Sidney Geist correspondence

Sidney Geist correspondence

Collection Overview

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Curatorial Department.
Sidney Geist correspondence
Call Number:
1963-1968 (bulk dates 1966-1967)
0.50 cubic feet
Historical Abstract:
Sidney Geist served as guest curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1969 for the exhibit "Constantin Brancusi, 1976 – 1957: A Retrospective."
Scope and Content Abstract:
The Sidney Geist correspondence consists of Sidney Geist's correspondence related to his research on Constantin Brancusi (CB), Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Derain, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and others spanning from 1963 - 1968. The bulk focuses on CB.
Collection is primarily in English and French.
Arranged alphabetically by subject in one series.
The collection is partially restricted. Please contact the Manager of the Library and Archives for further information.
Publication Rights:
Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Manager of the Library and Archives.
Preferred Citation:
Sidney Geist correspondence. A0055. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Apollinaire, Guillaume, 1880-1918.
Brancusi, Constantin, 1876-1957.
Derain, Andre, 1880-1954.
Gaudier-Brzeska, Henri, 1891-1915.
Geist, Sidney.
Related Materials:
Louise Averill Svendsen papers. A0016. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Finding aid prepared by Holly Deakyne in July 2008.

Historical Note

Sidney Geist (SG) was born on April 11, 1914 in Paterson, N.J. After attending college, SG served as an apprentice to the painter Paul Fiene from 1931 to 1937. He then spent a year at the Art Students League. From 1938 to 1940 SG was employed as a sculptor on the New Jersey Federal Arts Project by the Works Progress Administration. During the later years of World War II, SG was a private in the United States Army. While traveling across Europe, he spent his down time drawing on any sort of paper he could find, including candy boxes and ration cartons. After the war, SG spent another year at the Art Students League. SG also attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris, where he and his group of contemporaries formed the Galerie Huit, a co-operative where they could show their artwork.

After completing his studies in Paris, SG returned to New York and he had his first solo show at the Hacker Gallery in 1951. During his lifetime, SG taught at Vassar College, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, the University of California at Berkeley and the New York Studio School, a teaching workshop he helped found in the West Village. He also served as one of its early directors. SG also published articles in many journals during his life. The subject of many of these articles was Constantin Brancusi (CB).

Besides being a sculptor, teacher and art writer, SG was a leading authority on CB and made him his life's work. SG taught himself Romanian so he could visit the artist's native country, speak with officials and read untranslated documents. SG published multiple books about CB including a catalogue raisonné. In 1969, SG was invited to be guest curator of the exhibition "Constantin Brancusi, 1876 – 1957: A Retrospective Exhibition" organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (SRGM), the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. SG had recently published a major monograph "Constantin Brancusi, 1876 – 1957." This book was the catalogue for the exhibition. It was the largest exhibition of CB's works to date. SG was assisted by Louise Averill Svendsen (LAS), curator at the SRGM. LAS had curated the last major CB retrospective at SRGM. SG later was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship for 1975-76. SG's last solo show as a sculptor was in 2005 and paid homage to CB by the inclusion of a tall, slender sculpture made from raw wood.

SG died October 18, 2005.


"Brancusi Retrospective at the Guggenheim" (1969). Box 786459. Department of Public Affairs Press Releases. A0035. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Archives, New York, NY.
Finding Aid, Sidney Geist/Constantin Brancusi Papers, [volume]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. (accessed June 27, 2008).
Glueck, Grace. Sidney Geist, 91, Sculptor and Writer, Dies. New York Times, October 21, 2005, Arts section, (accessed June 27, 2008).

Scope and Content Note

The Sidney Geist correspondence consists of Sidney Geist's (SG) correspondence related to his research on Constantin Brancusi (CB), Guillaume Apollinaire, Andre Derain, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and others spanning from 1963 - 1968. The majority of the correspondence is incoming consisting of replies to SG's requests to owners of CB works. Topics covered include measurements, signature, foundry stamps, provenance and other historical information. All correspondence regarding CB is arranged alphabetically by author. In some instances, letters written by SG were returned with the reply correspondence. SG contacted museums, galleries and private collectors in multiple countries, including Romania, CB's home country. A few of the responses enclose rubbings of the signature or foundry marks from the artwork in question.

SG also attempted to contact the subjects of CB works, such as Mlle. Pogany (MP), or their surviving family members. MP died prior to receiving the letter, and her great-nephew Andrew Forgas responded on the family's behalf. Katharine Graham's (KG) mother knew CB, and KG relates to SG how the portrait of her mother came to be along with other interesting reminisces.

