Guide to the Saidie A. May Papers, ca. 1880 - 2002, bulk 1924 - 1972

Summary Information

Archives and Manuscripts Collections
Saidie A. May Papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1924-1972
Date [inclusive]
ca. 1880 - 2002
3.2 Linear feet ; 8 boxes
The Saidie A. May Papers measure 3.2 linear feet and date mostly from 1924 to 1972. They contain the correspondence, art collection related papers, financial papers, and photographs of Saidie Adler May and document her art purchases and donations to the Baltimore Museum of Art as well as other museums. A significant amount of correspondence, research notes, and other material relating to Mrs. May and her collections that was created by BMA staff is also included.

Preferred Citation

Saidie A. May Papers, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, The Baltimore Museum of Art.

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Saidie A. May -- Biographical Timeline

1879 Saidie Adler born in February.
1902 Marries Albert Carl Lehman (1878-?) of Pittsburgh on January 9th.
1906 Son Murray born.
1919? Divorces Lehman.
1922 Marries Herbert L. May (1877-1966) on October 3rd.
1924 Separates from May and travels to Europe where she meets Hans Hofmann and Alfred Jensen.
1933 After closing her Park Lane apartment in New York, gives much of the contents to the BMA.
1940 Donates Renaissance Room to the BMA.
1941 Sister, Blanche Adler, dies on January 8th.
1941 The Members' Room for Modern Art, funded by Mrs. May, opens at the BMA.
1941 Helps André Masson and his family come to the U.S. from France.
1950 Opening of the Saidie A. May Young People's Art Center at the BMA.
1951 Dies, May 28th in New York.

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Scope and Content Notes

The Saidie A. May Papers contain the correspondence, art collection related papers, financial papers, and photographs of Saidie Adler May and document her art purchases and donations to the Baltimore Museum of Art as well as other museums. A significant amount of correspondence, research notes, and other material relating to Mrs. May and her collections that was created by BMA staff is also included. The staff continues to add to this collection as materials are found or created that relate to Mrs. May.

The Papers are housed in 9 boxes (5 letter-sized, 3 rolled storage, 1 oversize) and consist of six series: Art Collection, Financial Papers, Correspondence, Photographs, Paintings, and Ephemera. The material came to the BMA as part of Mrs. May's bequest in 1951 and was stored in both the Registrar's Office and the Library for many years. While in the Registrar's Office between 2000 and 2005, all of the contents were photocopied. These copies are now available in the Library for researcher use. The material was deposited in the Archives in 2006.

In general, materials are arranged by subject and then by date. Exceptions are noted below.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Archives and Manuscripts Collections September 2006

10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, MD, 21032
(443) 573-1778

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research.

Ownership and Copyright

The Saidie A. May Papers are the physical property of the Manuscripts Collections, Baltimore Museum of Art. Copyright, except in cases where material has passed into the public domain, belongs to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult a Library staff member.


Bequest of Saidie A. May on her death in 1951. The Registrar's Office and Curatorial staff have continued to make further additions of material since that time.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Emily Rafferty in September 2006.

Alternative Forms Available

Photocopies of the collection are available in the Baltimore Museum of Art Library. Microfilm of the entire collection is also available at the BMA Library. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Please call the Library for an appointment to use the microfilm.

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Related Materials

Related Material

Microfilm of Saidie A. May Travel Diary, Archives and Manuscripts Collections, Baltimore Museum of Art. Museum of Modern Art Archives. Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives, Morgan Library. Amalie Adler Ascher Papers, Jewish Museum of Maryland.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Baltimore Museum of Art
  • Brentano's (Firm)
  • Buchholz Gallery (New York, N.Y.)
  • Curt Valentin Gallery (New York, N.Y.)
  • Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego
  • Galerie Louise Leiris
  • Galerie Simon
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York, N.Y.)
  • Sidney Janis Gallery
  • Walters Art Gallery


  • Photographs
  • Works of art

Personal Name(s)

  • Jensen, Alfred, 1903-1981
  • Masson, André, 1896-1987
  • May, Saidie Adler, 1879-1951
  • Rosenthal, Gertrude, 1903-


  • Art -- Collectors and collecting -- Maryland -- Baltimore
  • Luggage
  • Women art collectors -- United States

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Mrs. May's life and art collections have been documented in the following publication.

