A Finding Aid to the Forbes Watson Papers,
1840-1967,
bulk 1900-1960,
in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.watsforb
Creators:
Watson, Forbes, 1880-1960
Dates:
1840-1967
bulk 1900-1960
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
13.92 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of New York City art critic, writer, and lecturer Forbes Watson date from 1840-1967 with the bulk of materials dating from 1900-1960 and measure 13.92 linear feet. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, business records relating to the Arts Publishing Corporation, records documenting Watson's work for the Public Works of Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture, reference files, an exhibition file from the Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition, writings and notes, ten scrapbooks and loose pages, printed materials, and photographs.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of New York City art critic, writer, and lecturer Forbes Watson date from 1840-1967 with the bulk of materials dating from 1900-1960 and measure 13.92 linear feet. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, business records relating to the Arts Publishing Corporation, records documenting Watson's work for the Public Works of Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture, reference files, an exhibition file from the Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition, writings and notes, ten scrapbooks and loose pages, printed materials, and photographs.
Biographical material includes Watson's Harvard diploma, documents concerning his service with the Red Cross in World War II, biographical accounts, and obituaries.
Correspondence is primarily with colleagues and includes scattered letters from Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Ira Glackens, Allen Tucker, and Max Weber. Other letters are from artists, art historians, and museum curators. A notebook contains shorthand drafts of letters from Watson.
Business records include personal business records consisting of various tax and stock records. The Arts Publishing Corporation records concern Watson's tenure as editor of The Arts magazine and contains a contract, correspondence, financial records, stockholders reports, press releases, a scrapbook, and issues of The Arts. Also included are business records pertaining to the Art in Federal Buildings, Inc..
The U.S. Treasury Department file is the largest series and documents Watson's federal employment as technical director, chief advisor, and consultant for Treasury Department's public art programs - the Public Works of Art Project and the Section of Painting and Sculpture. The files contain correspondence, financial reports, prospectuses, exhibition files, typescripts, clippings, exhibition catalogs, miscellaneous printed material, and photographs, and a scrapbook. The files contain a record of Watson's and other federal administrators' interactions with many artists during the Depression Era. Correspondence is primarily between Watson and Edward Bruce, Olin Dows, Henry and Elinor Morgenthau, and Edward B. Rowan. Found are scattered letters from artists including Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Paul Manship, and William Zorach, among many others. There are exhibition files for "Art for Bonds," "Army at War," and "War Against Japan." There are also photographs of U. S. Treasury Department events including a radio broadcast by John Dewey, Robert La Follette, Jr., and Sumner Welles.
Documents from the Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition at the National Academy of Design contains a prospectus, an exhibition catalog and artists' statements.
Artist/Patron files contain reference material concerning painters, sculptors, photographers, dancers, composers, authors, art collectors, art dealers, and museum administrators. Files may include writings, notes, artworks, exhibition catalogs and other printed materials. Of particular note are photographs, which include portrait photographs of artists and of artists in their studios. Notable photographers include Ansel Adams, Arnold Genthe, Man Ray, photographs of New York City by Charles Sheeler and a photo of Henri Matisse by A. E. Gallatin. Files for Nan Watson, Symeon Shimin, and Glenn O. Coleman contain artworks. A file for Constantin Brancusi contains legal documents concerning U. S. Customs vs. Brancusi.
Art and Architecture files consist of reference material including photographs and notes concerning miscellaneous unattributed art works, American architecture, and furnishings.
Notes and writings consist of miscellaneous notes and typescripts of lectures and published articles, and notebooks.
Nine scrapbooks and loose scrapbook pages contain clippings of articles written by Watson, lists, and exhibition announcements and catalogs. Additional printed material includes clippings, copies of the Hue and Cry newspaper, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases, calendars of events, brochures for the Art Students League, book catalogs, published books, and miscellaneous printed material.
Photographs are of Forbes Watson; family members including his wife, painter Nan Watson; and members of the Art Students League including Peggy Bacon, Minna Citron, Stewart Klonis, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Reginald Marsh. There are also photographs of juries for the Carnegie Institute International Exhibitions that include colleagues Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Gifford Beal, Guy Pene DuBois, Leon Kroll, Henri Matisse, Homer Saint-Gaudens, and Maurice Sterne.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1902-1960 (Box 1; 4 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1913-1960 (Box 1; 33 folders)
  • Series 3: Business Records, 1920-1944 (Box 1-3, 14, 22; 2.0 linear feet)
  • Series 4: U. S. Treasury Department File, 1926-1945 (Box 3-6, 14, 17, 22, OV 21; 3.4 linear feet)
  • Series 5: File for Pepsi-Cola Company's Third Annual Exhibition "Paintings of the Year," 1946 (Box 6; 5 folders)
  • Series 6: Artist/Patron Files, 1840-1967 (Box 6-9, 15, OV 21; 2.8 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Art and Architecture File, 1929-1930 (Box 9; 35 folders)
  • Series 8: Notes and Writings, 1875-1950 (Box 9-10, 22; 1.3 linear feet)
  • Series 9: Scrapbooks, 1904-1951 (Box 9, 11, 14, BV 18, BV 19, BV 20; 1.8 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Printed Material, 1900-1961 (Box 10, 12-13, 16-17, 22; 1.5 linear feet)
  • Series 11: Photographs, 1900-1950 (Box 13, 22; .4 linear feet)
All material is arranged chronologically, with the exception of the Artist/Patron Files which are arranged alphabetically.

