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Russell Hartley Papers
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Russell Hartley (1924-1983) was a costume designer, antique dealer, art gallery runner, art conservator, and archivist. He worked extensively with the San Francisco Ballet as a costume designer, as well as other various companies like the Markova-Dolin Ballet Co. and the Savoy Opera Co. He ran the Antinuous Art Gallery, later renamed the Hartley Studio. Most notably, Hartley was the founder and director of the Archives for the Performing Arts, now the Museum of Performance + Design. This collection contains material chronicling Russell Hartley’s life and career, including his childhood and teenage years, his association with the San Francisco Ballet, his trips to Europe, his partnership in the Antinuous Art Gallery, his time running his own art gallery, his time as an antique dealer, his tenure as director of the Archives for the Performing Arts, and his final years of life. Materials in this collection include photographs, scrapbooks, memorabilia, news clippings, artwork, sketches, programs, exhibition announcements, portfolios, correspondence, paperwork, publicity, publications, pamphlets, research notes, promotional materials, and copies of speeches.
Russell Hartley was born in 1924. He attended Mt. Tamalpais High School. As an outlet for his creative energy and artistic talents, Russell designed window displays for his father's hardware store. These attracted the attention of Ruby Asquith, wife of Harold Christensen and a dance instructor at the Mill Valley Outdoor Club. At Asquith's invitation, Hartley visited the San Francisco Ballet studios and sketched dancers in rehearsal. There he decided to sign up for ballet classes and a year later, was given a part in Willam Christensen's Romeo and Juliet. Hartley enjoyed success in eccentric character roles and performed with the company between 1942 and 1949. Christensen also enlisted Hartley's help in revising costume designs for Now the Brides (1944). This led to him participating in designing many shows including 143 costumes for the first production of the Nutcracker Suite in 1944, Pyramus and Thisbe, Coppelia, Swan Lake, Les Maitresses de Lord Byron, Jinx, Beauty and the Shepherd, and the Standard Hour television show. In addition, Hartley received commissions from the Markova-Dolin Ballet Co. and the Savoy Opera Co. to design costumes for various productions. His art portfolio, Henry VIII and his Wives, published in 1948, served as an inspiration for Rosella Hightower's ballet by this name, which premiered in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House. Hartley became interested in collecting historical materials on local performers and dance and theatrical companies. Hartley scoured antique and bookstores for old dance and theatrical programs, photos, and ephemera. These materials eventually formed the nucleus of Hartley's San Francisco Dance Archives, established in 1950. In February 1946, Hartley and two friends, Leo Stillwell and Arthur Ammann, opened the Antinuous Art Gallery at 701 McAllister St. later renamed the Hartley Studio, run in conjunction with the Modern Ballet Center. Hartley began creating series of dance paintings and show windows in New York, leading to exhibitions of his paintings at the Feragil Galleries in New York, the Labaudt Gallery in San Francisco, and the Miami Beach Art Center, an exhibition on ballet at the De Young Museum, and features of his paintings in various one-man shows at galleries in San Francisco. He also executed costume designs for Balanchine's Serenade, William Dollar's Mendelssohn's Concerto, Lew Christensen's Balletino, and the San Francisco Opera Company's productions of Aida and Rosenkavalier. Hartley began studying the conservation of fine paintings with Gregory Padilla and carried out restoration projects for the Maxwell Galleries, the Oakland Museum, and Gumps. He became a member of the International Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works in 1960. One of his most well-known assignments involved restoring Millet's Man with a Hoe for the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. In the 1960s he worked as a monthly columnist for Dance Magazine. He also contributed feature articles to After Dark Magazine, Opera and Concert, and The Trumpeteer. He began organizing exhibitions on the history of the performing arts at the War Memorial Opera House and the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library. These exhibits formed the nucleus of a Performing Arts Archive. With the assistance of Dr. Kevin Starr and Mrs. Seymour M. Farber, Hartley obtained a space in the basement of the Presidio Branch of the San Francisco Public Library and became director of the Archives for the Performing Arts in 1975. His own archival collections, which had by this time expanded to include materials on the history of the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco theaters, and the San Francisco Symphony, was supplemented by the dance library of Mrs. James Bodrero and collections donated by Mrs. Arline Lipman and Dore Williams. Along with overseeing the archives, Hartley and his assistant, Judith Solomon, researched and designed numerous exhibitions. In 1981, budgetary cutbacks led to the closure of the archives and Hartley was forced to move the entire collection to his Mill Valley home. At this time, he started battling serious illness, while searching for a permanent home for the archive. In 1983, the San Francisco Ballet donated the San Francisco Opera Chorus Room in the War Memorial Opera House as a space for the archives. A new Board of Directors was formed for the archives and former SFB dancer Nancy Carter became the archives' first executive director. Hartley died in 1983.
9 Boxes. 11 linear feet.
Reproduction of these materials can occur only if the copying falls within the provisions of the doctrine of fair use. Copyright varies by item.
Entire Collection is open for research.