Series I: Correspondence, 1915–2000
Scope and Contents
Series I. Correspondence, documents Saul Steinberg’s personal and professional relationships and his activities as illustrator and artist from 1937 through his death in 1999. Correspondence primarily dates from his life in the United States after his World War II service, with some personal and professional correspondence from his student years in Milan, immigration to the United States via Santo Domingo, and military service. The series includes correspondence from publishers, art dealers, museums, publications, gallery owners and other professional contacts. Many letters in this series are from Steinberg’s family, friends, and acquaintances in his social circle that included well-known artists, writers, architects, designers, composers, musicians, and others.
This series consists chiefly of incoming letters to Steinberg with some outgoing correspondence, often as photocopies or drafts. Incoming and outgoing third party correspondence is also included, and consists primarily of letters related to Steinberg to and from his lawyer, museums, galleries, publishers, and other agents and proxies. Though Steinberg is known to have discarded most of the fan mail he received, a significant amount of fan mail is distributed throughout this series including fan mail forwarded to Steinberg from The New Yorker, Betty Parsons Gallery, Sidney Janis Gallery, and others. Many letters include enclosures such as clippings, photographs, contracts and other professional records, ephemera, and drawings. Some letters, especially those from close friends, are addressed to both Steinberg and Hedda Sterne, or Steinberg and Sigrid Spaeth (often addressed as Gigi).
This series includes correspondence with Steinberg’s parents Rosa and Moritz Steinberg, sister and brother-in-law Lica (Raschela) and Rica (Ilie) Roman, and his niece and nephew Dana (Daniela) and Stephane Roman, as well as other cousins and family members, including Sali Marcovici. Significant groups of correspondence from Steinberg’s Italian girlfriend Ada Cassola Ongari, wife Hedda Sterne, and longtime partner Sigrid Spaeth, are included along with a large group of letters from Steinberg’s close friend Aldo Buzzi, with whom he corresponded monthly, and often weekly, for over fifty years. Steinberg’s friendship with artists Constantino and Ruth Nivola and their children Claire and Pietro, is also recorded through correspondence. A large group of correspondence with Steinberg’s lawyer, Alexander Lindey, addressing professional contracts and copyright protection, are also included.
Correspondence also includes letters from friends and acquaintances including writers Dore Ashton, Saul Bellow, Nicola Chiaromonte, Ian Frazier, Eugène Ionesco, Ghérasim Luca, Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, S. J. Perelman, Michèle Rosier, Bernard Rudofsky, Charles Simic, and Jean Stein; Italian architects, and friends from the Politecnico di Milano, Lodovico Barbiano Belgiojoso and Ernesto Rogers (partners in BBPR architecture firm) and Sandro Angelini; and Prudence Crowther. Also present is correspondence from Steinberg’s many artist friends including Henri Cartier-Bresson, René Bouché, Alexander Calder, Joseph Cornell, Elaine De Kooning, Charles Eames, Jean-Michel Folon, Helen Frankenthaler, Alberto Giacometti, Philip Guston, Jean Hélion, Evelyn Hofer, Maryam Javaheri, Inge Morath, Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, and studio assistant Anton Van Dalen.
Steinberg also corresponded with other well-known artists, art collectors, editors, writers, philosophers and architects who he met through gallery contacts and other friends including Joseph Albers, Richard Avedon, Roland Barthes, Marcel Breuer, Robert Doisneau, Jean Dubuffet, Marcel Duchamp, Walter Gropius, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Le Corbusier, Man Ray, John and Dominique de Menil, Joan Miró, Barnett Newman, Jerome Robbins, Igor Stravinsky, Wayne Thiebaud, Alice B. Toklas, Kurt Vonnegut, and Billy Wilder.
This series also contains significant correspondence with Steinberg’s professional contacts, clients, and agents. Correspondence includes letters from brothers Cesar and Victor Civita, who served as Steinberg’s first agents and helped bring him to the United States. There is also a large group of correspondence from the New Yorker, as well as New Yorker editors and writers, including Françoise Mouly and William Shawn. Other significant groups of professional correspondence include Betty Parsons Gallery, Galerie Maeght, Gemini G.E.L., Guild Hall of East Hampton, Hallmark Cards Inc., Julian Bach Literary Agency, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, The New York Times, Pace Gallery, Steinberg’s German publisher Rowohlt, Sidney Janis Gallery, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Language of Materials
Correspondence is chiefly in English, with material in Italian, Romanian, and French.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Box 145, folder 2710 (medical records): Restricted until 2046. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Box 145, folder 2709 (medical records): Restricted until 2061. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Box 146 (medical records): Restricted until 2049. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
Box 640, folders 7373, 7374, and 7377: Restricted until January 1, 2032. For more information consult the appropriate curator.
Boxes 253, and 635-636 (motion picture film): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Boxes 640-643 (sound recordings, audio tapes, and video recordings): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.
Series I is organized into four subseries: Incoming Correspondence, Outgoing Correspondence, Incoming Third Party Correspondence, and Outgoing Third Party Correspondence. Each subseries is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within files. Correspondents represented by fewer than five letters are filed in “letter general” files. Significant correspondents with fewer than five letters have been given their own files. Unidentified correspondence and correspondence identified by a first name only are filed at the end of the series, arranged by language.
29.3 Linear Feet ((61 boxes) + 1 broadside)
The correspondence in this series came to the library arranged in a rough chronological order and was rearranged by library staff alphabetically by correspondent to ease access. Many enclosures were found among the correspondence and were reunited with original correspondence where possible. Enclosures that could not be reunited with original letters were filed in Series IV. Personal Papers. Invitations to events and other official correspondence from foreign dignitaries and their spouses, including events hosted by or honoring representatives to the United Nations and other foreign bodies, have been filed under the name of the associated foreign embassy. Some correspondence was found among other papers in folders labeled “Deep”, “Deep D” and “Deep Mail”. It is unknown whether this arrangement was original to Steinberg or came from a later arrangement. Because significance of this label could not be identified by the archivist or the Saul Steinberg Foundation, this correspondence was interfiled with the rest of the correspondence in the collection.
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