Home Page Image

 

 

Zigrosser, Carl

Date born: 1891

Place Born: Indianapolis, IN

Date died: 1975

Place died: Montagnola, Switzerland

Philadelphia Museum of Art Prints curator, 1941-1963.  Zigrosser was the son of an Austrian immigrant, Hugo A. Zigrosser (1860-1935), a civil engineer, and an American, Emma Haller (Zigrosser) (b. 1870), both Roman Catholics.  The younger Zigrosser was fluent in German from an early age.  After graduating from the Newark (NJ) Academy  in 1908, he attended Columbia College, Columbia University, with the intent of becoming a chemist.  He received his B. A. in three years (1911) and began graduate work in comparative literature, where he read the esthetics of Benedetto Croce and heard lectures by George Santayana (1863-1952).  He joined Frederick Keppel & Company, a New York print dealer. There he learned the art trade and met many famous collectors, literati, artists (most notably Rockwell Kent) and curators, including William Ivins, Jr., founder of the Prints Department at the Metropolitan Museum Art and Juliana Force director of the Whitney Studio Club (later Whitney Museum of Art). During this time he contributed to and edited the Modern School Magazine.  He married a Greenwich Village feminist, Florence "Kinglet" King (1867-1945), twelve years his senior, in 1915.  Zigrosser was a conscientious objector to World War I and while the war still going, he left Keppels in 1918 to become a research assistant for the United Engineering Society library.  In 1919 he founded and was director of the Weyhe Gallery (in conjunction with the Weyhe Bookstore), which he directed until 1940.  During those years, Zigrosser helped establish many American artists, included the sculptor John Bernard Flannagan, (1895/6-1942), whom he met in 1926.  Zigrosser published Six Centuries of Prints in 1937 as a primer on graphics collecting to educate novices in the field.  The book was a monumental success and raised Zigrosser's reputation as a print authority.  In 1941 he was appointed curator of prints, drawings and rare books at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by its director, S. Fiske Kimball.  Under Zigrosser's direction, the collection grew from 15,000 items to over 100,000. Among these were the Watteau engravings from the Rosenwald collection, the Osborne collection of folk prints, the Scholz collection of 17th-century prints, and the Alfred Stieglitz' collection of photographs. After his first wife's death in 1945, Zigrosser married Laura Canadè, a Weyhe Gallery employee, in 1946. He was named a trustee of the Solomon Guggenheim Museum in 1952.  In 1955 Zigrosser was appointed the museum's vice-director. He retired in 1963 as a curator emeritus but remained as an adviser to the print department.   Zigrosser issued the catalogue raisonné of John Marin prints, The Complete Etchings of John Marin in 1969, as the exhibition catalog for the show at the Philadelphia Museum.  It is still considered the best study on Marin's prints. He died at his home in Switzerland.

Zigrosser's was one of a number of early American curators who raised the public's awareness for graphics as a serious art form.  His introductory text, Six Centuries of Prints (1937) went through numerous editions during Zigrosser's lifetime under a variety of titles: The Book of Fine Prints: an Anthology of Printed Pictures and Introduction to the Study of Graphic Art in the West and the East (1956) and Prints and their Creators: a World History: an Anthology of Printed Pictures  [etc.] (1974).

Home Country:  United States

Sources:  My Own Shall Come to Me:  A Personal Memoir and Picture Chronicle.  Haarlem, Netherlands: Casa Laura, 1971; Zigrosser, Carl. A World of Art and Museums. Philadelphia: Art Alliance Press, 1975; personal correspondence, Steve Mayhew, April 2011; [obituary:] "Carl Zigrosser, Prints Curator At Philadelphia Museum, Dies." New York Times  November 27, 1975, p. 36.

Bibliography: The Expressionists: a Survey of their Graphic Art. New York: G. Braziller, 1957; Prints: Thirteen Illustrated Essays on the Art of the Print. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston/Print Council of America, 1962; The Artist in America: Twenty-four Close-ups of Contemporary Printmakers.  New York: A.A. Knopf, 1942; Rockwellkentiana: Few Words and Many Pictures by R. K.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1933; Six Centuries of Fine Prints. New York: Covici-Friede 1937; The Complete Etchings of John Marin. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1969.

Subject's name: Carl Zigrosser