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Preliminary finding aid for the M. Knoedler & Co. records, approximately 1848-1971
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Separated Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: M. Knoedler & Co. records
    Date (inclusive): approximately 1848-1971
    Number: 2012.M.54
    Creator/Collector: M. Knoedler & Co.
    Physical Description: 1300.0 linear feet
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The records of M. Knoedler & Co. document the business of one of the most important American art dealers for more than a century, from 1848 to 1971, and trace the development of the once provincial American art market into one of the world's leading art centers. The archive includes stock books, sales books and commission books; extensive correspondence with artists, collectors and other art dealers; photographs of the artworks sold by the gallery; business records from affiliate offices in Paris and London; department records; and research files, catalogs and ephemera. At this time the stock books, sales books, commission books, inventory cards, shipment records, correspondence and photographs are available for research. The remainder of the archive is unprocessed. Each series will be opened for use as processing is completed.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    M. Knoedler & Co. was a successor to the New York branch of Goupil & Co., an extremely dynamic print-publishing house founded in Paris in 1827. Goupil's branches in London, Berlin, Brussels, and The Hague, as well as New York, expanded the firm's market in the sale of reproductive prints. The firm's office in New York-an initiative of Léon Goupil, the son of Adolphe Goupil, Théodore Vibert, and the agent William Schaus-was established in 1848 at 289 Broadway on the corner of Duane Street near City Hall.
    In 1857, Michael Knoedler, an employee of Goupil and a manager for the firm, bought out the interests in the firm's New York branch, conducted the business under his own name, and diversified its activities to include the sale of paintings. The office was then established in a larger space at 366 Broadway. When Roland Knoedler, Michael's son, became a partner in the business in 1877, the firm became known from then on as M. Knoedler & Co. Roland Knoedler took over the firm after the death of his father in 1878 and with Charles Carstairs opened galleries in Paris and London. When Roland Knoedler retired in 1928, the management of the firm passed to his nephew Charles Henschel, Carman Messmore, Charles Carstairs and Carstairs' son, Carroll. In 1956 Henschel died and E. Coe Kerr and Michael Knoedler's grandson, Roland Balaÿ, took over. After a number of moves, M. Knoedler & Co. occupied its headquarters at 19 E. 70th Street for many years.
    When Michael Knoedler purchased the New York Goupil office in 1857, most American museums had not yet been formed. The country was also relatively isolated from Western European centers of art exchange. As the United States witnessed a rise in personal fortunes from the steel, mining, iron, and railroad industries in the nineteenth century, more Americans had the financial means to begin forming art collections. It fueled the art market that M. Knoedler & Co. helped establish and combined with declining nobilities and changes in tax legislation in Europe, it accelerated the process of transferring artworks from Europe to the United States. In 1901, Knoedler sold an important old master, Velázquez, Don Balthazar Carlos with a Dwarf, to the Boston Museum. In 1907, in partnership with P. Colnaghi, Knoedler acquired seven portraits of the Cattaneo family by Anthony van Dyck, of which three now form part of the Widener Collection at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In 1911, the firm sold Vermeer's Officer and Laughing Girl to Henry Clay Frick. By the early 20th century, the Knoedler gallery had become one of the main suppliers of old master paintings in the United States and would continue to serve as a major conduit for the acquisition of masterworks.
    Among clients of Knoedler were civic-minded collectors, including John Taylor Johnston (1820-1893), the son of a banker, who would become the founding president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Robert Leighton Stuart (1806-1882), a major donor to the New York Public Library; and Catharine Lorillard Wolfe (1828-1887), the daughter of a real estate developer and an heir to the Lorillard Tobacco Company. Wolfe became the first donor to provide both a collection gift and an endowment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    Knoedler developed very close relationships with Henry Clay Frick and Andrew W. Mellon. A large portion of the paintings in The Frick Collection in New York were acquired during Frick's lifetime through the Knoedler gallery. In 1900, Charles Carstairs and Roland Knoedler were present at Mellon's wedding celebrated in England. The close relationship between Knoedler and Mellon would continue throughout the collector's life, including his appointment as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury from 1921 until 1932, culminating in the purchase of twenty-one paintings from the Hermitage in Saint-Petersburg in 1930-1931. These artworks-including paintings by van Eyck, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, and Rembrandt-would form the nucleus of the National Gallery of Art, which was established and initially funded in part by Mellon.
    Early in its history, M. Knoedler & Co. chose to advocate the work of American artists. It established an educational division to promote American artists, the International Art Union, which published a journal to help publicize artists' works through print reproductions and which offered artists scholarships to study abroad. Knoedler served as a primary agent for numerous artists, and through an ongoing exhibition program actively promoted artists such as the American landscape painter and printmaker Winslow Homer and Frederic Edwin Church, a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters. After World War II, the gallery promoted the work of Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Arshile Gorky, along with European artists, such as Salvador Dalí, Henry Moore, and Wassily Kandinsky.
    In 1971 the firm was purchased by businessman, philanthropist and collector Armand Hammer. Since the late 1970s, the firm has focused increasingly on contemporary art. During the early 2000s the gallery was embroiled in lawsuits regarding allegedly forged artworks. The Knoedler gallery closed in November 2011.
    Note: Regarding the date that M. Knoedler & Co. was created in the nineteenth century, the firm has traditionally retained 1846 as founding date. This tradition was given prominence in 1946 in A Catalogue of an Exhibition of Paintings and Prints of Every Description, on the Occasion of Knoedler, One Hundred Years, 1846-1946 . In his foreword to the catalogue, Charles Henschel, Michael Knoedler's grandson and then the firm's president, associated 1846 with the date of his grandfather's arrival in New York. The 1846 founding date also appears on some of the firm's labels. This date has been questioned however, in light that the earliest press announcement of an opening of a shop in New York by Goupil may date from 1848. See The Literary World (1849), Volume 5: 317. DeCourcy McIntosh is credited with first questioning the founding date of 1846. See his "Merchandising America: American Views Published by the Maison Goupil," The Magazine Antiques (September 2004): 124-133. Others have questioned whether in reference to the founding of the Knoedler Gallery the date of 1857 is not in fact more relevant than those of 1846 or 1848.

