Scope and Contents
Series I, Correspondence (Boxes 1-13), primarily contains letters to Henry McBride from artists, writers, New York socialites, and a few personal friends. In addition there are over 1,000 letters from McBride to his cousins and close friends such as Malcolm MacAdam and Max Miltzlaff. In a few cases, both sides of the correspondence are represented, as with the Stettheimer sisters. Most of the letters are in English, although a few artists, such as Marcel Duchamp, wrote in French.
Most people with whom McBride corresponded were involved with art. One of his most influential contacts was Gertrude Stein, whom he met through Mildred Aldrich in 1913. Her nearly sixty letters and postcards contain news about artists like Picasso and Matisse. In a January 20, 1915 letter, she describes the war efforts of her artist friends: "Braque is at the front" and "Picabia is driving an automobile." In early letters she complains that no one will publish her writings, so in 1915 she began sending her manuscripts to McBride, who used his influence to have, "Have They Attacked Mary. He Giggled" published in Vanity Fair in 1917.
Alfred Stieglitz, like Stein, promoted modernist painters at his New York galleries. He wrote to McBride about upcoming exhibits, requesting that he see them in daylight. Stieglitz also wrote about his work, estimating in 1920 that over 10,000 of his photographs were "out in the world" (Box 12, folder 325). Georgia O'Keeffe wrote McBride warm, lyrical letters thanking him for his reviews of her paintings. In a May 11, 1928 letter, she wrote, "What you have done has helped me make a place in the world for what I do."
Mabel Dodge Luhan, another promoter of new talent, invited McBride to accompany her to exhibits and sent him drafts of her "Intimate Memoirs" about artists like Maurice Sterne. In one of his letters about art, Sterne wrote: "The critic speaking through the most powerful medium in the world, undoubtedly exercises a strange influence upon the opinions of his time." (Box 11, folder 316). In fact, McBride's testimony in 1927 that "Bird in Flight" was a work of art helped dissuade U.S. Customs from charging Brancusi extra duty on his sculpture as raw material. Marcel Duchamp, who testified as well, outlined the case in his letters to McBride. He also invited him to a screening of his film "Anémic Cinéma" and sent designs for Some French Moderns, which was published by the Société Anonyme. Katherine Dreier's letters to McBride concerned the Société, particularly its collection of modern art that was given to Yale University.
Many artists whose work McBride promoted became close personal friends, such as Florine Stettheimer. Their correspondence is particularly candid. In a June 27, 1927 letter, Florine writes that "Marcel Duchamp has married a very fat girl" and in McBride's July 13, 1950 letter to Ettie Stettheimer he describes Leo Stein as "a stuffed shirt--all on the outside nothing inside." Carl Van Vechten was also part of the Stettheimer social circle. He brought little-known artists like Mary Bell, "the Boston Negro lady who draws those primitive ladies," to McBride's attention and observed that Maxfield Parrish "paints pretty much like Salvador Dali without the bad dreams" (Box 13, folder 352). Most of his letters are written on postcards made from his own photographs of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, for example. Jules Pascin, Charles Demuth, and Marsden Hartley were also good friends, though McBride confided to the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz that as an artist, Hartley seemed "to live on borrowed reflections" (Box 5, folder 168). Pascin's early letters describe visiting New Orleans and the difficulties of doing his portrait of McBride, while Demuth wrote on November 27, 1917 to offer McBride one of his drawings.
McBride's correspondence is filled with appreciative letters from other artists who were encouraged by his critical recognition, such as Marc Chagall and Rufino Tamayo. Gaston Lachaise and Waldo Peirce thank him for contributions to their catalogues. Joseph Stella also thanks him for helping him get a fellowship. The verso of a letter from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation contains a draft of McBride's letter of recommendation for Gaston Lachaise (Box 4, folder 142).
Not all letters from artists, however, are positive. Louis Eilshemius, who called himself the "Vastest Art Genius of the world," was upset when Stieglitz refused to make him the eighth American in his gallery and confided he was "disappointed with Stieglitz's taste and utter ignorance of fine art" (Box 3, folder 100). The executive secretary of the United American Artists wrote in 1940 to complain about McBride's negative review of their mural show (Box 12, folder 344), as did many disgruntled participants.