Additionally, SG communicated with those who had known or met CB such as Marcel Duchamp (MD), Jeanne Robert Foster (JRF), Barnet Hodes (BH) and Elizabeth Olds (EO). Along with giving his own account of the provenance of some CB works, MD assisted SG in contacting other people who had information. JRF met CB while assisting an art collector, and muses over the meaning of "Bird in Flight" in one of her letters to SG. She also includes a poem she wrote upon hearing of CB's death. BH was an attorney from Chicago, and purported to have discussed with CB the creation of a gigantic version of "Endless Column" as a monument that would become a recognizable symbol of Chicago. EO was an American artist who was encouraged by Ezra Pound to meet CB during her tour of Europe in the late 1920s. She did, and in her letter she discusses her experience.

SG also wrote to other scholars including Meyer Schapiro, Mircea Eliade, Lincoln Kirstein and Werner Schmalenbach (WS). In his letter, WS opines on the meeting between CB and German painter Julius Bissier.

An interesting tidbit in the general folder of this collection is a letter from an image duplication company in Florence, Italy written immediately after the flood of 1966. It describes how they cannot process SG's order at that time because the flood "annihilated" their shop. A letter less than a month later informs SG that they have been able to resume their business.

Folder List

000575General undated, 1964-1967
000575Apollinaire, Guillaume: General 1966
Brancusi, Constantin
000575Albright-Knox Art Gallery 1966
000575Art Dealers Association of America, Inc. 1967
000575The Art Institute of Chicago 1966-1967
000575The Arts Club of Chicago 1965-1966
000575Association Internationale pour l'Etude de Dada et du Surrealisme 1967
000575Atkins Museum of Fine Arts 1965
000575Barr, Alfred H., Jr. 1966-1967
000575Bechtler, Walter 1966
000575Bronfman, Mrs. Samuel undated
000575Cincinnati Art Museum 1965
000575The Cleveland Museum of Art 1965
000575Comitetul de Stat Pentru Cultura si Arta 1967
000575Courtauld Institute of Art 1967
000575Cowles, John 1967
000575Creuzevault, Henri 1965
000575de Rothschild, Philippe undated, 1966
000575Documenta III 1964
000575Duchamp, Marcel 1965-1967
000575Dum Umeni Mesta Brna 1966
000575Eliade, Mircea 1966
000575Elsen, Al 1967
000575Farquhar, Mrs. George 1965
000575Forgas, Andrew 1966
000575Foster, Jeanne Robert 1966-1967
000575The Francis Bacon Foundation 1967
000575French Reproduction Rights 1966
000575Galerie Claude Bernard 1967
000575George Rainbird Limited 1967
000575Georges Fall 1966
000575Graham, Katharine 1964-1967
000575Guggenheim, Peggy 1966
000575Hodes, Barnet 1965-1966
000575Ingersoll, R. Sturgis 1966-1967
000575Isaac Delgado Museum of Art 1966-1967
000575Janis, Sidney 1966
000575The J. B. Speed Art Museum 1966-1967
000575Kirstein, Lincoln 1964
000575Kornfeld & Klipstein 1967
000575Kunsthaus Zurich 1967
000575Laughlin, Ann 1966
000575Levin, Isadore 1965-1966
000575Longworth, Alice Roosevelt 1966
000575Ludington, Wright 1965
000575Marlborough Fine Art Ltd. undated
000575The Minneapolis Institute of Arts 1965-1966
000575Moderna Museet 1964
000575Musée de Louvre 1967
000575Musée National d'Art Moderne 1967
000575Museu de Arte (Sao Paulo, Brazil) 1968
000575Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1965-1967
000575National Gallery of Victoria 1966
000575The Newark Museum 1965-1966
000575Norton Gallery and School of Art 1966
000575L'Oeil 1966
000575O'Keefe, Georgia (restricted) 1965-1966
000575Olds, Elizabeth undated
000575Ordway, Katharine undated
000575Philadelphia Museum of Art 1965-1967
000575Pulitzer, Joseph, Jr. 1967
000575Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art 1965-1966
000575Richard Feigen Gallery 1965
000575Roche, Denise 1965
000575Rockefeller, Nelson (restricted) 1966
000575Schoenborn, Florene May 1966
000575Schapiro, Meyer 1965
000575Schmalenbach, Werner 1966
000575Schreiber, Taft 1967
000575Seuphor, Michel 1967
000575Sheeler, Musya 1967
000575The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1966
000575Springfield Newspapers 1966
000575Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1963
000575Stanford University 1968
000575Steichen, Edward 1966-1967
000575Stendahl Galleries 1967
000575The Tate Gallery 1967
000575Thompson, G. David 1966
000575Tribuna 1967
000575Ulin, Dene 1965
000575Ungaretti, Guiseppe 1965
000575University of California, Irvine 1965
000575The University of Nebraska 1963-1966
000575The University of Texas 1966
000575Wadsworth Atheneum 1966
000575Waldberg, Patrick 1966
000575Weisman, Marcia 1966
000575Yale University Library 1965-1966
000575Zigrosser, Carl 1965
000575Derain, Andre: General 1963
000575Gaudier-Brzeska, Henri: General 1965-1967