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Finding Aid for the Jules Langsner papers, 1941-1967
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Related Material
  • Custodial History
  • Processing Note
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Jules Langsner papers
    Date (inclusive): 1941-1967
    Collection number: 1748
    Creator: Jules Langsner, 1911-1967.
    Extent: 26 boxes (13 linear feet) 1 oversize box.
    Abstract: Jules Langsner was born on May 5, 1911, in New York, New York and died in Los Angeles, California, on September 29, 1967. Langsner was surrounded by intellectuals and artists from a young age, and became a celebrated art writer, critic and curator. The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, ephemera, and photographs related to Langsner's writing, research and curatorial work.
    Language: English
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Provenance/Source of Acquisition

    Gift of the Langsner estate, 1968.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jules Langsner papers (Collection 1748). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    UCLA Catalog Record ID

    UCLA Catalog Record ID: 4233279 


    Jules Langsner was born Julius Harold Langsner in New York, N.Y. on May 5, 1911 to Austrian immigrant parents. His family moved to a commune in Bogota, New Jersey, and later relocated to Ontario, Calif. around 1922 to start a small farm. The farm soon transformed into the Paradise Health Resort and became a place frequented by intellectuals and their families. In Ontario, he was introduced to the Pollock family, and became friends with three of their sons: Jackson, Frank, and Sanford. Langsner attended Belmont High School in Los Angeles, Calif., while many of his friends attended Manual Arts High School (also in Los Angeles). In his late teens, he became an advocate for modernist painting styles, including abstraction and surrealism. Langsner, then a budding poet, spent much of his time in Los Angeles as part of a young intellectuals group that included Phillip Goldstein (later known as Philip Guston), Jackson Pollock, Reuben Kadish, Frank Pollock, Sanford Pollock (later known as Sande McCoy), Leonard Stark, and Don Brown. When they weren't working odd jobs, Langsner and his leftist circle debated politics, philosophy and art. He was greatly affected by racism and anti-immigration and became interested in education and justice from a young age. He became interested in avant-garde painting while Kadish, Pollock and Guston were being mentored by Los Angeles artist Lorser Feitelson. Feitelson introduced the young men to post-surrealism, pastiche and film noir influences through his work. Langsner enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles as a psychology major, then enlisted in the Army in 1944 as a social worker revising Rorschach psychodiagnostic charts. He remained in the United States for the duration of World War II. After WWII, Langsner continued to develop his professional and personal relationships in Los Angeles. He befriended a variety of artists and intellectuals, including artist and printmaker June Wayne, who would remain a dear friend until his death. His curiosity and appreciation for art and artists in Los Angeles led him to pursue art writing and criticism. In 1948, Langsner published his first article in Art & Architecture, contributing periodically until 1963. He published articles for Art News (later known as ArtNews) from 1949-1967, followed by the Los Angeles Times from 1955-1958, Zodiac from 1959-1960, Craft horizons from 1959-1963, Art in America in 1963 and 1967, and Canadian Art in 1964. He taught at the Chouinard Art Institute and San Fernando State College from 1959-1967. Langsner's writing brought national attention to local artists, institutions, and topics. He promoted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other local art museums in multiple publications. In the April 1963 issue of Art in America, Langsner coined the phrase "second city" to describe Los Angeles in comparison to New York's art scene. In 1951, he published one of the first articles to embrace Simon Rodia's towers in Watts as a work of art. He promoted many artists, including Rico Lebrun, William Turnbull, Sam Francis, and Matsumi Kanemitsu. His ability to communicate with and befriend artists, as well as his ability to understand the subtleties of multiple styles, led him to pursue art curatorship. In 1957, Langsner was sponsored by the Ray Cardillo Travel Agency to visit art centers throughout Europe, and curated a Marc Chagall exhibit at the Pasadena Art Museum. Perhaps he is best known for curating the landmark exhibition "Four Abstract Classicists" in 1959, which included work by John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, Karl Benjamin and Lorser Feitelson. It was in 1959 that Langsner and art historian Peter Selz originated the phrase "hard-edge painting" to describe the colors, shapes and style of abstract expressionist painting on the West Coast. His catalog for the exhibit became the criterion for the hard-edge school of painting. In 1961, Langsner was awarded a fellowship grant for advanced study in the fine arts from the Graham Foundation, and in 1964 was the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant for visual arts research. While traveling for his Ford grant, Langsner was in close correspondence with June Harwood, a hard-edge painter and in 1965, they were married. In 1966, Langsner organized and curated the first full-scale retrospective of Man Ray in the United States for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, establishing him as the pre-eminent art critic of the West Coast. Langsner died suddenly of a heart attack on September 29, 1967.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of materials related to Langsner's career as an art critic, writer, and curator, as well as his interests in art groups and movements, exhibitions, numerous research topics, artists, and sculptors. Included is correspondence with artists and researchers, publications and clippings by and about Langsner, clippings and publications, and exhibition announcements and publications. Also present are notes and original manuscripts regarding numerous topics, artists, projects, and ideas. Other materials include photographs of artists and art, as well as original art by Marc Chagall and Reuben Kadish. The collection includes documentation, notes, clippings and publications from the 1948-1949 Berlin Masterpieces Exhibition curated by Karl Birkmeyer.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Art groups, movements, and related topics
    2. Miscellaneous research topics
    3. Artists
    4. Sculpture
    5. Art by nation or region
    6. Berlin masterpieces exhibition

    Related Material

    Collection of correspondence, reviews, articles, photographs, etc., of art historian Gustav Glueck, ca.1898-ca.1956. UCLA Libraries and Collections, University of California, Los Angeles. (These items were removed from the Langsner collection by Arts Library Special Collections.)
    Jules Langsner papers, 1938-1974  . Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Huntington Library, San Marino, California.
    June Wayne Papers (Collection 562)  . Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.
    Reuben Kadish Papers (1851-1995 (bulk 1913-1995  ). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

    Custodial History

    This collection of Langsner material was originally given by the Langsner Estate to UCLA Arts Library Special Collections in 1968. In 1982, 34 items of correspondence were donated by Victoria Steele to Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Huntington Library, San Marino, California. In 2006, the collection was transferred to the UCLA Library Department of Special Collections.

    Processing Note

    Processing of the Jules Langsner papers was funded by a grant from the Getty Research Institute.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


    Langsner, Jules, 1911-1967--Archives.
    Art critics--United States--Archival resources.
    Art museum curators--United States--Archival resources.

    Genres and Forms of Material