The rest of McBride's art correspondence is from artists, including Louis Carré, Sir Francis Rose, and Clifford Wright; from gallery owners such as F. Valentine Dudensing; and from directors of museums, like James Johnson Sweeney, inviting McBride to their openings or thanking him for his reviews. Gallery owners, such as Maynard Walker, wrote letters supporting McBride's criticism of established artists like Salvador Dali: "I'd say you had laid him low, except that he is already so low he's even hard to aim at" (Box 13, folder 363). On December 7, 1956 John Walker of the National Gallery of Art acknowledged McBride's introduction to the George Bellows catalogue and, similarly, in 1945 the Parke-Bernet Galleries sent him $125 for the foreword to their catalogue of the Walter Chrysler, Jr. painting sale (Box 9, folder 253). McBride was a good friend of several of the major American art collectors of his day, including Chrysler and A. E. Gallatin. Fellow art critics, such as Melvin Geer Shelley, wrote looking for work. The architect William Adams Delano complained about the "evil influence" Frank Lloyd Wright has had "on the young and on our schools of architecture" (Box 3, folder 86). Alice Garrett invited McBride to see her theater decorated by Bakst. Private owners of paintings wrote for information or recounted anecdotes about models like Sargent's Beatrice Godet (Box 3, folder 110). McBride also supplied biographers, such as Addison Metcalf, with information about Gertrude Stein. In addition, Merle Armitage asked about Rockwell Kent, who wrote to McBride about his Alaska drawings. Like Kent, many artists illustrated their letters with drawings, including Benjamin Kopman, Gustave Verbeek, and Louis M. Eilshemius.
Before McBride became an established art critic, he wrote articles for magazines. Harper's paid $25 for "The Lost Children of New York" in 1894 (Box 4, folder 122), while The Atlantic Monthly rejected an article on his friend James Stephens. Frank Crowninshield was more interested in his Stephens material for Vanity Fair and later asked him to be a charter member of The Coffee House Club for "men who are interested in the arts" (Box 3, folder 78).
In 1920 McBride became the art critic on The Dial. A letter of introduction to Ezra Pound signed by Scofield Thayer, which McBride never used, begins the correspondence. McBride's association with Thayer later became a subject of great interest to the writers Nicholas Joost, Daniel Catton Rich, and William Schack, who was particularly interested in the feud between Dr. Albert Barnes and Thayer.
Once McBride's articles began appearing in The Dial, other magazines like International Studio and Town &Country asked him for contributions. In 1923 Edith Percy Morgan asked him to write "an occasional page of art criticism" for Vogue (Box 13, folder 346). Charles Henri Ford asked him to do an article on Florine Stettheimer for View in 1944 and ended the letter by saying that Carl Van Vechten had at last subscribed: "I'll bet you anything he doesn't even understand the contributions by those members of the colored race!" (Box 3, folder 106).
When The Sun collapsed in 1949, McBride wrote to Alice and Everett Barr that he did not want to write for the Telegram, so he signed up with Alfred Frankfurter to write for the Art News, the "official art magazine of America" (Box 1, folder 25). In the nearly one hundred letters that McBride wrote to the Barrs about his personal life and nearly fifty letters to his other neighbors in Pennsylvania, Mr. and Mrs. C. Earle Miller, he rarely mentions his past. However, in one March 17, 1953 letter to Alice Barr, he confided that when he was fifteen, it was his family "such as was left of it, that abandoned me."
McBride corresponded with his niece, Mary C. Nicholls, and cousins on his mother's side, Mary and Maria Pugh, but the collection contains no correspondence with his two brothers and sister. He stayed with the Pughs at Callicaste in the summers and wrote forty early letters to them describing his travels in Europe.
