Skip to main content

Papers of Ruth Abrams (1912-1986)

Identifier: YUM 08

Scope and Content Note

This collection documents the artistic career of the New York painter Ruth Abrams (1912-1986), and includes Ruth Abrams' research notes, essays, correspondence with galleries and artists, clippings about exhibits, photographs and a video tape of Ruth Abrams' film.

The papers span 1934 to 1986 with the bulk of materials falling in the 1970s. The documents are primarily in English, although some of the clippings and exhibit material are in Spanish. The collection has been arranged in six series: Series I: General; Series II: Written Material; Series III: Microcosms; Series IV: Paradox of the Big; Series V: Exhibits; and Series VI: Visual Material.

The collection focuses primarily on Ruth Abrams' artwork and her writings. The largest part of the collection consists of clippings and brochures about Ruth Abrams' exhibits (Series V). She had solo and group exhibits mostly in New York City galleries, but also in Texas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and abroad in Venezuela and Israel. Photographs documenting various exhibits as well as photographs, transparencies, and a few slides of Abrams' art can be found in Series VI: Visual Material. Additionally, the collection also contains correspondence with colleagues and with galleries regarding exhibits, film production and other topics related to Ruth Abrams' artwork. Included is also documentation on loans, gifts, and purchases of Abrams' art.

Another large portion of materials constitute Ruth Abrams' writings. It is mostly essays about the main themes and concepts of her art, such as the idea of Microcosms, Paradox of the Big, and changes in modern visual perspective. There are also drafts of novels, short stories, and a play. Included are also Ruth Abrams' reviews about other artists' work. Most of the writings about the Microcosms are located in Series III: Microcosms, however Series V: Exhibits contains some publications about Microcosms exhibits, and Series IV: Paradox of the Big includes a few notes on Microcosms because of the interrelation of both concepts.

The collection also contains papers and visual materials dealing with Ruth Abrams' personal life, such as family correspondence, biographical information about Abrams, miscellaneous clippings collected by Abrams that were of interest to her, and a few personal photographs with friends.

Ruth Abrams' paintings are part of the Collection of Yeshiva University Museum.


  • 1934-1986

Language of Materials

This collection is in English.

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

Ruth Abrams was born in Brooklyn, New York. In the 1930s she studied art at the Art Students' League, Columbia University, and the School of Social Research, and worked in the ateliers of sculptors William Zorach, Aleksandr Archipenko, and Jose de Creeft, and painters John Graham, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, and Wallace Harrison.

At the age of nineteen Ruth Abrams married Charles Abrams, who would later become a prominent urban planner and housing expert as well as a member of Governor Harriman's cabinet. The couple had two daughters, Judith and Abby.

Between 1965 and 1966, Ruth Abrams was Art Director for the New School of Social Research Association. She also lectured at the Parsons School of Design and elsewhere on changing perceptions of space as affected by advanced space technology.

Ruth Abrams was a painter of the New York School. As early as the 1940s she exhibited at the American Contemporary Art Gallery along with Hans Hofmann, I. Rice Pererira and Giorgio Cavallon and, over the years, remained closely associated with Abstract Expressionists. Ruth Abrams devoted an impressive body of work to such problems as visual perspective and the image of space and scale. Beginning in the late 1950s Ruth Abrams was preoccupied with the technique of action painting in relation to cosmic space. She created a series of paintings in small format called Microcosms. In the 1970s Ruth Abrams produced a film, Paradox of the Big, to further explain her artistic vision. The film sought to remove the viewer from any sense of scale and concentrated on the vision of the work, the loss of horizon line, the sense of endlessness, and speed that Abrams wanted to impart.


Born in Brooklyn
Studied painting with Alexander Brook at Art Students League; studied sculpture with William Zorach and Aleksander Archipenko; shared studio with Raphael Soyer
Married Charles Abrams, lawyer and urban planner
Mother died; traveled to Mexico with a fellow artist
Solo exhibition held at A.C.A. Gallery, New York
Gave birth to daughters Judith and Abby; prepared for second solo exhibtion at A.C.A. Gallery; traveled to Paris; became friends with Milton Resnick, Phillip Pavia, Willem de Kooning and other members of the Artists Club; studied with Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League
Participated in group exhibition at A.C.A. Gallery, New York
Participated in group exhibition at Artists League, New York
Participated in group exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery if Art, Washington, D.C.
Solo exhibition held at A.C.A. Gallery, New York; returns to figurative work with Judy in Jeans
Studied with Wallace Harrison and John Graham in their respective studios
Solo exhibition held at The Artists Gallery, Provincetown, Massachusetts; participated in group exhibition at Provincetown Art Association, Provincetown, Massachusetts
Solo exhibition held at Roko Gallery, New York; participated in group exhibitions at Stable Gallery, New York and Tanager Gallery, New York
Participated in the Armory Exhibition, New York
Solo exhibition held at Roko Gallery, New York ; participated in group exhibitions at Camino Gallery, New York and Tanager Gallery, New York
Solo exhibition held of Microcosms at D'Arcy Gallery, New York; participated in group exhibitions at Smolins Gallery, New York and East Hampton Gallery, New York
Solo exhibition held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Caracas, Venezuela; participated in group exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas
Solo exhibition held at M.I.T.'s Faculty Club, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Participated in group exhibitions at East Hampton Gallery, New York; served as director of The New School for Social Research Associates Gallery (until 1966)
Solo exhibition held at Shepherd Gallery, New York
Solo exhibition held at M.I.T.'s Faculty Club, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Solo exhibition held at Delson-Richter Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel; participated in group exhibitions at Landmark Gallery, New York and 80 Washington Square East Galleries, New York University
Solo exhibition held at 80 Washington Square East Galleries (first screening of her film Paradox of the Big); participated in group shows at 80 Washington Square East Galleries, Pleiades Gallery, New York and Landmark Gallery, New York
Solo exhibition held at Amarillo Art Center, Amarillo, Texas and Anderson Gallery, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia
Participated in group exhibitions at Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut, Landmark Gallery, New York, and Marymount Manhattan College, New York
Participated in group exhibition the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Solo exhibition held of the Haiku paintings at the Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, New York University; traveled to Israel
Died of heart disease on March 12

NOTE: A detailed biography can be found in Ruth Abrams. Paintings, 1940 to 1985. New York: Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, 1986. A copy of this publication can be found in the reference library of Yeshiva University Museum.


5.5 Linear Feet


This collection consists of materials that focus on the life and art of Ruth Abrams. Documents include personal papers, writings by Ruth Abrams concerning her art and career, and material concerning exhibits of her artwork. The majority of the documents focus on her series of small-scale paintings known as Microcosms and her related film, Paradox of the Big. The collection also includes many photographs, both personal and of artwork.


The collection is comprised of six series:

  1. Series I: General, 1945-1986
  2. Series II: Written Material, 1950-1982
  3. Series III: Microcosms, 1963-1980
  4. Series IV: Paradox of the Big, 1967-1981
  5. Series V: Exhibits, 1934-1983
  6. Series VI: Visual Material, 1950s-1980s

Separated Materials

Sketches, drawings and small oil paintings by Ruth Abrams were separated from the archives and are part of the Collection of the Yeshiva University Museum.

Guide to the Papers of Ruth Abrams (1912-1986), 1934-1986 (bulk 1970s)
Processed by Bob Sink, 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 RuthAbrams02.xml

Revision Statements

  • September 2004.: Converted to ead 2002. Revised as RuthAbrams02.xml by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc.
  • March 2005.: Access points added by Dianne Ritchey Oummia.
  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Repository Details

Part of the Yeshiva University Museum Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States