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Joe Lasker Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: ASE
Date: Dec 1993

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Joe Lasker Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents





Selected Index to Correspondence


Selected Index to Correspondence