McBride's friends took the place of his family. Even his lawyer, J. Carroll Hayes, was his close friend. To Dudley Carpenter, with whom he taught art at the Educational Alliance, McBride wrote from Europe about dining with the Berensons in 1907 and visiting the Irish Theatre. Alexander Kruze, who was one of McBride's students, reminisced about fellow classmates, including Samuel Halpert. In a June 26, 1962 letter to Max Miltzlaff, Kruze recounts how McBride turned to writing about art after his Paris studio burned. An October 26, 1912 letter from Samuel Swift asking McBride to join him at The Sun is also in the collection. Apparently McBride's good friend Bryson Burroughs from the Metropolitan Museum recommended him for the job.
Burrough's and McBride's mutual friend, Malcolm MacAdam, became the recipient of nearly 300 letters from McBride. Since MacAdam lived abroad, McBride described in detail his New York social life. He also wrote about trips to France to visit Gertrude Stein and to Maine as Mrs. Chanler's guest, about meeting Douglas Fairbanks at the Coffee House Club, about sports like tennis and boxing, and about his pro-German sentiments and fear of communism. Many of his letters are annotated with drawings. In a March 7, 1930 letter he describes Henri Matisse as "extremely simple and sans facons" and in 1938 recounts how Cecil Beaton was fired from Vogue for anti- Semitism. By contrast, McBride's 500 letters to Max Miltzlaff, with whom he eventually shared an apartment, contain little information about his social life because Miltzlaff also lived in New York. Instead they are mostly about his health and his neighbors in Pennsylvania. There is also some information about his relatives, for instance Maria Pugh's death in 1937, and a description of Andrew Wyeth's visit in 1953.
The letter general files contain correspondence from dancers like Ruth St. Denis and writers like George Santayana. There is a dinner invitation from Bravig Imbs to meet Anais Nin and William Faulkner. The bulk of the material, however, is appreciative fan letters from readers of McBride's art column in The Sun, for example Jerome Mellquist.
The Writings series is housed in Boxes 14-16, Oversize Boxes 28-29, and Fragile Restricted Papers in Boxes 32-39. The bulk of McBride's writings are printed tear sheets from The New York Sun (Boxes 32-39). The series is divided into six subseries: Books, Exhibition Catalogues, Magazine Articles, Newspaper Articles, Other Writings and Sale Catalogues.
The Books section consists entirely of printed reviews of books McBride wrote or to which he contributed. 100 Drawings by A. Walkowitz, for example, concerns former student Abraham Walkowitz. McBride wrote the introduction.
The Exhibition Catalogues range from a four-page pamphlet on Joseph Stella's 1942 exhibition at Knoedler Galleries to a fifty-five page hardbound copy of The Museum of Modern Art's retrospective exhibition catalogue on Florine Stettheimer. McBride's contribution to these catalogues varies. He compiled the entire Stettheimer catalogue, but usually wrote a foreword or a biography, such as the one for Chaim Soutine. Some catalogues contain illustrations, for example the one on Mary Callery's sculpture, but most pamphlets simply list the titles of paintings. Though the subseries primarily consists of printed pamphlets, there are drafts of McBride's introductions for George Bellows and Howard Chandler Christy.
The material contained in the subseries Magazine Articles ranges from galley proofs to complete magazines. It includes McBride's articles about museum directors like Chick Austin (Box 15, folder 413), collectors like Chester Dale, artists like Louis M. Eilshemius, set designs, art movements, and one review (Box 28, folder 714). His early articles include pieces from The American Garden and Alliance Review, an article on caricature illustrated by his friend Gustave Verbeek, and another on "Javanese Cloth," which McBride also illustrated (Box 28, folder 717). Most of his later articles are from the Art News.
McBride wrote an art column for The New York Sun from 1913-49. His original tear sheets from The Sun are filed in Boxes 32-39 and are restricted because of their fragile nature. They reflect the various owners and names the paper adopted through the years. Before October 1916, McBride's articles appeared without a by-line. The rest of the subseries, Newspaper Articles, is found in Box 15 and Oversize Box 29. It includes a few loose clippings and early galley proofs for The Sun, Marianne Moore's selection of McBride's articles (Box 29, folder 723), and photostats of some of McBride's most important columns (Box 29, folders 724-31). The Oversize collection of newspaper articles also contains an early article on "East Side Artists," which was translated into Yiddish for The Abend Blatt and a February 16, 1936 article on Chester Dale's collection from The Washington Post.
