Paul Singer Papers

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At A Glance

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  • Overview

    The Paul Singer papers measure 23 linear feet and date from circa 1880s to 1997. Materials include biographical documents, correspondence, writings and notes, exhibition and symposium files, travel files, personal art collection records, personal business records, printed material, artwork, artifacts, and photographs.
  • Creator

    Singer, Paul, 1904-
  • Dates

    circa 1880s-1997
  • Physical Description

    23 Linear feet (Boxes 1-28, 30-40, OV29)
  • Collection ID


  • Scope and Contents

    The Paul Singer papers measure 23 linear feet and date from circa 1880s to 1997. Materials include biographical documents, correspondence, writings and notes, exhibition and symposium files, travel files, personal art collection records, personal business records, printed material, artwork, artifacts, and photographs.

    Biographical materials document Paul Singer's life in Vienna, Austria and in the United States. Scattered biographical documentation concerning Singer's wife, Eva Geyer, is also included. Correspondence files show the many relationships Singer maintained with art auctions and art dealers, Asian art colleagues, and various museums and universities in an effort to continuously expand and exhibit his collection. Topics also include requests for loans and viewings of Singer's art collection; consultations about other art objects; auction and sales offers; and his unpublished collection catalog project. Writings and notes include drafts of articles, essays, Singer's memoirs, and Singer's unpublished collection catalog drafts. As reflected within exhibition and symposium files, items from Singer's collection were included in several exhibitions over the years, many at the Asia House Gallery and China Institute of America, and a symposium held in his honor at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 1990, "New Perspectives on Chu Culture during the Eastern Zhou Period." The papers also include various materials documenting Singer's international travels, especially to China from 1979 onward.

    Personal art collection records document various Singer collection purchases and sales and include invoices, receipts, shipping documents, appraisal and laboratory testing results, scattered loan agreements, and Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Purchase Fund documentation. Personal business records include Singer's personal financial files, legal files, and estate papers. Also found within the papers are printed materials, a sketchbook and sketches by others, two picture frames, and a bronze bust of Paul Singer by David Cregeen. Personal photographs depict Paul Singer and his friends and family through snapshots, portraits, vintage photographs, and one album, and primarily document Singer's life in Austria. Also included are images of Singer's apartment showing his collection as a whole, as well as various social events. Photographs of works of art, both within Singer's collection and from other sources, constitute the bulk of the photographs found within the papers and include four photograph albums. However, researchers should note that prints, slides, and negatives of works of art are as yet largely unsorted.
  • Biographical / Historical

    Paul Singer (1904-1997) was a collector of Chinese art and neuropsychiatrist active in New York.

    Born in Pressburg, Hungary in 1904, Singer grew up in Vienna, Austria where he studied medicine and developed his lifelong interest in Chinese art. He began his studies in 1921 at the Realgymnasium in Vienna, becoming a neuropsychiatrist in 1929 at the University of Vienna. He and his wife, actress Eva Geyer (1907-1975), fled Austria in 1938. After staying briefly in London, they arrived in New York in 1939 where Singer frequented art dealer shops, such as C. T. Loo and Ralph Chait, auction houses, and thrift stores. Singer met Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987) at a Sotheby's auction in 1957. After Singer's wife's death in 1975, Sackler and Singer entered an agreement whereby Sackler would pay to support Singer's collecting and Singer's collection would go to Sackler upon his death.

    Galleries and museums around the country displayed works from Singer's collection, and in 1965, Singer and Max Loehr (1903-1988) co-curated Relics of Ancient China (1965) at Asia House Gallery in New York. The Chinese Institute in New York held several exhibitions showing pieces from his collection, two of which included: Early Chinese Gold and Silver (1971) and Early Chinese Miniatures (1977), for which he wrote the catalogs. In honor of Singer's eighty-fifth birthday in April 1990, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery held a symposium, "New Perspectives on Chu Culture during the Eastern Zhou Period," displaying a select number of objects from his collection and dedicating the published volume of presented papers to Paul Singer. In addition to curating and collecting, Singer also published scholarly articles on Chinese art in journals such as Archives of Asian Art and Oriental Art, and was senior consultant to the Far Eastern Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    Max Loehr (1903-1988) began constructing a comprehensive catalog of Paul Singer's collection in 1965, sending entries to Singer as he and his colleagues completed them. After Loehr's death, Thomas Lawton (1931- ) took over much of the Singer collection catalog project, hoping for completion in time for the Symposium in 1990, but the catalog was never published.

    Paul Singer died in New Providence, New Jersey in 1997.
  • Creator

    Singer, Paul, 1904-
  • Place

    Vienna (Austria)
    New York (N.Y.)
  • Topic

    Archaeology -- China -- Antiquities
    Art, Asian -- Collectors and collecting
    Art, Chinese -- Collectors and collecting
  • Provenance

    Donations received in part from Dr. Paul Singer in 1991 and after his death in 1997, and from the executrix of his estate, Ms. Margit Elsohn, in 2000.
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    Paul Singer Papers
  • Sponsor

    Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
  • Archival Repository

    Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
  • Type

    Collection descriptions
    Archival materials
    Financial records
  • Citation

    The Paul Singer Papers. FSA.A1991.01. National Museum of Asian Art Archives. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Arrangement

    The collection is arranged as 11 series.

    Series 1: Biographical Material, 1911-1996, undated [0.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, 28, OV29]

    Series 2: Correspondence, 1906-1996 [2.5 linear feet; Boxes 2-8]

    Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1950s-circa 1990s [2.0 linear feet; Boxes 8-13]

    Series 4: Exhibition and Symposium Files, 1957-1990 [0.7 linear feet; Boxes 13-15]

    Series 5: Travel Files, circa 1960s-circa 1991 [0.2 linear feet; Box 15]

    Series 6: Personal Art Collection Records, 1951-circa 1996 [1.9 linear feet; Boxes 16-20]

    Series 7: Personal Business Records, 1948-1997 [0.9 linear feet; Boxes 20-23]

    Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1900-1996 [0.9 linear feet; Boxes 23-24, 28]

    Series 9: Artwork, circa 1950s [0.1 linear feet; Boxes 24, 28]

    Series 10: Artifacts, circa 1970s-circa 1980s, undated [1.1 linear feet; Box 24, Bust]

    Series 11: Photographs, circa 1880s-circa 1990s [12 linear feet; Boxes 24-27, 30-40]
  • Processing Information

    Multiple accessions were merged and archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. For this collection, minimal level processing was implemented, which included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
  • Rights

    Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.
  • Genre/Form

    Financial records
  • Restrictions

    Collection is open for research.

Repository Contact

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
National Museum of Asian Art Archives
Washington, D.C. 20013