Alfred Werner Collection
Scope and Content Note
The bulk of this collection consists of the published output of Alfred Werner. He wrote thousands of stories, reviews, and columns, and he was an editor of or contributor to, among others, the Viennese newspapers Gerechtigkeit and Die Stimme, the Chicago Jewish Forum, Arts Magazine, and Pantheon.
The single largest segment of the collection, Series II, Subseries 2, consists of work published primarily in the 1940s and 1950s. His focus was world affairs, with an emphasis on Jewish and Zionist issues. The main outlets for his work were the many mid-century American-Jewish publications such as the American Zionist, the Brooklyn Jewish Center Review, and Congress Weekly. He was also a frequent contributor to Jewish publications in Europe and Israel, to newspapers such as the Saturday Evening Review of Literature and the New York Post, and to political magazines such as Esquire, the Nation, and the New Republic.
The second-largest part of the collection, Series II, Subseries 3, consists of Werner’s art history publications. By the 1960s and through the end of his life in 1979, he wrote almost exclusively about art. His main topic was 19th and 20th century European and American art, with an emphasis on Jewish and Israeli artists.
The collection also contains a small amount of additional material pertaining to Alfred Werner’s professional career, including manuscripts, research materials, and published reviews of his work. It also includes a reference collection of over 1000 art photographs, primarily of works by artists Werner was researching. This subseries contains chiefly professional 8x10 black-and-white photographs, most with detailed provenance information on the reverse. There are also a variety of smaller photographs.
Finally, the collection contains some of Werner’s personal documents, such as vital records, manuscripts, typescripts, and published versions of his poetry (written almost entirely in German), typescripts of an early autobiography and a later impressionistic memoir (both in English), as well as about a dozen photographs of Werner.
This collection provides evidence of American political print culture in the 1940s and 1950s, and of the international art scene in the mid 20th-century, with a focus on Jewish, Israeli, and American art. It also provides a window into the robust American-Jewish print culture of the post-war United States, and showcases the success of a Austrian-Jewish émigré in the areas of political writing and art history.
The collection does not contain correspondence and manuscripts commensurate with Werner’s published output. These materials may be held in the related collection found at SUNY Albany.
- Majority of material found within 1940-1979
- Werner, Alfred, 1911-1979 (Person)
Language of Materials
This collection is primarily in English, with some German and a small quantity of Dutch, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish.
Open to researchers.
See copyright note for Box 9, Folder 14.
Collection is digitized. Follow the links in the Container List to access the digitized materials.
Readers may access the collection by visiting the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. We recommend reserving the collection in advance; please visit the LBI Online Catalog and click on the "Request" button.
Art historian and journalist Alfred Werner was born Alfred Siegfried Weintraub to Ignatiz and Frederika (Silberstein) in Vienna, Austria on March 31, 1911. He received his Juris Doctor from the University of Vienna in 1934. In Austria, Werner was active in the Viennese literary scene, editing the newspapers Gerechtigkeit and Die Stimme while also publishing poetry. Werner was arrested by the Nazis on November 10, 1938 and sent to the Dachau concentration camp, but he was released in March 1939, through the efforts of his fiancée Dr. Gertrude Bach. The young couple then fled Austria, first to England, spending a year in the Richborough, Kent refugee/internment Kitchener Camp, and then immigrating into the United States.
Upon arrival in New York City, Werner struggled to make a living as a freelance writer. He wrote movingly of this time in a short autobiographical sketch found in Box 1 Folder 3. However, he soon found success in political journalism, and over the next fifteen years published hundreds of articles on European, Jewish, and Zionist affairs. He was also an editor of the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and the Chicago Jewish Forum. The topic dearest to Werner’s heart, however, was art, and by the 1960s he was writing nearly exclusively about art and artists, primarily focused on 19th and 20th-century European, American, and Israeli art with an emphasis on Jewish artists. He had a long-running art column for the Jewish News, “Views and Visions,” and was a frequent contributor to arts publications such as American Artist and Pantheon as well as a senior editor of Art Voices. Werner also wrote over twenty books, including important works on artists such as Chagall, Utrillo, Pascin, Modigliani, Gaugin, and Degas. Werner was also an art consultant for the Theodor Herzl Institute from the 1950s until the end of his life, arranging exhibits and lectures.