The Other Writings subseries includes mostly drafts of short stories and essays which might have been published in a revised form. They include essays on artists like Thomas Eakins and Rufino Tamayo. Many of his stories were based upon real experiences. "Cattle Boat Crossings: Adventures of Henry McBride," for example, was based upon his passage across the Atlantic in 1895 on a cattle boat. McBride also completed a series of sketches for the story found in Box 15, folder 437. There is another untitled detective story in Box 16, folder 442 and a poem in an 1894 issue of The Artist- Artisan Quarterly.
In addition to exhibition catalogues, McBride contributed forewords and biographies to auction catalogues. The few found in the subseries, Sale Catalogues, are printed, and the catalogues are often annotated with prices. In 1955 Parke-Bernet Galleries sold McBride's collection of modern paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture, when he left his New York apartment. Many pieces had been given to him as a token of friendship by artists like Marin, Demuth, Leger, Braque, Matisse, Pascin, and Tchelitchew. McBride's holograph draft of the foreword begins, "Most unwillingly I part from my pictures." An accompanying folder contains appraisal lists and the prices realized from the sale.
Series III, Subject Files , is housed in Boxes 17-20 and Oversize Box 30. They contain McBride's professional files of Exhibition Catalogues, Newspaper Articles, Other Printed Material, and Photographs, material he used to write many of his articles. Some of the pieces quote McBride, although he did not contribute to them in any significant way.
Many of the Exhibition Catalogues were sent to McBride from the galleries or artists, and some are annotated. Georgia O'Keeffe, for example, wrote on her 1929 catalogue, "I hope not to have an exhibition again for a long, long time." There are a few other pamphlets from Stieglitz's Intimate Gallery, including the Francis Picabia show in 1928, and printed lists for the exhibitions of Jerome Blum, Adolf Dehn, and Hans Moller. McBride annotated The American British Art Center's 1949 list of E. E. Cumming's paintings. Next to "Silhouetted Trees" he wrote "excellent." He also compiled notes about Art Treasures from the Vienna Collections, including a list of additional objects. Some of the catalogues are more comprehensive, such as The Museum of Modern Art's 1950 exhibition of Charles Demuth and 1955 exhibition of Gaston Lachaise. McBride's discovery of Thomas Eakins probably contributed a great deal to The Metropolitan Museum's 1917 exhibition, though he did not write the foreword. Many of his friends wrote introductions, such as Glenway Wescott for the Jared French exhibit and Gertrude Stein for the Sir Francis Rose exhibit in 1939. Other associates sent McBride catalogues promoting their artist friends, such as George Biddle who wrote that Gan Kolski is "a young friend of mine" (Box 17, folder 470).
McBride's Newspaper Articles are arranged by subject and reflect his interest in art, theater, literature, world politics, tennis, and boxing. They include a sample ballot from a March 13, 1938 German language newspaper approving Hitler's annexation of Austria; a political cartoon on the League of Nations which was sent to McBride by Mildred Aldrich; a series of articles on race relations in West Chester, Pennsylvania; and an interview with Marcel Duchamp about the United States (Box 30, folder 733).
Other Printed Material contains everything from playbills to magazines. There is a government document explaining the court decision in the Brancusi case, programs for Virgil Thomson's concerts, an early poster advertising an exhibition of pictures depicting life in the Jewish quarter of New York (Box 30, folder 737), and an early pamphlet by John Ward Stimson on art education (Box 30, folder 740). Ephemera about dadaism and futurism includes a handbill advertising the poet-boxer Arthur Cravan, F. T. Marinetti's "Manifeste Futuriste," and an issue of 391 (Box 30, folder 741). The bulk of the material in this subseries consists of articles about artists by McBride's friends, such as Alfred Stieglitz, who wrote about John Marin. McBride also collected articles written by artists, like Thomas Eakins, and writers, like Rebecca West, Gorham Munson, and Gertrude Stein. Advertisements for Stein's books and Synge's plays can also be found. There is only one pamphlet about the Quakers in the entire collection (Box 19, folder 566).