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Forbes Watson (1879-1960) worked primarily in New York City and Washington, D.C. as an art critic, writer, lecturer, and consultant to the U. S. Treasury Department's Public Works of Art Project and Section of Painting and Sculpture (Section of Fine Arts).
Forbes Watson was born on November 27, 1879 in Boston, the son of stockbroker John Watson and his wife Mary. Watson grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attending the Phillips Academy in Andover, and graduating from Harvard University in 1902. After a brief period of freelance writing, he was hired by The New York Evening Post as an art critic in 1911 and worked there until 1917. In 1910, he married Agnes, professionally known as painter Nan Watson.
During World War I, Watson served with an American volunteer ambulance unit with the French army, later working with the American Red Cross in Paris. After the war, he moved back to New York City and worked as art critic for The World, from the early 1920s until 1931 and as editor of The Arts magazine from 1923-1933. Watson also lectured at the Art Students League, and at various universities and arts organizations.
In 1933, Watson moved to Washington, D.C. to serve as technical director of the U. S. Treasury Department's short-lived Public Works of Art Project. In October 1934, Watson was employed as Chief Adviser to the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (later renamed the Section of Fine Arts) and later as Consultant to the Secretary's Office of the Treasury. During World War II, he organized various traveling exhibitions including "Art for Bonds" that promoted the sale of war bonds. Watson retired in 1946 and lived in Gaylordsville, Connecticut.
Watson was the author of numerous essays and reviews, and several books including American Painting Today and Winslow Homer, a biography of the noted American artist. With Edward Bruce, he produced a pictorial volume Art in Federal Buildings, Vol. I: Mural Designs. At his death he was working on his autobiography.
Forbes Watson died on May 31, 1960 in New Milford, Connecticut.

Administration
Processing Information
Portions of the papers were separated and microfilmed in 1961 on reels D47-D57, 440, 1192-1194, 3480, and 4361. The microfilm reels are no longer in circulation because they do not reflect the current arrangement of the papers. All portions were merged and processed in 2010 by Jean Fitzgerald. The 2018 addition was processed in 2019 by Ryan Evans.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald
Provenance
The Forbes Watson papers were donated by Watson's widow, Nan Watson, in 1961. An additional folder of material was donated in 2018 by the Museum of Modern Art via Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, Library and Research.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Forbes Watson papers, 1840-1967, bulk 1900-1960. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Forbes Watson 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.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Art and state Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Notes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, American Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art publishing Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arts administrators -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drafts (documents) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Architecture, New York State, New York -- Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Architecture -- New York, N.Y. -- Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States -- Social conditions -- 1933-1945 Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arts (Magazine) Title Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New Deal, 1933-1939 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
World War, 1939-1945 -- Art and the war Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New York N.Y. -- Buildings, structures, etc., Photographs Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Authors -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal aid to the arts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Section of Painting and Sculpture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Section of Fine Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sheeler, Charles, 1883-1965 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saint-Gaudens, Homer, b. 1880 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Marsh, Reginald, 1898-1954 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kuniyoshi, Yasuo, 1889-1953 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kroll, Leon, 1884-1974 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Barr, Alfred H., Jr., 1902-1981 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Zorach, William, 1887-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gallatin, A. E. (Albert Eugene), 1881-1952 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Citron, Minna Wright, 1896-1991 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bruce, Edward, 1879-1943 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Brancusi, Constantin, 1876-1957 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Glackens, Ira, 1907-1990 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Genthe, Arnold, 1869-1942 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Klonis, Stewart, 1901-1989 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art Students League (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dows, Olin, 1904-1981 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coleman, Glenn O., 1887-1932 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pène Du Bois, Guy , 1884-1958 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Matisse, Henri, 1869-1954 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pepsi-Cola Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Morgenthau, Henry, 1891-1967 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kuniyoshi, Yasuo, 1889-1953 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Manship, Paul, 1885-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mangravite, Peppino, 1896- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Shimin, Symeon, 1902- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Beal, Gifford, 1879-1956 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sterne, Maurice, 1878-1957 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Public Works of Art Project Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ray, Man, 1890-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Red Cross Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rowan, Edward Beatty, 1898-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watson, Nan, 1876-1966 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weber, Max, 1881-1961 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tucker, Allen, 1866-1939 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Public Buildings Administration. Section of Fine Arts 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
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
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