William Randolph Hearst Archive (Long Island University)

Artstor Digital Library and the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library at Long Island University are collaborating to share approximately 2,000 images of items in the William Randolph Hearst Archive.

William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) is best known today for his successful publishing and media dynasty, but he was also passionate about works of fine art and antiques and collected objects for more than seven decades.

As the only heir to a mining fortune amassed by his father, Hearst was free to acquire works at a feverish pace. During the 1920s and 1930s, he acquired art through auction houses and dealers in the United States and throughout Europe. As the items accrued, Hearst soon outgrew rented storage and purchased a five-story building on Southern Boulevard in the Bronx to secure his growing collection. There he hired a full-time staff to photograph and record each item purchased and a squad of ex-marines to protect it all. Hearst’s collecting had become so extensive that by the early 1920s he formed his own company, The International Studio Arts Corporation (ISAC), as a wholly owned subsidiary of his holdings. Hearst used ISAC to purchase art and when necessary to clear customs. Mary Levkoff, Museum Director, Hearst Castle ®, described Hearst as a collector with a need for quality and a desire for quantity. “He loved to collect objects used to furnish his six main residences; filling them with art was his joy.”

In 1975, the entire collection of the William Randolph Hearst Archive, consisting of 125 albums that record the sheer monumentality and variety of art items acquired by Hearst, thousands of his art sales catalogues dating as early as 1884, and sundry materials in boxes and file cabinets, were transferred from the Hearst estate as a gift to Long Island University with the stipulation that they would not be sold. A recent reappraisal of the archive disclosed numerous primary documents that shed light on the opulence of the Gilded Age of which Hearst was a key player, his politics, and most remarkably, his lifelong unique approach to art collecting.