Some of the prints in the final subseries, Photographs, are of works that belonged to McBride, such as Demuth's watercolor "Negro Jazz Band," others are presumably of works he reviewed. Picasso's portrait of Gertrude Stein was photographed by Soichi Sunami for The Museum of Modern Art, while a photograph of Stella's "Brooklyn Bridge" was supplied by the Yale Art Gallery. The collection is small and not representative.
McBride's Personal Papers comprise Series IV and are housed in Boxes 21-24 and Oversize, Box 31. Catalogues concerning the Knoedler Galleries' 1949 testimonial exhibition in honor of McBride are filed separately in Box 22, folder 650, and correspondence concerning his award of Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur in 1958 is filed in Box 21, folder 637. Journals and biographical information form the bulk of the papers. Newspaper and magazine articles about McBride are arranged by date. They include important biographical pieces, such as the 1915 Vanity Fair article on prominent art critics which launched McBride's career. The earliest clippings are from 1900-05 when McBride was the director of the Trenton School of Industrial Arts. Many of the later articles are society pieces, for example about his presence at Mrs. Campbell's luncheon for the Chinese actor Mei Lan-Fang. A 1931 clipping mentions Peggy Bacon's caricature of McBride on display at The Downtown Gallery, and another records his presence at the Matisse show in Paris. Other trips, such as one to Sweden in 1930, were also the subject of articles. The 1949 Knoedler exhibition of paintings and sculpture selected by McBride and the auction of his collection in 1955 are also covered. The section ends in 1962 with obituary notices, collected by Max Miltzlaff.
McBride's journals provide a wealth of information about his travels and private reading. Two early notebooks and loose notes filed in Box 22, folders 641-43, recount his early travels in Europe where he met Raoul Dufy, Constantin Brancusi, and Man Ray, among others. About his trip across the United States by rail in 1908 he wrote: "It would be impossible to wish a worse wish for ones enemy than that he might live in Indiana." He lists important people he has met and records the purchase of Callicaste in 1906 for $690. Two pocket journals, filed in Box 22, folders 644-45, contain a few sketches of Paris and describe the fighting there during World War I. Most people he met after the war said the war did one good thing, "It has killed cubism." The last three journals and a folder of loose notes are filled with quotes from his voluminous reading. Quotes from favorites like George Santayana and Horace Walpole are arranged by categories, such as America, public opinion, and style.
Two important collections of original material found with his personal papers are the art and writings of others and a folder of his own drawings. The art work includes a hand-painted Christmas card from Leon Hartl and a cartoon by Walt Kuhn. McBride's own drawings include an early portrait of Jules Pascin and a 1961 sketch of Max Miltzlaff. Writings of Others consist primarily of drafts of essays and poems by Gertrude Stein, including "M. Vollard et Cezanne," which McBride published in his art column. It was one of the first fugitive pieces by Stein to be so printed.
The rest of the papers contain an admittance certificate from the Art Students League to attend night classes in 1892 and employment papers from the Artist-Artisan Institute, The Educational Alliance, The New York Sun, and the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, New Jersey. One of his address books (Box 21, folder 614) contains a list of items in storage. His collection of business cards includes his own calling card. While there are several passports in the collection, there are only a few photographs of him, including a snapshot with Gertrude Stein. Photographs of art dealers like Ambroise Vollard, artists like Thomas Eakins, friends like John Ward Stimson, an early tintype of his cousins, and a folder of Carl Van Vechten's photographs of Hartford complete the personal papers.
Series V, Financial and Legal Papers , is housed in Boxes 25-27. The series contains check stubs from The New York Sun and other financial material like cancelled checks and tax returns. His real estate papers concern the sale of Callicaste and its contents on September 29, 1956. There is a deed for Callicaste and another in the name of John S. McBride for 50 feet of the Allison Lode in Los Angeles, dated 1863. The papers end with his will and the wills of his sister-in-law, Sadie S. McBride, and Augusta W. Demuth, who bequeathed him $5,000 because of his friendship with her son, Charles Demuth.