Alfred Werner married three times. In 1940, he married Dr. Gertrude Bach. She died in the mid-1940s, soon after arriving in the United States. In 1953, he married Judith Mayer, who died in the early 1970s. Finally, in 1975 Werner married Lisa Traum. Alfred Werner died July 14, 1979.
Sources: Collection, obituaries in The New York Times and Journal of Jewish Art
9 Linear Feet (9 boxes)
This collection documents the professional life of Austro-American art historian and journalist Alfred Werner (1911-1979). After being released from Dachau in 1939, Werner fled to New York. From 1940 to 1979, he wrote thousands of stories, reviews, and columns, and was an editor of or contributor to dozens of art magazines and Jewish periodicals. His primary interests were European, Jewish, and Zionist political affairs, and 19th and 20th-century European and American art, with an emphasis on Jewish and Israeli artists. The bulk of the collection consists of his published output. The collection also contains some additional professional material, such as manuscripts, research materials, and reference photographs, as well as a few personal documents.
- Series I: Personal, 1939-1978
- Series II: Professional, 1914-1979, bulk 1940-1979
- Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1939-1979
- Subseries 2: Printed Materials -- World Affairs, 1931-1979
- Subseries 3: Printed Materials -- Art, 1944-1979
- Subseries 4: Various, 1914-1978
- Subseries 5: Reference Photographs, 1950s-1970s
Other Finding Aids
Detailed indices for the clippings and photographs, probably prepared by Werner himself, are found at the beginning of the appropriate subseries. A three-page container list was prepared after accession, and can be obtained by contacting LBI.
The collection is on 23 reels of microfilm (MF 1100):
- Reel 1: 1/1 - 1/10
- Reel 2: 1/11 - 1/18
- Reel 3: 1/19 - 1/26
- Reel 4: 2/1 - 2/7
- Reel 5: 2/8 - 2/17
- Reel 6: 2/18 - 3/4
- Reel 7: 3/5 - 3/17
- Reel 8: 3/18 - 3/27
- Reel 9: 3/28 - 4/3
- Reel 10: 4/4 - 4/10
- Reel 11: 4/11 - 4/16
- Reel 12: 4/17 - 5/6
- Reel 13: 5/7 - 5/12
- Reel 14: 5/13 - 5/16
- Reel 15: 5/17 - 6/3
- Reel 16: 6/4 - 6/8
- Reel 17: 6/9 - 6/13
- Reel 18: 6/14 - 7/1
- Reel 19: 7/2 - 7/5
- Reel 20: 7/6 - 8/1
- Reel 21: 8/2 - 8/13
- Reel 22: 8/14 - 9/8
- Reel 23: 9/9 - 9/20
Bundesverdienstkreuz, 1.Klasse (German Federal Cross of Merit) was removed to the LBI Art and Object collection.
Some photographs were removed to LBI Photograph collection.
The collection was minimally processed upon original accession. In September-October 2010, it was rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes. The photographs were additionally placed in acid-free envelopes. The clippings were organized to correspond to the roughly chronological indices likely created by Werner. The indices were verified and found to be quite accurate. The clippings folders bear Werner’s original volume numbers, for ease of cross-reference to the indices. The intellectual structure (series and subseries) of the collection was modified slightly from the original accession to better reflect the contents.
Evidence shows that the clippings were mounted in scrapbooks at one time. For the most part, the clippings are in good condition but there is dried glue on most. Some of the newsprint is extremely fragile, as is some of the manuscript and typescript material.
- Guide to the Alfred Werner (1911-1979) Collection 1914-1979 (bulk 1940-1979) AR 7158 / MF 1100
- Processed by Kevin Schlottmann
- © 2010
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.
- as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation
- June 2011.: Microfilm inventory added.
- August 14, 2012 : Links to digital objects added in Container List.