Skip to main content

Robert Galster and Gilbert Ireland papers

 Collection
Identifier: KA-0141-01

Summary

Robert Galster (1923-1991) and Gilbert Ireland (1924-2015) were designers and alumni of Parsons School of Design. Galster worked as freelance illustrator and designer. Ireland designed window displays for Bergdorf Goodman for over forty years. The collection consists primarily of Galster's work and includes examples of his designs for books, album covers, and theater posters. Ireland's work is represented in photographs of the windows he designed. The collection also contains student work by both as well as pieces by other designers including Lloyd Evans and Parsons alumnus Roy Little.

Dates

  • 1940s - circa 1983

Creator

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from The New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Biographical Note

Robert Galster (1923-1991) and Gilbert Ireland (1924-2015), both alumni of Parsons School of Design, had long careers in design; Galster as an illustrator and Ireland as a display designer for Bergdorf Goodman.

Galster and Ireland grew up together in Mansfield, Ohio and went on to live in Manhattan together as a couple from the late 1940s until Galster’s death in 1991. Both attended Mansfield High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army at the height of World War II, in 1943. After the war, Galster and Ireland moved to New York to attend Parsons. They both graduated in 1949, majoring in costume illustration.

Robert Galster worked primarily as an illustrator, and his career appears to have gotten off the ground quickly after his graduation from Parsons. In the 1950s, Galster illustrated dozens of album covers, primarily for Urania Records, an Italian label specializing in classical music. During this time he also began designing and doing illustrations for theater. He continued to produce posters for Broadway and off-Broadway shows through the 1960s.

Also during the 1950s, Galster began illustrating and designing for children’s books and book covers. This appears to have been the primary focus of his work for the next twenty-five years, through the early 1980s. During this period he designed scores of book covers for publishers such as Putnam, Doubleday, and Viking. Galster also designed scenery for plays and window displays, logos, and other promotional material. For many years he also designed Christmas cards that he and Ireland sent to their friends.

Gilbert Ireland’s career was much more monolithic—he worked as a window display designer for the department store Bergdorf Goodman for over forty years, eventually becoming the display director. He is known to have also done interior design work for Nena Goodman, wife of the owner of Bergdorf Goodman (unfortnately this work is not represented in the collection).

In addition to his work as a designer, Ireland had a passion for opera. For many years, he spent his spare time as an extra at the Metropolitan Opera House. He is featured in a 1984 New York Times article on extras at the Met in which he says of his hobby, "This is my 21st season. Some day I may spend my time off on an exotic beach. But for now I'd rather cut up my time and be in any opera that I can."

Opera may have brought Galster and Ireland into friendship with Lloyd Evans, acclaimed designer of sets and costumes for the New York City Opera who died of complications from AIDS in 1989. They were also likely all part of a wide circle of gay artists and designers living in New York. Galster and Ireland’s friendship with Evans is evident in this collection, which contains many of Evans's drawings of sets and costumes. A print of an Andy Warhol portrait of Tom Royal is also in the collection. Royal is said to have met Warhol while helping a friend work on a window display at Bergdorf Goodman, perhaps Gilbert Ireland.

Sources:

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. "U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012, Manhigan, 1940." Ancestry.com U.S. Accessed August 17, 2018. https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1265.

Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. "World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946." Ancestry.com U.S. Accessed August 17, 2018. https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8939.

Christies, Inc. "Blanc de Chine: Dehua Porcelain from the Galster-Ireland Collection." Christies. Accessed August 17, 2018. https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/blanc-de-chine-dehua-porcelain-from-the-galster-ireland-collection/lots/10.

Fien, Esther B. "Extras at the Opera: A Silent but Dedicated Corps." The New York Times (New York, NY), November 19, 1984.

"Lloyd Evans, Designer, Dies at 55." The New York Times (New York, NY), May 18, 1989.

Obituary. The New York Times (New York, NY), October 27, 1991.