Saidie A. May Collection. Baltimore: Baltimore Museum of Art, 1972. [An issue of the  Baltimore Museum of Art Record. Vol. 3, No. 1 (1972)].

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1. Art Collection   (.42 linear feet, 1 box).

Scope and Contents note

Series 1, Art Collection, contains correspondence, lists, notes, research materials and other documents relating to Mrs. May's art collections. The Baltimore Museum of Art staff created a significant portion of this material after Mrs. May's death.

The Bequest subseries contains copies of Mrs. May's will, correspondence between the executors of her estate and the BMA, and several lists of items in the bequest.

The Members' Room for Modern Art subseries consists of materials relating to the planning and opening of the room in 1941. It contains a copy of the blueprints for the room, a few receipts for decorations, the Board of Trustees' recommendations for the room, and copies of the transcription of André Masson's talk, "Origines du Cubisme et du Surréalisme," given at the opening. An exhibition checklist from a 1947 exhibition in the room is also included.

The Saidie A. May Young People's Art Center subseries contains photocopies of transcripts of the speeches given at the opening of this room in 1950. Speakers included Bartlett Hayes, J. G. D. Paul, and Philip B. Perlman. The location of the original transcripts is unknown.

The Research for 1972 Catalog subseries contains notes, drafts and correspondence relating to the 1972 publication, Saidie A. May Collection. The correspondence includes letters to friends and acquaintances of Mrs. May such as Theodore Schempp, Alfred Jensen, and Daniel Henry Kahnweiler regarding biographical information needed for the catalog's essay. Jensen's reply is notable in that it describes the circumstances surrounding the purchases of several pieces in her collection, talks about where he met Mrs. May, her friendships with several other artists, and her interest in Surrealism.

The Lists of Gifts and Loans subseries contains receipts from the BMA to Mrs. May for items she donated or loaned and Mrs. May's lists of items she gave. Her notations about purchase dates, prices, and sources can be found on many of the lists made during her lifetime. A small amount of correspondence is attached to the receipt for Mrs. May's gift of Emmanuel Vaviano's Fish construction relating to its damage in transit. The subseries also contains a chronology of May Collection loans dating to around 1933. Other lists of art purchases can be found in the Financial Papers series.

The Exhibitions subseries contains a detailed forty-page list of the objects in an exhibition of the May Collection, probably in September 1940 as well as a draft of the labels for the drawings in the 1950 exhibition of the collection.

The Objects subseries contains material about specific objects in the May Collection. Much of it was created by BMA staff. The Jewelry folder contains note cards and copies of Registrar's Office file cards for jewelry in the Collection. The Vase Carpet folder contains correspondence relating to Mrs. May's purchase of an Ispahan rug for the Renaissance Room and its display at the museum. The material relating to the Renaissance Room includes evaluations by various experts about the quality of the objects in this area of the collection, suggestions for the "improvement" of the room, tracings of the stained glass windows, lists of labels, and label copy. The Reference Queries and Notes folder contains miscellaneous notes about objects in the collection such as the gates to the May Gallery.

The Clippings subseries contains photocopies of clippings from newspapers and magazines relating to Mrs. May's donations and exhibitions of works from her collection. Most date from the 1930's and 1940's and come from the Baltimore Sun, though a few have no information about the source. The location of the originals is unknown.

 a. Bequest 

Box Folder

 1938, 1947, 1951 - 1952, 1972, undated 

1 1

 b. Members' Room for Modern Art 


Planning. 1941 


Opening. 1941 


Selections from the Saidie A. May Collection. 1947 May? 


 c. Saidie A. May Young People's Art Center 


 1950, 1966 


 d. Research for 1972 Catalog 


Correspondence. 1972 Feb - Sep 


Lists and Drafts. 1972? 


