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Merton's Correspondence with:

Adolph Reinhardt; Ad Reinhardt; Adolph F. Reinhardt

Reinhardt, Adolph (Ad) F., 1913-1967  printer


Descriptive Summary

Record Group: Section A - Correspondence
Dates of materials: 1956-1964
Volume: 27 item(s); 37 pg(s)

Scope and Content

This is an important exchange of letters between Merton and a famous fellow alumnus of Columbia University. These two friends discuss art theory, Merton's forays into abstract art, other Columbia friends including Robert Lax, Reinhardt's conversion to Islam, Zen and other eastern religions, civil rights and the March on Washington. Reinhardt sends Merton a series of cryptic symbols representing words in which he later uses in letters to Merton and Robert Lax.


Ad Reinhardt, known as the "black monk of abstract art", graduated Columbia University not long after Merton arrived. He continued to produce art for Columbia's satirical magazine, The Jester, which was one of the publications in which Merton was involved. Even when Reinhardt considered himself a Communist, Merton saw religious significance in his work. Later, Reinhardt's paintings were influenced by eastern philosophy and Islam. He became an increasing minimalist, using fewer colors until he used only black. Merton treasured a painting of a black on black cross that Reinhardt did for him. Reinhardt visited Gethsemani in the late fifties. (Source: The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, edited by William Shannon, Christine Bochen, and Patrick O'Connell, pp. 384-385.)

Usage Guidelines and Restrictions

Please click here for general restrictions concerning Merton's correspondence.

Usage permission for letters to Merton from Columbia University must be obtained from the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Related Information and Links

See also Cold War Letters #45 and other letters from Merton published in The Road to Joy, pp. 279-283.

Series List

This Record Sub-Group is not divided into Series and is arranged chronologically.

