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Papers of Kathryn M. Yochelson (1906-2006)

Identifier: YUM 06

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains papers and visual materials accumulated by Kathryn Yochelson that relate to Israeli art. For the most part, the documents pertain to Israeli artists that she researched and often corresponded with. In addition, there is also information on other people associated with the Israeli art world and museums and galleries. There is only a small amount of biographical information concerning Yochelson herself, other than what may be gleaned from her letters to individuals, writing, and photographs. The papers include clippings, correspondence, handwritten research notes, typewritten articles, and manuscripts, as well as photographs, negatives and slides, publications, postcards, and scrapbooks. Items in the collection span from 1910-2000, with bulk dates circa 1950s-1970s. English is the dominant language of the collection; other languages encountered in the papers include Hebrew, French, German, and Italian.

Material on Israeli artists and their artwork is prevalent throughout the collection, and may be found in Series I: Artists, Art Historians, and Art Critics' Files as well as in Series III: Visual Material. Artists represented widely in these two series include Reuven Rubin, Elias Newman, and Jakob Steinhardt, as well as Haim Gamzu, director of the Tel Aviv Museum. Material on Rubin includes correspondence with him and his wife that spans more than 30 years and is often personal in nature in addition to many photos of the artist and his artwork. Another topic often encountered in this collection is Yochelson's trips to Israel. Extensive slides of her trips are located in Series III, and Series II: General contains a manuscript account of her fourth trip as well as a scrapbook of her sixth one. Some of these slides and the manuscript feature photos of or information on artists Yochelson encountered during her trips. Much information is also available on Yochelson's personal collection of Israeli artwork, located in Series II, where there are clippings and financial papers concerning her acquisitions as well as information on their exhibition. Visual material concerning these pieces is also available in Series III, including pages of photo albums with commentary about the artists and their works as well as negatives, slides, and photos.


  • 1910, 1948-2000

Language of Materials

This collection is in English, German, French, Hebrew, and Polish.

Access Restrictions

Open to researchers.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

Yeshiva University Museum, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Biographical Note

Kathryn Mersey Yochelson was born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1906. Her parents Nathan and Esther Mersey emigrated from Vilna in 1904, and soon after her birth, the family moved to New Haven, Connecticut, where she grew up. She hoped to study painting at Yale's art school, but attended Teachers College instead while taking private art lessons after school. Yochelson pursued her interest in art by studying art at Columbia Teachers College in New York City, and by joining the New York Teachers Art Club. From 1934 to 1939 she attended Elizabeth Chase's art talks at the Yale School of Fine Arts, where she first became interested in the art of the Jewish people. In 1930, Kathryn married Samuel Yochelson, a psychology graduate student at Yale University, who later became a psychiatrist. In 1937, she took an art-oriented trip to Europe. After this time, she began searching for more evidence of Jewish contributions to art, asking questions of historical societies, museums, libraries, and of individuals involved in the art world.

Yochelson and her husband moved to his hometown of Buffalo, New York, in 1939, where she would become an active member of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The museum staff there encouraged her interest in Jewish art, but her search for further information was frustrating and filled with dead ends. As she searched she gradually discovered sources and made some lifelong friendships. In 1940 she discovered a book by Karl Schwarz, Die Juden in der Kunst, that not only depicted the art of ancient synagogues and ceremonial objects, but also had information on modern Jewish artists. She also came across a book by Elias Newman, Art in Palestine, which gave her information on modern Israeli artists. In 1953 Yochelson invited Newman to give a lecture in Buffalo. He would become a friend and advisor to her on Israeli art.

Inspired by the newly formed Jewish Museum in New York City in 1944, Yochelson decided to foster interest in Israeli art in Buffalo. On November 8, 1948, Yochelson gave her first art talk at a synagogue luncheon entitled "Jews in Art." The talk was so well received that the following year she began a lecture series on Jewish art at the Buffalo Jewish Center. Yochelson continued to give talks in the Niagara Falls and Buffalo area for the next several years. By the 1950s word had spread to Israel of her efforts, and Israeli artists visiting the United States came to Yochelson's home in Buffalo.

In 1953 the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Edgar Schenck, informed Yochelson of a traveling exhibit of Israeli art, Seven Painters of Israel. The exhibit featured works by Mordecai Ardon, Moshe Castel, Nahum Gutmann, Marcel Janco, Moshe Mokady, Reuven Rubin, and Joseph Zaritsky. Yochelson fostered local interest in the exhibit, and it was brought to Buffalo. After encountering their works, Yochelson developed interest in these artists, and began to entertain the idea of collecting artwork. She assisted the Buffalo Jewish Center in acquiring art pieces. After the Center's acquisition of a work by Ben Shahn, Yochelson became acquainted with the New York art critic Alfred Werner, with whom she maintained a long friendship.

In 1958 Yochelson first visited Israel with her husband. While visiting, she met with Dr. Haim Gamzu, director of the Tel Aviv Museum. Gamzu introduced Yochelson to several Israeli artists, including Jakob Steinhardt, Nahum Gutmann, Marcel Janco, and Lea Nikel. During this trip, Yochelson also met Moshe Mokady and Reuven and Esther Rubin. Many of these artists gave or sold art pieces to Yochelson.