Extent

11.4 Cubic Feet (6 boxes, 6 oversize boxes, 8 binders, 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials

English

Scope and Content of Collection

The Robert Galster and Gilbert Ireland papers consist primarily of Galster and Ireland’s design work from the 1950s through the 1970s. Also included is student work from their time at Parsons School of Design in the 1940s, as well as work by other designers. The collection contains only sparse material related to the personal lives of Galster and Ireland.

The bulk of the collection is illustration and design work done by Robert Galster throughout his career from the early 1950s to the early 1980s. This material represents the breadth of Galster’s professional practice, including illustrations and designs for album covers, book covers, children’s books, and theater posters. Original illustrations, mock-ups, and printed proofs are found in each area of Galster’s design practice.

The collection contains Christmas cards Galster designed from 1954-1974. These they sent to friends; some were printed and presumably sold by Bergdorf Goodman. Galster’s professional work also consists of sketches for murals and stage sets, promotional material, and fashion illustrations. The fashion work dates from the early years of his career, perhaps because he had recently graduated from Parsons, where his concentration was costume illustration.

Fashion illustration by both Galster and Ireland from their time at Parsons is found in the student work folder. This part of the collection contains student notebooks from courses including costume illustration and art history. These notebooks are a rich window into the curriculum at Parsons in the late 1940s—they include assignment instructions, completed exercises sometimes marked up by an instructor, reports, and lecture notes.

Gilbert Ireland’s professional practice is also well documented in the collection. This material consists almost entirely of photographs depicting display windows designed by Ireland for Bergdorf Goodman. Most are undated, but those that are date from the 1950s to the early 1980s. The majority of the window displays are for menswear, though there are some photographs of women’s fashion displays as well as antiques and decorations. Many of the photographs are accompanied by descriptive captions written by or for a publication called Views & Reviews, which was published by the Retail Reporting Bureau.

There is almost no documentation in the collection of the business side of either Galster or Ireland’s professional practices. The only exceptions are a small quantity of contracts for Galster’s book cover designs from 1968-1969 and a set of undated receipts for material borrowed by Ireland from Bergdorf Goodman for use in their window displays. Similarly, there is very little material in the collection that is biographical or pertains to the personal lives of Galster and Ireland. The exceptions are their diplomas from Parsons and a set of photographs of Galster and Ireland. These portraits span the decades of the 1950s thru 1970s and include two portraits of the couple together.

The small amount of biographical material found in this collection is supplemented by material by other artists, providing a window into the circle of artists and designers Galster and Ireland likely called friends. Among these artists is Lloyd Evans, who is very well represented in the collection with a number of scenery and costume designs for various operas, including an almost complete set of costume designs for the opera Francesca da Rimini, likely from the late 1960s or early 1970s. Aside from this work by Evans, there is a print of a drawing done by Andy Warhol of the yoga instructor Tom Royal, seemingly made by Royal himself in a limited edition of twenty, and a poster from a German production of the musical Hair from 1968 signed by someone, perhaps the poster’s designer. Also included are fashion illustrations by Roy Little, a designer and future Parsons faculty member who graduated the same year as Galster and Ireland. There is also work by unidentified artists, including a set of slides from a fashion photo shoot in the 1960s or 1970s.

Organization and Arrangement

Arranged alphabetically by subject in 3 series: I. Biographical, 1940-1979 II. Robert Galster professional work, 1950s-circa 1983 III. Gilbert Ireland window display design work, 1950s-circa 1981

Other Finding Aids

For selected item-level description and images from the Robert Galster and Gilbert Ireland papers, see the New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA014101

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to The New School Archives in 2016 by the estate of Gilbert Ireland.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds a collection of sketchbooks by fashion designer and Parsons School of Design alumnus Roy Little (KA.0029). A few illustrations by Little are present in the Galster and Ireland papers. Another collection of interest may be the Dan Arje papers (KA.0001), a designer of display windows for Bonwit Teller during the same period when Ireland was at Bergdorf Goodman.
Title
Guide to the Robert Galster and Gilbert Ireland papers
Status
Completed
Author
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
Date
November 8, 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin