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Arthur Dove: A Retrospective exhibition records

Identifier: IR-CUR-027

Scope and Contents

The Phillips Collection's 1997 exhibition, Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, was the first major retrospective exhibition on Dove since the San Francisco Museum of Art's traveling retrospective in 1974-76. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, organized by the Addison Gallery of American Art, The Phillips Collection, and Debra Balken, independent curator, with assistance from Bill Agee, guest co-curator, covered the period from 1908, the year after Dove took up painting, through 1946, the year of his death. The exhibition was comprised of approximately eighty paintings, collages, pastels, and charcoal drawings from more than fifty lenders.

These curatorial records were collected and created in the course of researching, planning, and executing the exhibition and its catalogue. The exhibition opened at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. on September 20, 1997 and continued until January 4, 1998. It then travelled to three other venues: the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York from January 15 through April 12, 1998, the Addison Gallery of American Art from April 24 through July 14, 1998 and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from August 2 through October 4, 1998.

The primary creators of the catalogue and exhibition planning records in this collection were Beth Turner, Senior Curator, Elsa Smithgall, Curatorial Assistant and her predecessor, Leigh Bullard Weisblat, Assistant Curator.

The collection consists of the research, catalogue and exhibition planning files of the curators interfiled. These records consist of research materials assembled, catalogue and exhibition planning and execution documents such as legal and financial records (restricted), lender files (restricted), schedules, and checklists (restricted). An extensive amount of research was conducted for this exhibition, examining and photocopying a large body of Dove's correspondence and Helen (Reds) Torr, his second wife‟s, diary at Yale University's Beinecke Library and the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


  • 1887 - 1999
  • Usage: The material in this collection were used in preparation for the 1997 exhibition.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection includes restricted material.

Biographical / Historical

The American artist Arthur Dove, among the first artists to have produced an abstract painting, has always occupied a central place in writings on early American modernism. Duncan Phillips, the founder of The Phillips Collection, was Dove‟s primary patron from 1926 onward. Phillips held the first museum retrospective of Dove‟s work in 1937. In 1947, as a tribute to the artist just five months after his death, Phillips organized a second retrospective of his paintings. The Phillips Collection owns fifty-four paintings by Dove and has extensive correspondence between painter and patron. Arthur Dove: A Retrospective was co-curated with the Addison Gallery of American Art and The Phillips Collection. The exhibition also travelled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


3.3 Linear Feet (8 full legal boxes)

Language of Materials



Arthur Dove: A Retrospective exhibition records contain materials created and collected by the Curatorial Department of The Phillips Collection during the course of organizing the exhibition. Included are research, catalogue, and exhibition planning files. Files for a one-gallery exhibition, Arthur Dove: Works on Paper, held during the dates of Arthur Dove: A Retrospective, have been made into their own collection housed in The Phillips Collection Archives.


The collection is organized as three series: Series 1: Research Series 2: Catalogue Series 3: Exhibition Planning The Research series is arranged chronologically by article publication date. The Catalogue series is alphabetical by subject. The Exhibition Planning series is alphabetical by subject with lender files made into a sub-series and arranged alphabetically by lender. The approved lender files are first, followed by the declined lender files.

Custodial History

This collection is owned by The Phillips Collection, and was accessioned from the curators' offices.

Related Materials

Arthur Dove: Works on Paper exhibition records housed in The Phillips Collection Archive.

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
750 9th Street NW, Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, DC 20001

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

The Museum of Modern Art Archives, Library, and Research Collections
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497

Geneva Historical Society
543 South Main Street
Geneva, NY 14456

Processing Information

The collection contains exhibition-related records from two curators' offices, resulting in a significant amount of duplicate documents. After meeting with the librarian and curator duplicate documents were weeded as well as materials with no informational or evidential value. When different drafts of contracts and checklists were found the decision was made to retain the signed or most recent copy of each contract or checklist. Folders containing restricted material were marked with a red dot. Boxes containing restricted folders were also marked with a red dot. The original alphabetical arrangement of lender files was maintained, except the non-granted lender agreements were pulled and put at the end of the sub-series but are also filed alphabetically.

The Research Series has maintained original order and is housed chronologically or by specific venue – for example there is a folder for the Geneva Historical Society so research found there is housed in this folder and not chronologically. Specific information on Dove watercolor research is housed in the Arthur Dove: Works on Paper collection – maintaining the original file structure.

The Exhibition Planning series had a separate set of files for a one-gallery exhibition, Dove: Works on Paper which was exhibited at The Phillips Collection during the course of the main retrospective exhibition. The Works on Paper files have been made into its own collection. There are two sub-series in Exhibition Planning: planning documents and lender files.

Metal paperclips and staples were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Adhesive Post-it® notes were copied if necessary, otherwise removed. Folder headings were maintained, but were re-written in some cases for greater clarity and accuracy. All documents were re-foldered in acid-free folders, labeled in pencil, and boxed in Hollinger low-lignin (pH 8.5-10.0) boxes.

Arthur Dove: A Retrospective exhibition records, 1987-1999
The Phillips Collection Library and Archives 1600 21st Street NW Washington D.C. 20009
Finding Aid written by Heather Meixler, Library and Archives Assistant in November 2008, supervised by Karen Schneider, Librarian.
October-November 2008
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Phillips Collection Archives Repository

1600 21st St. NW
Washington DC 20009 United States