Boxes 28-31 house Oversize materials from Series II-IV. Boxes 32-39 hold tear sheets of newspaper articles written by McBride.
The 1989-2000 Acquisitions contain material accumulated by Maximilian Miltzlaff, including source material, notes, and drafts of a biography of Henry McBride, letters from Gertrude Stein and Marianne Moore to McBride, and photographs of McBride.
- 1863 - 1989
- Majority of material found within 1901 - 1962
Conditions Governing Access
Restricted Fragile Papers in boxes 32-40 and 49 may only be consulted with the permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies for reference use have been substituted in the main files, or can be requested.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
21.89 Linear Feet (49 boxes)
Language of Materials
Henry McBride (1867-1962)
McBride painted and taught art before becoming a critic at the age of forty-six. He was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, on July 25, 1867, to the Quakers, John and Sarah Pugh McBride. After graduating from the local public schools, he worked for the George Achelis Nurseries illustrating seed catalogues. He came to New York in his early twenties, where he studied art at the Artist-Artisan Institute and later took night classes at the Art Students League. Finding he had an aptitude for teaching, McBride started the art department of the Educational Alliance of New York City. Before joining The Sun, he directed the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, New Jersey, for five years.
Beginning in 1893 he spent many summers abroad, where he met Gertrude Stein. Through her he came to admire the work of Picasso, Matisse, Braque, and Léger. He supported Alfred Stieglitz's early efforts to exhibit these French moderns in New York. Like his early mentor, James Ward Stimson, McBride was not a devotee of academic art. Instead he encouraged American independents like John Marin, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles Demuth, and Gaston Lachaise. McBride was the first critic to recognize Thomas Eakins, for example, as one of the greatest American artists. Other early favorites included Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent.
McBride lived in New York City and spent most of his summers after 1931 in Marshallton, Pennsylvania, at Callicaste. He sold his summer home in 1956 to reside in the Bronx, where he died on March 31, 1961 at the age of 94.
Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.
The 1973 and 1974 acqusitions were fully processed in 1988; later acquisitions received a basic level of processing in 2013, including rehousing and minimal organization. Various acquisitions associated with the collection have not been merged and organized as a whole. Each acquisition is described separately in the contents list below, titled according to month and year of acquisition.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
- Aldrich, Mildred, 1853-1928
- Art criticism
- Art critics
- Art critics -- United States
- Art, Modern -- 20th Century
- Artists -- United States
- Artists -- United States -- Exhibitions
- Barr, Everett
- Drawings (visual works)
- Eakins, Thomas, 1844-1916
- Eilshemius, Louis M. (Louis Michel), 1864-1941
- Journals (notebooks)
- Kuhn, Walt, 1877-1949
- Lachaise, Gaston, 1882-1935
- Luhan, Mabel Dodge, 1879-1962
- MacAdam, Malcolm
- Marin, John, 1870-1953
- McBride, Henry, 1867-1962
- Mellquist, Jerome
- Miltzlaff, Maximilian H.
- Modernism (Art)
- New York (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs
- Painting, Modern -- 20th Century
- Pascin, Jules, 1885-1930
- Pugh, Maria
- Pugh, Mary
- Rich, Daniel Catton, 1904-1976
- Rose, Francis, Sir, 1909-1979
- Sculpture, Modern -- 20th Century
- Settheimer, Ettie, 1875-1955
- Simonson, Lee, 1888-1967
- Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946
- Stella, Joseph, 1877-1946
- Sterne, Maurice, 1878-1957
- Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946
- Sweeney, James Johnson, 1900-1986
- Theater -- Reviews
- Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989
- Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964
- Verbeek, Gustave, 1867-1937
- Walker, Maynard
- Guide to the Henry McBride Papers
- Under Revision
- by Karen V. Kukil and Beinecke Staff
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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