In 1961 Yochelson's family, including her husband and her children John and Bonnie, moved to Washington, D.C. Yochelson continued supporting Israeli art by giving talks on art in people's homes as well as at local libraries and synagogues, and by writing articles on art for the local Jewish newspaper. In 1963 she was asked by the rabbi of the Temple Sinai to organize an art exhibition for the synagogue. This exhibition also had the theme "Seven Painters of Israel," this time including the artists Mordecai Ardon, Moshe Castel, Shimson Holzman, Moshe Mokady, Reuven Rubin, Menahem Shemi, and Jakob Steinhardt. The following year the rabbi of the Adas Israel Synagogue asked Yochelson to chair an art committee to arrange an exhibition in honor of Israel's sixteenth anniversary. In 1968, she was made the art consultant of the Israel Independence Ball, which was held in celebration of Israel's twentieth anniversary. Yochelson worked with Elias Newman and arranged an exhibition that featured ten Israeli and ten American Jewish artists.

From the 1960s through the 1980s Yochelson traveled to Israel several times, often adding artwork to her personal collection. In 1965 she visited Israel for the second time to attend the opening of the National Israel Museum. While there, Yochelson met the artists Joel Rohr, Mordecai Ardon, Arie Lubin, and Anna Ticho as well as the Ein Hod artists' colony, and also revisted the Steinhardts and Rubins. Yochelson and her husband visited Israel again in 1972, where she met the art historian Bezalel Narkiss in addition to visiting the artists' colony at Safed and revisiting friends. During her trip in 1974 she met the booksellers Miron Sima and Ezekiel Steimatsky as well as the artists Ruth Bamberger, Jacob Pins, and Tova Berlinski in addition to other artists she had first met on earlier visits. In November 1976 Kathryn Yochelson's husband Samuel died, and in 1977 she visited Israel for the fifth time to dedicate in his memory to the Tel Aviv Museum a sculpture Balancing (1961) by her friend Chaim Gross. Yochelson made her sixth trip to Israel in 1985.

In addition to visiting Israel, Yochelson also continued to promote Israeli art by giving lectures to local Jewish groups and writing articles. During the 1980s she once again assisted in arranging exhibitions. In 1986 she worked with the curator of the Dimock Gallery of George Washington University on the exhibition Personal Vision: The Yochelson Collection of Israeli Art. In 1988 Yochelson assisted with an exhibit for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, Masters of Israeli Art: The Formation Years. In 1998 her book Israeli Art: Golden Threads was published, which included color plates belonging to her collection. Kathryn Yochelson died in 2006. 1


Born in New York City.
Married psychiatrist Samuel Yochelson.
Attended art history lectures of Elizabeth Chase at the Yale School of Fine Arts
Traveled through Europe.
Moved to Buffalo, New York with her husband. Became member of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Gave first lecture at a synagogue in Buffalo, "Jews in Art."
Organized visits of Israeli artists to the United States.
Helped bring James S. Plaut's exhibit Seven Painters of Israel to Buffalo.
First trip to Israel, met Dr. Haim Gamzu and various artists.
Moved to Washington D.C.
Organized exhibits of Israeli art in synagogues in Washington D.C.
Attended opening of the National Israel Museum in Jerusalem.
Appointed as art consultant for the Israel Independence Ball at Washington Hilton Hotel; organized exhibit Twenty Artists for Israel.
Became a member of the Board of Governors of the Tel Aviv Museum.
Third trip to Israel, visited artists and galleries.
Fourth trip to Israel, met Ruth Bamberger.
Samuel Yochelson died.
Trip to Tel Aviv to dedicate a sculpture by Chaim Gross to the Tel Aviv Museum in memory of Samuel Yochelson.
Sixth trip to Israel.
Exhibit of Yochelson's collection at the Dimock Gallery of George Washington University: Personal Vision: the Yochelson Collection of Israeli Art.
Helped organize "Masters of Israeli Art: The Formative Years," an exhibition for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington.
Published book Israeli Art: Golden Threads.
Presented Yeshiva University Museum with personal papers for archives and artwork for art collection.


8.5 Linear Feet


Papers collected by Kathryn Yochelson on Israeli art and artists. The collection includes clippings, publications, biographical information on artists, Yochelson's research notes, correspondence regarding exhibits, scrapbooks, photographs and negatives of artists and artwork.


The collection is organized in three series:

  1. Series I: Artists, Art Historians, and Art Critics' Files, 1935-2000
  2. Series II: General, 1947-1999
  3. Series III: Visual Material, 1910, 1952-1988

Related Material

Yeshiva University Museum presented an exhibition "Fruits of a Lifetime: The Kathryn Yochelson Collection of Israeli Art" from June-October 2002, with a catalogue published in conjunction with the exhibition.

Separated Material

A copy of Kathryn Yochelson's book Israeli Art: Golden Threads is available in the Yeshiva University Museum Library. Some of the artists' catalogues have been removed to the Yeshiva University Museum Library.


1. Biographical Note compiled from Kathryn M. Yochelson's book Israeli Art: Golden Threads.

Guide to the Papers of Kathryn M. Yochelson (1906-2006)
Processed by Inna Giter and Dianne Ritchey Oummia
© May 2002
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from KYochelson02.xml

Revision Statements

  • June 2002.: Corrections made to finding aid.
  • September 2004.: Converted to ead 2002. Revised as KYochelson02.xml by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.
  • May 2013.: Date of death added by Rachel Miller.

Repository Details

Part of the Yeshiva University Museum Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States