Arcane biographical research w/out library access
March 25, 2021 11:27 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to learn more about Nathan Klein (died 1956, primarily active 1930s-40s), a Brooklyn-based American painter, printmaker + textile artist. Ordinarily Who Was Who in American Art, the Encyclopedia of Jewish American Artists, etc. would be first stops, but I'm still locked out of our library system's print resources due to COVID. Are any MeFi librarians or art historians able to put their hands on a good art reference collection?

Klein is a relative of my wife's, and she recently found out that he was more active as both a fine artist and an illustrator than family lore suggests. I'm looking for any additional leads to see more of his work (beyond the handful of recent auction sales that are currently online) and for more biographical details.
posted by ryanshepard to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Just in case it's helpful. I looked him up in which carries the Brooklyn Times Union, the Brooklyn Citizen, and the Brooklyn Eagle and none of them seem to have anything about him. Same with JSTOR archive. Was he well known during his lifetime? And was that the name he was primarily known by?
posted by jessamyn at 12:34 PM on March 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can find that encyclopedia and at least some volumes of the Who's Who on the Internet Archive, fwiw.
posted by trig at 1:23 PM on March 25, 2021

Response by poster: Was he well known during his lifetime? And was that the name he was primarily known by?

Not at as an artist (his primary business was running a company that made the then-popular hand-painted silk ties, which allowed him to quasi-retire young), though he seems to have exhibited, sold some of his art, and also done illustration jobs for Jewish publications. All of the work I have seen is signed "Nathan Klein" or "N. Klein".
posted by ryanshepard at 1:24 PM on March 25, 2021

I have a couple of hand-painted silk ties from my grandfather--amazing art but like a lot commercial work may be hard to find while looking for fine art references. Old newspaper archives may be able to point you towards advertisements for his company, and perhaps you can ask for help from vintage collectors. A 1930s tie collector may know more about this than any artist directory. I had a lot of fun looking at old vintage tie ads while googling around a bit, and found this page Maybe if you pull that thread instead of the Art database thread the mystery will unravel.
posted by th3ph17 at 2:21 PM on March 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

I can't help with the specific books you're after, but I did a little searching and found these pages [1, 2] via this Yippy search. I didn't go much further down the results, but there may be more there.

Also, the Library of Congress has 38 results for "Nathan Klein" 1900-1999. Perhaps some of those reference him specifically?
posted by underclocked at 3:46 PM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: Hi. I can't tell if you already have the brief info from Who Was Who in American here goes.
I am at a public library, and we have this title.
The listing is:
KLEIN, Nathan [Painter] 20th c.
Addresses: Brooklyn NY Exhibited: PAFA Ann. 1933
Sources WW25; Falk Exh. Record Series.

Where WW25 ends up being the "who's who in art" section of the American Art Annual for the year 1925.
That volume is online in the Hathi Trust db.
The listing here is very brief as well:
KLEIN, Nathan, 1841--61st St., Brooklyn, N.Y. (P.)
[where P. stands for Painter.]
The other resource listed in the original listing is explained as "Exhibit Record Series" but then it lists many titles in the bibliography, so I don't quite understand how to get to the source with Mr. Klein's name in it.

Good luck.
posted by calgirl at 4:04 PM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: I tried to find the exhibition catalogue for the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibition mentioned in one of the links underclocked posted. It's on HathiTrust (scroll down to find the 128th/1933 volume) but it's search only. However, search did confirm a result for "Nathan Klein" on page 24. If any of these libraries are accessible to you in the post-pandemic world you could take a look in person.

Also on HathiTrust: this may be a red herring, but here's a book published in New York by a Jewish org from approximately the correct time period, with illustrations by "Nathan and Ruth Klein." Any knowledge of a Ruth being involved here? Of course, this may be a different Nathan Klein.
posted by sparkling at 4:12 PM on March 25, 2021

Best answer: I searched Art Index Retrospective, ARTbibliographies Modern (ABM), Oxford Art Online, and Encyclopedia Judaica and didn't find him.

How about this from the New York Times, though? (I typed it so apologies for any errors.)
April 26, 1925: X11
"Art: Exhibitions of the Week"
The 113th [or maybe 115th?] Street Branch of the New York Public Library is holding an exhibition of a few students' work from the Academy. Saul Berman, Nathan Klein, Daisy and Meyer Ryshpan and Renwick Taylor are the exhibitors. Berman's water-color, the "Clothes Line," is fresh and happily designed, and the "Minister's House," an oil by Nathan Klein, is entertainingly prim and jolly in color.

I've got the PDF so send me a message if you'd like it. I didn't see any other good results in the historic NY Times for combinations of "nathan klein" and artist, textile, ties.

I don't have easy access to print sources right now either.
posted by bluedaisy at 4:27 PM on March 25, 2021

Response by poster: Any knowledge of a Ruth being involved here? Of course, this may be a different Nathan Klein.

Ruth was his wife - they definitely collaborated on this book.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:35 PM on March 26, 2021

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