Container List

#DateFrom/ToFirst LinesPub ✓Notes
 y/m/dMerton Scan ✉ 
1. 1956/06/no HLS[x] to Merton Dear Rev.? Louis? Merton?: Is that your joke Lax is telling, from Avenue A to Albany, about the «detailed view»
2. 1956/07/03 TALS[x] from Merton Deep calls unto deep and salt mine unto salt mine. From tunnel to tunnel, how are you these days? commissioning from Reinhardt a cover for "pamphlets… carved out for the young" ["Basic Principles of Monastic Spirituality" pamphlet?] / specifications for cover / D. T. Suzuki / Merton's favorite Zen character, roots, and philosophy / Lax and Ad to visit coming autumn / Merton sends his poem "Wisdom" «detailed view»
3. 1956/07/09 TLS[x] from Merton Make out this letter so terse and excited is really a telegram. Hurry hurry to the post offices [in telegram style] "Practical Lax as usual horrible mistake" - jail / "pious pamphlets of Chinese Merton in Kentucky cookie factory" / Ed Rice and pamphlets - what about Reinhardt's designs for pamphlet / Merton to write Chinese koans for Reinhardt to illustrate and "break heads of all modern western stupids" «detailed view»
4. 1956/07/10? HLS[x] to Merton I was going to try a cover but I'm afraid what exactly I get in a painting (plattdeutsch) is exactly «detailed view»
5. 1956/07/19 TLS[x] from Merton Telegrams from Rice say Lax lies dismembered in Union Square. Your suggestion on page one of the "Chinese Cookie function" / status of Reinhardt's design for the pamphlet / Bob Lax has mss. for Merton's book called Thirty Seven Meditations (becomes part of Thoughts in Solitude?) / Merton's idea - write book of proverbs - Reinhardt contribute art / Cistercian architecture / "Elks' convention in Seattle" «detailed view»
6. 1956/07/no? HL to Merton Central Asian Cistercian [no date but prior to 1956/08/22 letter - symbol character key with line art representing different people - "Devil with Pipe and Clenched Tooth", "Yankee Novice, "Devils", "Clowns for Lax", "Georgia Cracker Cleric", "Flying Machines for Rice", "Merton", "Dawdies", "Smiling Shaman", "Late- Neo- Classicists"] «detailed view»
7. 1956/08/22 TALS[x] from Merton Split second flash speed note. Business efficiency bubbles all around. We are delighted with yours comments on the symbols sent / asks whether they could be used for the cover of a book or pamphlet - likes cross-shaped or ones containing the word "Pax" / Rice's cover design / "The Georgia Cracker cleric in person waits to be seen" [includes many symbols on the front and back - one for Reinhardt] «detailed view»
8. 1957/10/29 TLS[x] from Merton Do I want a small painting? You inquire if I want a small painting. What you wish to know: do I colorful description of how much Merton would like a small painting by Reinhardt - "The small painting will be laid in reverence upon the altar of Saint Panteleimon… As the hart thirsteth for the waterbrooks I thirst for the small painting." / Lax's sickness caused by "malevolent pixies" / gives odd advice or proverbs «detailed view»
9. 1957/11/08 HPCS to Lax, Robert [series of symbols / appearing to be a coded language of some sort with no intelligible words written to Robert Lax in Buffalo General Hospital (Buffalo, New York)] «detailed view»
10. 1957/11/22 HPCS to Lax, Robert LAXPAXPALAXPAXLAX, MEX. YUREM SANKS YRREM SAMX MEANS ITS ALL THE SAME (TO YOU) SAMKS QUE YUREM appears to be stylized letters (similar to symbolic writing in prior post cards) of "Merry Xmas" «detailed view»
11. 1957/11/23 HLS[x] from Merton Your letter found me, as I hope this does not find you, in the hospital. The small painting arrived Merton's hospital stay where he had both an impacted molar and "piles" (hemorrhoids) removed - describes pain and humiliation - advice - "Brother, keep your piles and with them your honor." / arrival of the small painting by Reinhardt - honor for Kentucky, which "can now… brush its hair and talk English." «detailed view»
12. 1959/05/09 TALS[x] from Merton This I write flash fast in two minutes got to get out to the woods and think. First if Willkie of Willkie of Louisville [Ulfert Stephan Wilke?] / Merton's art argument and Art and Worship - Merton's audience and that he is not an iconoclast / icons - Mt. Athos tradition / reaction to Reinhardt being labeled a Quietist / difference between Giotto and Carlo Crivelli / Asiatic non-Christian art «detailed view»
13. 1959/05/no? HLS[x] to Merton Bread and cheese letter? I forgot to pick up some Trappist bread and cheese in my last minute rush «detailed view»
14. 1959/06/no? HLS to Merton Thanks for the bread and cheese. I gave some to the starving Lax, who's so ready to come visit [no date - seemingly after visit and Merton's May 1959 letter] the starving [Robert] Lax / making Merton postcards and starting Merton fan clubs / celebrities and the book The Power Elite / realism in art - Hindu thinking / theology of art - only certain traditions / lecture on "Moslem vs Hindu Art" / sending great "Asiatic art" «detailed view»
