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Joe Lasker Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Lasker, Joe.
Title: Joe Lasker Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1934-1969
Quantity: 1.75 linear ft.
Abstract: Spanning 1934 to 1969, the Joe Lasker Papers comprises biographical material, correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the Brooklyn-born painter, illustrator, educator, and political activist (b. 1919). The collection illuminates Lasker's artistic career as well as his personal life.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Joe Lasker (1919- ) was an American painter, illustrator, educator, and political activist. Born in Brooklyn, he won his first art prize at age eight and graduated from New York City's Cooper Union Art School in 1939. Like many of his fellow artists of the time, Lasker participated in the Federal Arts Project of the Works Project Administration, for which he designed and painted two post office murals. After a brief intermission to serve in World War II, Lasker continued his studies, winning two mural painting fellowships (1947, 1948) and two Prix de Rome fellowships (1950, 1951). By 1950 Life magazine named him one of the premier young artists in the country.

In 1963 Lasker expanded his repertoire to illustrate children's books; after ten years of this he began writing as well. His first book as author and illustrator, Mothers Can Do Anything was published in 1972. His second, Merry Ever After, a lavish pictorial exploration of a noble wedding and a peasant wedding in medieval Europe, won numerous accolades including the American Library Association's Notable Children's Book and the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year and Best Illustrated Children's Book of the Year, and received an Art Books for Children citation from the Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Public Library.

Lasker served as Visiting Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and his work has been exhibited in galleries across the United States including the Corcoran Gallery, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1934 to 1969, the Joe Lasker Papers comprises biographical material, correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the Brooklyn-born painter, illustrator, educator, and political activist (b. 1919). The collection illuminates Lasker's artistic career as well as his personal life.

Correspondence consists primarily of incoming letters from the 1960s relating to Lasker's artwork as well as his activism on behalf of his learning-disabled son and a number of political causes. Correspondents include art institutions (National Academy of Design, National Institute of Arts and Letters); artist Randall Morgan; authors (May Garelick, Dana F. Johnson, Jerre Mangione, Gene Thornton); and publisher Albert Whitman & Company. A Selected Index to Correspondence is at the end of this inventory.

Artwork contains thirty original sketches in pencil, charcoal, and ink (1934-1962), and reproductions. Reproductions consist of two personal greeting cards, children's book and other illustrations, and six posters in Italian for the United States Information Service. "Notes on Making a Multiple Color Wood-cut" and a transcript of a lecture on "The Community & the Brain-Injured Child" constitute Writings.

Memorabilia includes artwork by Pat Barclay, George Biddle, and John Groth; financial information pertaining to income and expenses, book royalties, and art sales (1966-1969); one photograph of Lasker; and printed material. Printed material comprises several articles and reviews, an award from the National Academy of Design, a newspaper clipping, exhibition catalogs (1947-1969), two exhibition posters, three issues of Reality, a Journal of Artists' Opinions, book publicity, and a published essay by Wallace Fowlie.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Artwork is divided into originals and reproductions and within that arranged alphabetically by type. Writings and Memorabilia are arranged alphabetically by type.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Barclay, Pat.
Biddle, George, 1885-1973.
Garelick, May, 1910-1989.
Groth, John, 1908-1998.
Johnson, Dana F.
Lasker, Joe.
Mangione, Jerre, 1909-1998.
Morgan, Randall, 1920-
Thornton, Gene.


Art, American -- 20th century.
Art, American.
Illustrated children's books.
Illustration of books -- United States -- 20th century.
Illustrators -- United States.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Joe Lasker Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: ASE
Date: Dec 1993
Revision history: 14 Nov 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 20 Apr 2016 - rehoused, oversize material moved (MRC)

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Box 1 General 1960, 1965-1969, undated
See Selected Index to Correspondence at end of this finding aid for partial list of correspondents and dates.
Oversize 1 Sketches in pencil, charcoal, ink 1934-1962, undated (30 items)
Box 1 Greeting cards, personal 1957, undated
Illustrations, book
Box 1 Big Lion, Little Lion - galley proof
Box 1 Boxes - dust jacket
Box 1 Christopher Columbus by Ann McGovern, illustrated by Joe Lasker (New York, N.Y.: Scholastic Book Services) circa 1962 - published work
Box 1 Here Comes the Bride - galley proofs
Box 1 The Sun, the Wind, the Sea and the Rain - dummy
Box 1 The Way Mothers Are - front cover
Box 1 What Do I Say? - galley proof
Illustrations, miscellaneous
Box 1 Brochure, Connecticut Association for Children with Learning Disabilities, Inc.
Box 1 Lecture program, Norwalk Negro History Committee
Oversize 1 Posters for U.S.I.S. - Italian, signed "Laschere" (6 items)
Oversize 1 Miscellaneous 1950, 1957, undated
Box 1 Art notes, "Notes on Making a Multiple Color Wood-cut" 1961
Box 1 Lecture transcript, "The Community & the Brain-Injured Child" 1964
Artwork by others
Box 1 Barclay, Pat undated - crayon drawing
Oversize 1 Biddle, George 1951 - lithograph
Oversize 1 Groth, John 1935? - drawing of Lasker
Box 1 Income and expenses 1966-1968 - photocopy
Box 1 Royalties, sales records for artwork, illustrated books 1969 - photocopies
Box 1 Photographs of Lasker 1958
Printed material
Oversize 1 Articles, reviews 1950, 1957, 1967, undated
Box 1 Awards 1969 - National Academy of Design 14th Annual Exhibition, Thomas R. Proctor Prize of $350
Box 1 Clippings 1960s
Exhibition catalogs
Box 1 Group shows 1947-1950 (2 folders)
Box 1 Group shows 1950-1962 (2 folders)
Box 2 Group shows 1950-1962 (5 folders)
Box 2 Group shows 1963-1964, 1967-1969, undated (2 folders)
Box 2 One-man shows 1959, 1964
Box 2 Exhibition invitation 1964
Box 2 Exhibition posters undated (2 items)
Box 2 Periodical, Reality, a Journal of Artists' Opinions 1953-1955 (3 issues)
Box 2 Publicity (book) 1964-1967
Writings by others
Box 2 "The Theme of Night in Four Sonnets of Mallarme" / Wallace Fowlie - reprint
Box 2 Exhibition catalog for "Meester Werken uit Vier Eeuwen, 1400-1800", Museum Boymans, Rotterdam 1938

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Selected Index to Correspondence

  • Albert Whitman & Company (Chicago, Ill.) : 1967 Feb. 7 (original and photocopy); 1967 Mar. 31; 1968 Feb. 13; 1968 Apr. 26; 1968 Oct. 23 (photocopy); 1968 Nov. 11 (photocopy); 1968 Dec. 12 (photocopy); 1969 Aug. 8
  • Garelick, May : 1968 June 30
  • Johnson, Dana F. : 1966 Apr. 8 ; 1968 Apr. 1
  • Mangione, Jerre Gerlando : 1967 Dec. 30
  • Morgan, Randall : 1968 Apr. 20; 1968 May 4
  • National Academy of Design (New York, N.Y.) : 1966 July 15 (photocopy); 1968 Dec. 14 (outgoing photocopy); 1968 Dec. 17; 1969 Feb. 19 (photocopy)
  • National Institute of Arts and Letters (New York, N.Y.) : 1968 Mar. 27; 1968 Apr. 8; 1968 May 6; 1968 May
  • Thornton, Gene : 1968 Feb. 15

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