 e. Lists of Gifts and Loans 


General. 1931 - 1938, 1940 - 1942, 1944, 1947 - 1950, 1968; undated 


Loan Chronology. 1933? 


 f. Exhibitions 


Saidie A. May Collection. 1940 Sep 


Saidie A. May Collection of Modern Painting and Sculpture. 1950 Mar 


 g. Objects 


Jewelry. undated 


Vase Carpet. 1942, 1946 - 1948, 1972, undated 


Items in Renaissance Room. 1949 - 1951, 1955 1965, 1967, undated 


Renaissance Room, Labels and Label Text. 1966, 1990, undated 


Reference Queries and Notes. 1949, 1959 - 1960, 1965, 1972 undated 


 h. Clippings 

Box Folder

 1931, 1933 - 1935, 1938, 1940 - 1942, 1949 - 1951 

2 1

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 Series 2. Financial Papers   (.42 linear feet, 1 box)

Scope and Contents note

Series 2, Financial Papers, contains documentation relating to Mrs. May's art purchases from 1919 until her death. A large part of the material consists of receipts and invoices from art dealers. This material is first divided into American Museums and Galleries and Foreign Galleries. Those dealers from whom Mrs. May purchased numerous items are filed separately. A few general receipts for book purchases are filed at the end of the subseries.

Cancelled checks that were found attached to invoices or correspondence have been retained with them rather than in the Cancelled Checks and Check Register Pages subseries. Mrs. May's notes (often unrelated) can be found on the reverse of some of the items in this series.

Three check register pages and a list of art purchases from 1941 were found in the Art of Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands Department files in 2010 and were added at the end of the Financial Papers series.

 a. Invoices and Receipts 


American Museums and Galleries. 1919, 1921, 1924 - 1926, 1928, 1936 - 1937, 1940 - 1945, 1947 - 1950, undated 


Foreign Galleries. 1921, 1923 - 1929, 1930 - 1934, 1937, 1938, 1949, undated 


Brentano's. 1941, 1945 - 1948, undated 


Brummer Gallery. 1924 - 1930, 1938, 1941 - 1942, 1949? 


Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin. 1940 - 1943 


Pierre Matisse Gallery. 1938, 1941-1942, 1946 - 1949 


Sidney Janis Gallery. 1948 - 1950 


General Book Receipts. 1924, 1926, 1933, 1940-1941, 1948 - 1949 


 b. Shipping Documents 


 1931, 1934, 1938 - 1940, 1950, undated 


 c. Cancelled Checks and Check Register Pages 

 1926, 1928 - 1931, 1938 - 1941, 1945 - 1949, 

    Box Folder
Mixed materials   2 15
    Box Folder
Mixed materials   2 13

 d. Lists of Art Purchases 

 1924 - 1925, 1941, undated 

    Box Folder
Mixed materials   2 15
    Box Folder
Mixed materials   2 14

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 Series 3. Correspondence   (.63 linear feet, 2 boxes)

Scope and Contents note

Series 3, Correspondence, contains correspondence between Mrs. May and various museums, galleries and artists mostly relating to her purchases of artworks and their exhibition and donation to museums. A large amount of the correspondence relates to Mrs. May's dealings with the Baltimore Museum of Art, particularly her donations of the Renaissance Room and the Members' Room for Modern Art and the particulars of their installations. Because of Mrs. May's great interest and involvement in the BMA, these letters also provide information about exhibits, lectures and other events unrelated to her collection. They also illuminate Mrs. May's interests, activities, health, and aspects of her personality. Duplicate copies of all the correspondence relating to the Renaissance Room are filed at the end of the BMA correspondence in date order.

The correspondence between Mrs. May and André Masson, though not extensive, is important for its evidence of the relationship between them. In particular, there are several letters from Masson to Mrs. May about her assisting him and his family in leaving the dangers of France during World War II to come to America. Masson also wrote to her about his work on paintings, books and other publications and discussed the sale of some of them.

The majority of the Museum of Modern Art correspondence consists of photocopies of correspondence held by the Archives at MoMA. For further information about this material, contact MoMA.

The correspondence to BMA Curator Gertrude Rosenthal contains letters from Mrs. May that tend to include more personal information than those written to other staff members at the BMA because she and Rosenthal had a friendship that went beyond their working relationship. A few letters from Alfred Jensen after Mrs. May's death and her obituary are included. The folder also contains a "memory portrait" found by Gertrude Rosenthal among her papers that is titled "To a Memory Portrait by A. J." The envelope is addressed to Mrs. May and A.J., presumably, Alfred Jensen.

The material from the Pierre Matisse Gallery consists of transcriptions of letters to and from Mrs. May in the 1940's that are held by the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives at the Morgan Library in New York. Eric Zafran, curator at the Wadsworth Athenaeum, created the transcriptions in the course of his research for the 2002 exhibition, "Impressionism to Surrealism: Selections from the Collections of Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone, Saidie Adler May, and Blanche Adler." For further information about this material, contact the Morgan Library.

Where invoices or receipts were enclosed with letters, they have been retained in this series rather than the financial papers series.

Box Folder

Baltimore Museum of Art. 1924 - 1950 

3 1-15

Renaissance Room. 1938 - 1940 

4 1

Buchholz Gallery/Curt Valentin. 1947, 1949 


Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. 1934 - 1936, 1940, 1947 - 1950, 1993 


Galerie Louise Leiris. 1947, 1949, undated 


Galerie Simon. 1938 - 1942, 1946 


Masson, André. 1938, 1941 - 1943, 1945, undated 


Museum of Modern Art. 1930, 1932 - 1934, 1936, 1941 - 1942, 1949, undated 


Pierre Matisse Gallery. 1942, 2002 


Rosenthal, Gertrude. 1946, 1949 - 1951, undated 


Walters Art Gallery. 1942 - 1945, undated 


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 Series 4. Photographs   (.42 linear feet, 1 box)

Scope and Contents note

Series 4, Photographs, contains photographs of works in Mrs. May's collection, several of the rooms she donated to the BMA, artists, and Mrs. May herself.

Notable are the photographs of Mallorca, which according to the documentation found with them, were photographed by Mrs. May. Several photographs have notations in pencil about the location on the reverse. The images show the landscape and people around the Mediterranean island.

Also significant are the photographs of the Renaissance Room, some of which are marked with information from the auction of William Randolph Hearst property at which Mrs. May bought the room. Other photographs in the folder are of the room as installed in the museum. Mrs. May's notations are on the back of some, detailing the objects pictured and where they were acquired.

Box Folder

Artists. 1947, undated 

5 1

Installations. undated 

5 2

Mallorca. undated 

5 3

Objects in Renaissance Room. undated 

5 4

Renaissance Room. 1938, undated 

5 5

Rooms at Park Lane. 1923 

5 6

Members' Room for Modern Art. 1941, undated 

5 7

Saidie A. May Young People's Art Center. 1950 

5 8-9

Saidie May. ca. 1880, 1931, undated 

5 10

Works of Art. undated 

5 11

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 Series 5. Paintings 

Scope and Contents note

Series 5, Paintings, contains three copies by Mrs. May of paintings in the Louvre. The material came to the Archives from the Registrar's Office rolled, sealed in plastic and placed in boxes. To prevent any possible damage, the plastic was not opened at the time of processing to verify any of the information on the labels. Several other paintings by Mrs. May are in the art collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art.


Paintings by Mrs. May - individually titled. undated 


L.1949.26, labeled in Gertrude Rosenthal's hand: "Shown to Mrs. May, Nov. 1, 1949/ canvases/ (flower pieces &/ landscapes)/ by Mrs. S. A. May". undated 


S. May works on canvas. undated 


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 Series 6. Ephemera 

Scope and Contents

Series 6, Ephemera, contains Saidie May's suitcase used for travel to Spain, France, and Chile, probably in the 1920s and 1930s.


Suitcase. Before 1940 


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