15. 1960/08/08 TLS from Merton Little do you realize that we "unknowns" are in all actual fact the very heart and marrow of our the Sachems - should list Merton as "deceased member of the nacoms" - the 1848 society - Sachem dinners / art book not out - waiting on woman to advise him on modern sacred art [see "Spaeth, Eloise" file] / asking Reinhardt's to send non-Christian sacred art / inviting Ad to "twenty fifth reunion of unknowns" «detailed view»
16. 1960/no/no HLS to Merton Merton, Thomas, 1937…… unknown * Robinson, Leonard, W…. 1935… unknown Reinhardt, Adolf, F…..732 entries from an alumni registry from Columbia University secret honor society, the Sachems, listing Merton as an "unknown" / 25th reunion / Leonard Robinson / James Wechsler and Herman Wonk / Merton's book on art / "Arab Tour" in Andalusia / planning retrospective "25 years of abstract art" show «detailed view»
17. 1962/03/03 (#01) TALS from Merton Once, twice, often, repeatedly, I have reached out for your letter and for the typewriter. Choked former classmates and tragedies / asking forgiveness from art community for art book that Merton has disowned / centuries of early Islam vs. Merton, a "boy of the twenty first century" which "has very slim chances of ever existing" / Victor Hammer / down with subject and object! / reconciled with Moslems «detailed view»
18. 1962/03/03 (#02) transcript from Merton Once, twice, often, repeatedly, I have reached out for your letter and for the typewriter. Choked [Cold War Letters, #45] see description in TALS from 1962/03/03 «detailed view»
19. 1962/no/no HLS to Merton Sometimes we see jolly old friends only at sad funeral, dear relatives and classmates only at the need to abandon favorite religious writers - Coomaraswamy, Suzuki, Tillich, Maritain, Merton - Buber all right? - why Reinhardt became a white Muslim / travels in the middle east / finds himself with iconoclasts and pro-objectivists / has Merton given up hope in sacredness and art? «detailed view»
20. 1963/09/28 HLS from Merton Ulfert Wilke was here, and before that I was doing calligraphy - but since I have done more. As [followed by a series of 13 of Merton's "calligraphies" - ink drawings - no indication of whether all were sent at this time / one references later date "For Ad - Happy New Year of the Dragon - 1964 - Tom Merton"] Merton's recent stay in hospital for cervical disc / sending calligraphies «detailed view»
21. 1963/10/03? HLS to Merton Talk about telepathy, extra-sensory-stuff or what would you call it, I was about to sit right down [no date but seemingly between Merton's 1963/09/28 and 1963/10/31 letters] August 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington - "only saw two other artists, saw no Catholic poets, especially neither Lax nor O'Gorman, their being on Greek or Manhattan Islands" / Merton's beautiful calligraphy, but too small / Ulfert Wilke «detailed view»
22. 1963/10/31 (#01) TAL[c] from Merton Well, October has thirty one and here I am again your friendly old calligrapher always small Merton - "grandfather of small calligraphy" / asking for scraps of nice painting paper / sending more "calligraphic hats for New Years" / Reinhardt wrong - Ned O'Gorman was at the March on Washington as reported by Jubilee along with "Catholic babes… well fed" / snapshots of old distilleries «detailed view»
23. 1963/10/31 (#02) TLS[x] from Merton Well, October has thirty one and here I am again your friendly old calligrapher always small Merton - "grandfather of small calligraphy" / asking for scraps of nice painting paper / sending more "calligraphic hats for New Years" / Reinhardt wrong - Ned O'Gorman was at the March on Washington as reported by Jubilee along with "Catholic babes… well fed" / snapshots of old distilleries «detailed view»
24. 1964/01/01? HLS to Merton Rev. M. Louis Merton, O.C.S.O. -- is that still your title, rank, status, position, do you get [no date, between 1963/10/31 and 1964/01/12 letters / contains a cutting of the special Japanese paper sent and which Merton later used to paint a calligraphy] Merton's rank and status / Reinhardt soon a "Dean of Abstract Art" / what is Merton dean of besides "small calligraphy" / Stuart Davis / Josef Albers / Robert Lax «detailed view»
25. 1964/01/12 (#01) TAL[c] from Merton Yes, as one dean to another, I am frequently promoted as dean, usually by myself as I get little Merton - "dean of small abstract calligraphy" and title of Louis - nature of "promotion" in the monastery / use of a bigger brush for calligraphy / Robert Lax returning from Greek islands / "American hubris that starts and will start wars" - raising flag in Panama «detailed view»
26. 1964/01/12 (#02) TL[x] from Merton Yes, as one dean to another, I am frequently promoted as dean, usually by myself as I get little see TAL[c] from 1964/01/12 «detailed view»
27. undated/no/no other[x]   Tom Merton inks and letters Xerox of folder with handwritten title of "Tom Merton inks and letters" «detailed view»

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