    Administrative Information


    Series I to XI are open for use by qualified researchers. The remainder of the collection is unprocessed. Each series will be opened for use as processing is completed. Boxes 77, 262-264, 1308-1512, 1969-1974, 3592-3723 are restricted due to fragility.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    M. Knoedler & Co. records, approximately 1848-1971, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2012.M.54.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2012.

    Processing History

    Emmabeth Nanol processed Series I, II, and III and Jasmine Larkin processed Series IV in 2013, under the supervision of Karen Meyer-Roux.
    With partial support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Series V. Receiving and shipping records and Series VI. Correspondence were catalogued and processed from July 2014 to January 2015 by Alexis Adkins, Judy Chou, Jasmine Larkin, and Emmabeth Nanol under the supervision of Karen Meyer-Roux. Graduate interns Silvia Caporaletti and Sarah Glover participated in the description and processing of Series VI. Further processing by Natasha Hicks in July-August 2014 and by Isabella Zuralski and Sheila Prospero in December 2014.
    With partial support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Series VII. Photographs was catalogued and processed from January 2015 to January 2016 by Alexis Adkins, Judy Chou, Sarah Glover, Erin Hurley, Jasmine Larkin, and Emmabeth Nanol, under the supervision of Karen Meyer-Roux. Further processing and cataloging by Chenglin Lee in June-August 2015.

    Related Archival Materials

    - M. Knoedler & Co. exhibition catalogs, The Metropolitan Museum Art Libraries, available at: http://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p15324coll8
    - Winslow Homer letters to M. Knoedler & Company, 1900-1904. Archives of American Art.
    - M. Knoedler & Co. letters received, 1890-1920. Getty Research Institute, Accession Number 840163
    - Goupil & Cie and Boussod, Valadon & Co. records, 1846-1919, within Dieterle family records of French art galleries, 1846-1986. Getty Research Institute, Accession Number 900239
    - Knoedler Kasmin Limited. 1959-2007, bulk 1970-1992. Getty Research Institute, Accession Number 2010.M.71.
    - Knoedler & Company Papers, Jean Outland Chrysler Library, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA.
    - Knoedler Photographs and Negatives from William Collins, 190?-194?, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute Records, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

    Separated Materials

    Auction and exhibition catalogs have been separated to the Getty Research Library's general and rare book collection. These can be searched in the online catalog under the provenance search phrase "Knoedler Collection." Search the Knoedler Collection. 

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The archive of M. Knoedler & Co. consists of the records of one of the most influential and successful American art dealers. The breadth of the archive spans over a century, beginning in 1848, when the French parent company Goupil & Cie, opened an office in New York, to 1971 when the Knoedler gallery was acquired by Armand Hammer.
    The records of the Knoedler gallery brings to the foreground the business side of dealing as artworks shuttled back and forth among Knoedler, fellow dealers, and collectors whose names represent the historic elite of American society. It traces the growth of the American art market, developments in art connoisseurship, shifting tastes, the changing role of art in American society, and the essential role of private collectors in the formation of public American art collections. The records provide insight into broader economic, social and cultural histories and the nation's evolving sense of place in the world.
    Knoedler gallery became one of the main suppliers of European old master and post-Impressionist paintings in the United States. Its financial records document the large number of artworks in American museums that were sold by the gallery. The archive also contains letters written by artists Archipenko, Sarah Bernhardt, Rosa Bonheur, Alexander Calder, Edgar Degas, Max Ernst, Paul Gauguin, Greta Garbo, Winslow Homer, Henri Matisse, Irving Penn, Mark Rothko, John Singer Sargent, Joseph Stella, Edward Steichen, and Louis C. Tiffany.
    The archive includes: financial records on purchases and sales, such as stock books and sales books; records related to commissions of artworks that the dealer made to artists; inventory cards on clients and artworks; records related to the shipment of artworks that did not enter the firm's stock; correspondence with collectors, artists, and other dealers; photographs of the artworks sold by the gallery; business records from affiliate offices in Paris and London and for the firm's departments, including the one dedicated to framing and restoration; research files; catalogs and ephemera.
    Selected portions of the archive are being digitized and made available online. Connect to selected digitized portions of the archive.  


    Arranged in 14 series: Series I. Stock books; Series II. Sales books; Series III. Commission books; Series IV. Inventory cards; Series V. Receiving and shipping records; Series VI. Correspondence; Series VII. Photographs; Series VIII. Exhibition files; Series IX. American Department records; Series X. Framing and restoration records; Series XI. Print department records; Series XII. Other financial records; Series XIII. Library cards, scrapbooks, and research materials; Series XIV. Knoedler family papers

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    Art dealers--France
    Art dealers--Great Britain
    Art dealers--United States
    Art--Collectors and collecting
    Art--Private collections
    Collectors and collecting
    Painting, European--Collectors and collecting

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Business records
    Merchandise inventories