
The collection is in English and French.
Physical Description:
1.3 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter Hedda Sterne measure 1.3 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1977. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence, including extensive correspondence from Sterne's second husband Saul Steinberg, the artist known for his New Yorker drawings; writings; exhibition files; printed material; drawings and 3 sketchbooks; photographs and slides of Sterne, her family, and her work; and originals of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's work Lettre A Leon Werth and 4 drawings Saint-Exupéry sent to Sterne.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter Hedda Sterne measure 1.3 linear feet and date from 1939 to 1977. Found within the papers are biographical material; personal and professional correspondence, including extensive correspondence from Sterne's second husband Saul Steinberg, the artist known for his New Yorker drawings; writings; exhibition files; printed material; drawings and 3 sketchbooks; photographs and slides of Sterne, her family, and her work; and originals of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's work Lettre A Leon Werth and 4 drawings Saint-Exupéry sent to Sterne.
Biographical material includes certificates, curriculum vitae, a Fulbright application, lists of artworks, and Saul Steinberg's fingerprints. Correspondence is primarily with Sterne's friends, and business associates. There is significant correspondence from the artist Georges Mathieu and from her second husband Saul Steinberg.
Writings consist of numerous miscellaneous handwritten and typescript notes on art. Exhibition files include an article, interview transcript, and press release for Sterne's 1970 exhibition Everyone at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Printed material includes cards, clippings, exhibition announcements, and an exhibition catalog.
Artwork consists of drawings and 3 sketchbooks. Photographs are of Sterne, her family and friends, and her artwork. Materials related to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry include copies of his Lettre A Leon Werth and 4 drawings Saint-Exupéry sent to Sterne.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 8 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical materials, 1941-1970 (8 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1943-1965 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1-2)
  • Series 3: Writings, circa 1945-1965 (5 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 4: Exhibitions, 1970 (3 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 5: Printed material, 1946-1977 (3 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 6: Artwork, circa 1945-1965 (4 folders; Box 1)
  • Series 7: Photographic Materials, 1939-1969 (0.3 linear feet; Box 1-2)
  • Series 8: Antoine de Saint Exupéry, circa 1942 (4 folders; Box 1)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Painter Hedda Sterne (1910-2011) lived in New York City and was known for working in many artistic styles, including surrealism and abstract expressionism. She was the only woman in the group of abstract expressionists known as "The Irascibles."
Sterne was born in Bucharest, Romania to Simon Lindenberg, a high school language teacher, and his wife Eugenie. Her early interest in art was encouraged by her family and, after graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, she traveled to Vienna to study art. In 1932, she married childhood friend and businessman Frederick Stern. Through the 1930s, she continued to develop as an artist, traveling between Bucharest and Paris, where she attended Fernand Léger's atelier for a time. In 1938, her work with torn paper collages at that year's Paris Salon caught the eye of Hans Arp, who convinced her to exhibit at Peggy Guggenheim's London gallery. The chaos and persecution of Jews during World War II precipitated Sterne's arrival in America, where she joined her husband in New York City.
In New York, Peggy Guggenheim welcomed Sterne into her circle of artist friends and invited her to exhibit in Guggenheim's gallery in New York City, Art of This Century. In 1944, Sterne married Saul Steinberg, the artist known for his New Yorker drawings, and became a U.S. citizen. Through the 1940s, Sterne created works in realist and surrealist styles, but by the late 1940s, she began exploring abstract expressionism. In 1943, Sterne exhibited at the Wakefield Gallery, where she met the gallery manager Betty Parsons and where she received her first one woman show in 1945. After Betty Parsons opened her own gallery in 1946, Sterne joined Parsons' stable and continued to meet and befriend other prominent abstract artists. In 1950, she signed an open letter along with 14 other artists protesting the Metropolitan Museum's conservatism towards abstract art. This led to a feature article in Life magazine where she was the only woman to be photographed alongside "The Irascibles." This group included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt, among others. Through the 1950s, Sterne continued to explore new avenues of art by painting cityscapes, abstract mechanical structures, portraits, and faces, and by using mediums ranging from oil, spray paint, pen and ink, pencil, and diary/text reproductions on stretched canvas.
In 1960, Sterne and Steinberg separated but remained friends until his death in 1999. The recipient of numerous awards and one woman shows, retrospectives of her work were exhibited at the Montclair Art Museum (1977), Queens Museum of Art (1985), and the Krannert Art Museum (2006). Sterne died in her home in Manhattan in 2011 at the age of 100.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
The collection was digitized in its entirety in 2016 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website.
Processing Information
Portions of the papers were microfilmed on reels 144-145 and reel 5028 shortly after their receipt. Previously microfilmed and unmicrofilmed papers were merged, processed, and described by Judy Ng in 2013 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. The collection was digitized in 2016 with funding provided by the Hedda Sterne Foundation.
Author
Judy Ng
Sponsor
Processing of this collection was funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Digitization of this collection was funded by the Hedda Sterne Foundation.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Hedda Sterne donated her papers in 1970, 1971, and 1972.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Hedda Sterne papers, 1939-1977. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archvies' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
The Hedda Sterne 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 in the Archives is an oral history interview with Hedda Sterne conducted by Phyllis Tuchman, December 17, 1981, for the Archives of American Art's Mark Rothko and His Times oral history project. Additional correspondence and photographs of Sterne are located in the Saul Steinberg papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcripts Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Steinberg, Saul Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Werth, Léon, 1878-1955 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mathieu, Georges, 1921 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de, 1900-1944 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/