George Wittenborn

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George Wittenborn (13 May 1905, Hamburg - 15 October 1974, New York) was a German-American bookseller and publisher.


George Wittenborn was born as Otto Gustav Ernst Wittenborn in Hamburg, Germany, in 1905 into a family of booksellers. Wittenborn ran his father's stationery and bookshop and apprenticed under the bookseller and gallery owner Karl Buchholz before moving to Berlin in his early twenties to open his own shop. There, he was harassed by the Nazis for his open display of ideologically left-leaning books. Wittenborn left for Paris in 1932, where he opened a shop selling art books. Among his most notable clientele were Léger, Arp, Ernst, Picasso, and Braque. It was in Paris that he met his wife, an English poet and translator Joyce Phillips. Fearful that Nazi control would spread to Paris, the couple fled for Portugal and then to New York in 1936. On his arrival, Wittenborn managed the international department of Brentano's bookshop and in 1937, with his friend Heinz Schultz, formed a mail-order company for art books-Wittenborn and Co.-which operated out of his Columbia University area apartment and his used car. He had met Schultz (1904-1954), his most important friend, through the social circle of expatriate dealer, Curt Valentin. [According to Arthur A. Cohen, "George Wittenborn, 1905-1974", ARTnews 74, Feb 1975, pp 54-55.] Together in 1941, they founded Wittenborn & Schultz on East 57th Street. The bookshop became an important intellectual center in New York, where the refugee Surrealists, art dealers of the day, architects, designers, and young Abstract Expressionists all gathered. Soon after Schultz's death, Wittenborn moved the store to 1018 Madison Avenue in 1956, and renamed it Wittenborn and Company. There, the Wittenborns displayed artwork on all available wall (and ceiling) space, calling it the One-Wall Gallery. It became a venue for both prominent and emerging artists, with shows ranging from André Masson's etchings to the early work of Hans Haacke, who had his first show there.

In addition to selling monographs, exhibition catalogues, and artists' books, Wittenborn set about publishing books he deemed important, as he had throughout his career. Certainly the most important of his publishing enterprises was the Documents of Modern Art. The compilation was a venture begun in 1943, whereby Wittenborn and Schultz collaborated with Robert Motherwell, who served as general editor, and Bernard Karpel, Librarian at The Museum of Modern Art, who served as documentary editor and compiled many of the series' bibliographies. The groundbreaking series specialized in making available in English major European texts by modern artists and about modern art. The series was revived by the Viking Press in New York in 1971, with Robert Motherwell as general editor, Bernard Karpel as documentary editor, and Arthur A. Cohen as managing editor. Wittenborn and Motherwell also collaborated on the Problems of Contemporary Art series. (Source)

Documents of Modern Art book series[edit]

  • Guillaume Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters: Aesthetic Meditations, 1913, trans. Lionel Abel, 1944, 35 pp. [1]
  • Piet Mondrian, Plastic Art and Pure Plastic Art, 1937, and Other Essays, 1941-1943, 1945.
  • László Moholy-Nagy, The New Vision and Abstract of an Artist, 1947, 92 pp.
  • Louis Henry Sullivan, Kindergarten Chats, 1947.
  • Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, 1947.
  • Jean Arp, On My Way, 1948.
  • Max Ernst, Beyond Painting, 1948.
  • Robert Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, 1951.
  • David-Henri Kahnweiler, The Rise of Cubism, trans. Henry Aronson, 1949.
  • Marcel Raymond, From Baudelaire to Surrealism, 1949.
  • Georges Duthuit, The Fauvist Painters, 1950.
  • Carola Gideon-Welcker, Contemporary Sculpture, 1955.
  • Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, 1960.
  • Paul Klee, The Thinking Eye, trans. Ralph Manheim, 1961.

Bernard Karpel's Arts of the Twentieth Century was never published.

Problems of Contemporary Art book series[edit]

  • Wolfgang Paalen, Form and Sense, 1945.
  • Herbert Read, The Grass Roots of Art, 1946.
  • Alexander Dorner, The Way Beyond Art: the Work of Herbert Bayer, 1947.
  • Possibilities: an Occasional Review, No. 1, Winter 1947/48.
  • Georges Vantongerloo, Georges Vantongerloo: Paintings, Sculptures, Reflections, 1948.
  • Edgar Kaufmann, Jr., Taliesin Drawings: Recent Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright Selected from his Drawings, 1952.
  • Robert Sowers, The Lost Art: A Survey of On Thousand Years of Stained Glass, 1954.

Possibilities No. 2 was prepared, but never published.