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Philip Reisman Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Reisman, Philip, 1904-1992.
Title: Philip Reisman Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1932-1993
Quantity: 0.5 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the American Jewish Social Realist painter, illustrator, and printmaker; born in Warsaw, Poland, died 1992. Correspondence (7 items), including an incoming letter from Diego Rivera; 103 pencil and/or pen-and-ink drawings; photographs of WPA Federal Art Project mural work for Bellevue Hospital; 179 annotated slides; printed reproductions of Reisman's work; articles and reviews (1932-1992); and exhibition announcements, invitations, and catalogs (1930s-1993).
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Philip Reisman (1904-1992) was a Polish-American painter, illustrator, and printmaker.

Reisman was born July 18, 1904 in Warsaw, Poland. In 1908 his mother emigrated to the United States with Philip and three siblings, joining his father and two older brothers already in New York City. Despite his father's discouragement, Reisman studied for six years at the Art Students League of New York under Wallace Morgan, George Bridgeman, George Luks and Frank Du Mond. He also studied privately with Harry Wickes from 1927-1928. Throughout his career Reisman turned his artist's eye on the city, painting and sketching busy scenes of the working-class people he saw around him on New York's Lower East Side; in recognition of this, the Museum of the City of New York honored him with a one-man retrospective in 1979.

During the Depression Reisman worked as a WPA mural artist at Bellevue Hospital, and he shared a studio in Sheridan Square for a time with fellow artist Harry Sternberg (who was also a fencing partner). In 1944 he spent a summer in Massachusetts where he became fascinated with the Gloucester fishing industry, spending hours sketching scenes at a local mackerel processing plant. Reisman saw "a connection between the lives of men engaged in the struggle to make a living from the sea and those of city dwellers trying to survive in an often hostile environment." [William H. Truettner and Roger B. Stein, "Philip Reisman: Biography," Smithsonian Museum of Art website]

Reisman was a board member of the American Artists School, a member of the American Artists Congress, An American Group and the Artists League of America. His work has been exhibited at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, Museum of Modern Art, National Print Exhibition and the National Academy of Design, and is in the permanent collections of galleries and museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the City of New York and the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. He died in 1992.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Philip Reisman Papers comprises correspondence, artwork, and memorabilia of the American Jewish painter, printmaker and illustrator. Spanning 1932-1993, the collection illuminates the professional career of the Waraw-born Social Realist artist.

The collection contains 7 items of Correspondence, including a 1933 letter from Mexican artist Diego Rivera agreeing to recommend Reisman for a Guggenheim Fellowship. The rest of the correspondence records highlights of Reisman's career, such as the awarding of an exhibition at the Roerich Museum in 1934 and his election to the National Academy of Design in 1982.

Artwork, both original art and reproductions, constitutes the bulk of the collection. The 103 original pencil and pen-and-ink drawings document Reisman's observations of American life in New York, Atlantic City, Gloucester and Rockport, Massachusetts, as well as his travels to Mexico, Haiti, France and Italy. The drawings include architectural sketches, caricatures, human and animal figural compositions, fishing and lumber industry illustrations, and seascapes. Other original items include a series of 10 personal greeting cards. Reproductions consist of photographs detailing Reisman's mural work at Bellevue Hospital during the Depression as part of the WPA's Federal Art Project; 179 annotated slides; and miscellaneous printed material.

Memorabilia encompasses articles and reviews as well as exhibition catalogs, invitations, and announcements from the 1930s through 1993.

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Arrangement of the Collection

Within each subset of material, items are arranged chronologically. Artwork is subdivided into original art and reproductions. Memorabilia is subdivided into clippings of articles and reviews, and exhibit material such as catalogs and invitations.

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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


Reisman, Philip, 1904-1992.
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957.

Corporate Bodies

Federal Art Project.
Yaddo (Artists' colony)


Art, American -- 20th century.
Illustrators --United States.
Jewish artists -- United States.
Jews -- United States.
Mural painting and decoration -- United States -- 20th century.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.
Polish Americans.
Social realism -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Drawings (visual works)
Exhibition catalogs.
Reviews (documents)
Slides (photographs)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Philip Reisman Papers
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Philip Reisman and Louise K. Reisman.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: KM
Date: 1994 Mar 31
Revision history: 11 Apr 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 5 Jan 2017 - fixed index code, minor style updates (MRC)

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Biographical material
Box 1 Miscellaneous
Box 1 [General] 1933-1934, 1982-1993
Box 1 Drawings (4 folders)
Box 1 Greeting cards (personal)
Box 1 Photographs of murals
Box 1 Slides (2 folders)
Box 1 Miscellaneous (2 folders)
Box 1 Articles, reviews 1932-1992, undated (2 folders)
Box 1 Exhibition catalogs, invitations, announcements 1930s-1993 (3 folders)

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Index to correspondence

  • National Academy of Design : 1982 Apr 7 (photocopy); 1984 Nov. 8 (photocopy)
  • New York Public Library : 1993 Dec 8 (photocopy)
  • Rivera, Diego : 1933 Oct 25
  • Roerich Museum (New York, NY) : 1934 Mar 13
  • Yaddo : 1990 Aug 8 (photcopy, outgoing); 1990 Aug 15 (photocopy)

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