Collection ID: MS.15

Collection context

Summary

Creator:
Kirby, Thomas E. (Thomas Ellis), 1846-1924. and American Art Association.
Abstract:
The American Art Association, a New York art gallery and auction house, was founded in 1883 by James F. Sutton, R. Austin Robertson, and Thomas E. Kirby. The records date from 1877-1924, but the bulk of the material documents a selection of auction sales run by the gallery from 1910 through 1923. The collection contains correspondence, approximately 1,000 photographs, handwritten and typed notes, fragments of a typed manuscript on the American Art Association, and printed material.
Extent:
4.0 Linear feet and (8 boxes)
Language:
Preferred citation:

American Art Association Records. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

Background

Scope and Content:

The American Art Association records document a selection of auction sales run by the gallery, as well as Thomas Kirby's relationship with those who sold their works through the American Art Association. Records date from 1877-1924, with the bulk dating from 1910-1924. The collection includes correspondence, approximately 1,000 photographs, handwritten and typed notes, fragments of a typed manuscript on the American Art Association, pages from auction sales catalogues, newspaper and periodical clippings, and several sales catalogues.

The bulk of the collection concerns specific auction sales conducted by the American Art Association. Files contain inventories of the works, often with prices and names of buyers; black and white photographs of the works and several of the exhibition installations; correspondence; sections of a typed manuscript on the American Art Association; handwritten notes regarding the sales; pages from sales catalogues; and clippings. Documentation of 70 sales ranges from a single typescript sentence to multiple folders of correspondence, inventories and hundreds of photographs of the items for sale. An additional 150 auction sales are represented in the files only by cursory handwritten notes. Some of the most heavily documented sales include57 Paintings Belonging to Ichabod T. Williamsof February 3-4, 1915;Charles of London, Italian, French & English Furniture, Tapestries, Rugs, Paintings, Porcelains, etc.of November 15-20, 1920; andPalatial Mansion & Contents Collected by William J. Saloman,April 4-7, 1923. Titles of sales were derived from the auction sales catalogue.

Also of note in the records is correspondence between Thomas Kirby and Arthur B. Emmons regarding several auctions in which works he owned were sold; 16 letters to Charles De Kay from correspondents other than Thomas Kirby; handwritten notes on George Inness; biographical comments on Thomas Kirby; a privately printed catalogue,Pictures in the Collection of F.A.G. Hood, Esq.; and several letters concerning the controversy over the authenticity of the paintingBlue Boyat the William H. Fuller Sale of February 25, 1898, including a letter from Francis Davis Millet. A few clippings and letters document Kirby's career prior to his affiliation with the American Art Association.

Biographical / Historical:

The American Art Association, a New York art gallery and auction house, was founded by James F. Sutton, R. Austin Robertson, and Thomas E. Kirby in 1883. Exhibitions of American art, as well as some Asian decorative arts, were on display in the sales galleries at 6 East 23rd Street. Thomas Kirby acted as auctioneer for the firm.

Sutton and Robertson had previously established the American Art Gallery in 1879, which closed in 1882. Thomas Kirby had begun his career as an auctioneer in the early 1870s, working with a variety of firms, including George A. Leavitt and Company, and had conducted sales throughout the country. He had his own auction company, Thomas E. Kirby and Company, when he joined with Sutton and Roberts in 1883.

R. Austin Robertson died in 1892. Kirby's son Gustavus joined the firm in 1912 and became half owner in 1915, upon the death of James Sutton. The galleries moved to 30 East 57th Street in 1922. In 1923, Kirby retired and sold the American Art Association to Cortlandt Field Bishop (1870-1935), who contracted Hiram Parke and Otto Bernet to run the auction house. In 1929 it merged with the Anderson Auction Company to form the American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, Inc. In 1938, the firm was taken over by Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., which had been formed a year earlier.

Bolas, Gerald D.The Early Years of the American Art Association, 1879-1900.PhD diss., City University of New York, 1998.

Acquisition information:
Gift of Mrs. Thomas Waller (Wilhelmina), granddaughter of Thomas E. Kirby, 1956.
Processing information:

Arranged and described by Susan Chore, 2001.

Arrangement:

The records are organized in three series:

Series I: Auction Sales, 1910-1923

Series II: Correspondence and Notes, 1877-1924

Series III: Clippings, 1881-1924

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Access

RESTRICTIONS:

These records are open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives access policy. Contact the Archives Department for further information at archives@frick.org.

PREFERRED CITATION:

American Art Association Records. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

LOCATION OF THIS COLLECTION:
10 E 71st St
New York, NY 10021, United States
CONTACT:
(212) 547-0641
library@frick.org