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Archives of American Art
Washington, DC
Since 1954, the Archives has collected roughly 16 million letters, photographs, diaries, oral history interviews, sketches, scrapbooks, business records, and other documents that support the study of the history of the visual arts in America.
Interests: art history, archives
Recent Activity
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For Veterans Day, Kelly Quinn, the Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives, looks at the contributions of artist Anna Coleman Ladd in aiding soldiers disfigured during World War I. Anna Coleman Ladd, 1901 January / Fratelli D’Alessandri (Firm), photographer. Anna Coleman Ladd papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. In April 1919, Mrs. Charles Bochman wrote a note of thanks to sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd for a lecture Ladd delivered to a local chapter of the American Red Cross. Ladd had recently returned to the U.S. after a year abroad in France where she founded the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Summer intern Emma Kibblewhite shares about a summer spent with the Archives of American Art’s oral history collection. Jennifer Snyder, Emma Kibblewhite, and Simone Zehren, ready to audit oral history interviews. Photo: Emma Kbblewhite A few weeks ago, I was in New York with my friend Fannie, trying to hit as many museums on 5th Ave as possible in one day. We started at MoMA, and soon Fannie realized her grave mistake: she was in for a full day of fun facts and anecdotes about whatever work of art was in front of us. “Jo Baer. Minimalist. She has a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Guest blogger Katie Monroe examines this history of the bookplate, and finds inspiration in some original plates designed by artists. Lynd Ward bookplate with owl design, 194-. Lynd Ward bookplates, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Lynd Ward bookplates clockwise from top left: a young man reading, a man holding a book and a sheaf of wheat, a guitar player, a sower against a city background, all 194-. Lynd Ward bookplates, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. While looking over the Archives of American Art’s collection of Lynd Ward’s bookplates for the Journal’s article about his graphic work, it struck... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Curator of Manuscripts, Mary Savig, on artists and models who inspire as they strike a pose. Think you’ve got what it takes to be an artist’s model? Vogue with us on Instagram and Twitter using #StrikeAPose. The Archives of American Art’s current exhibition Artists and Their Models considers the important role of models in the artistic process. A model’s distinct characteristics help bring life and personality to an artist’s idea. Yet being an artist’s muse requires both muscle and moxie. Live models have to ignore their aching limbs and maintain dramatic gazes for hours at a time. They must comport... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Elizabeth Botten, curator of the exhibition Artists and Their Models, considers a group of reference photographs used by Violet Oakley in the making of the Dante Window. Mills Thompson posing for Violet Oakley's Dante window, circa 1911 / unidentified photographer. Violet Oakley papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Models posing for Violet Oakley's Dante window, circa 1911 / unidentified photographer. Violet Oakley papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. In popular culture, artists’ models are often mythologized as ethereal and powerful beings: women and men whose languid poses and sensual presence in the studio conjures artistic inspiration. While the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Rihoko Ueno, archivist and co–curator of the exhibition Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe’s Art, 1942–1946, on view through April 20, 2104, examines Monument Man Walter Horn’s connection to the recovery of the Imperial Regalia of the Holy Roman Empire, and a cache of gold coins. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Archives of American Art will be co–hosting a Tweetup with the National Gallery of Art on April 14 from 12:45 to 3:00 p.m. ET. Registration for this event has closed, but you can follow along on Twitter by using the hashtag #MonMenTweetup. Walter Horn's certificate... Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Rihoko Ueno, co–curator of the exhibition Monuments Men: On the Front Line to Save Europe’s Art, 1942–1946, examines the conditions inside mines throughout Germany and Austria where the Nazis stored caches of looted artwork and artifacts. She will be participating in a Twitter chat on March 11 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Join in on Twitter with your questions by using the hashtag #MonMenChat. Herr Sicher, George Stout and Thomas Carr Howe inspecting paintings, 1945 July 9 / unidentified photographer. Thomas Carr Howe papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. During World War II, the Nazis looted museums and private collections... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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In celebration of the Esther McCoy papers being available in the Archives of American Art’s Terra Foundation Center for Digital Collections, writer Susan Morgan looks at some notable photographs of the architectural historian and critic. Esther McCoy, ca. 1944 / unidentified photographer. Esther McCoy papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. In 1991, when I was about to be transplanted from New York to Los Angeles, a friend suggested that I read Five California Architects, Esther McCoy’s 1960s classic—an extraordinary book described by Reyner Banham as “so damned readable it was in a different league than most architectural literature.” I... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Bettina Smith, librarian for digital projects at the Archives of American Art, looks at the real–life heroes who inspired characters in the new film The Monuments Men, starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett. The film The Monuments Men is an adaptation of the true story of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section (MFAA) of the Allied Forces. It follows a small group of art historians and artists who served in World War II to protect and return to their rightful owners works of art which had been looted by Hitler’s Nazi regime. Three of the central characters... Continue reading
Posted Feb 18, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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As forecasters track what could be a major storm for the Eastern Seaboard this week, archivists Jayna Josefson and Erin Kinhart look at the hearty artist Abbott Handerson Thayer and his family’s unusual sleeping habits. Abbott Thayer in his sleeping hut with his dog Hauskuld, circa 1903 / unidentified photographer. Nelson and Henry C. White research material, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Did you know that Abbott Handerson Thayer and his family slept outdoors in individual sleeping huts? Even in the winter! Even during a Polar Vortex! It’s true and we have the papers to prove it. Artists George... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian at the Archives of American Art and tumblr doyenne, breaks down some archival fashions. Picture this: you’re in line at the grocery store behind five people and they’re all buying in bulk. What do you do? If you’re me, you grab the nearest celebrity gossip magazine and find out what the royal baby is up to, what everyone wore to the latest awards show, who’s a couple, who’s splitsville, and so on. If you are lucky, it will also have a “Who Wore It Best” feature in which celebrities who have worn the same outfit... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2014 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Deputy Director Liza Kirwin explores an illustrated letter—currently on view in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery—both elegiac and hopeful. Charles Ephraim Burchfield letter to Louise Burchfield, 1933. Miscellaneous manuscripts collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. The Archives is full of surprises. Last year our registrar Susan Cary found an illustrated letter that curiously has no known provenance. It is from painter Charles Burchfield (1893–1967) to his sister Louise written just before Christmas 1933. That holiday season was difficult for the Burchfields. Earlier that year, on June 13, their sister Frances died. Ten days later, their mother passed away. Burchfield... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Graduate student Craig M. Corpora explains how he came to better know artist Jerome Caja through his papers at the Archives of American Art Jerome David Caja (1958–1995) was a San Francisco visual artist known for his small narrative painting and intimate portraits, that he referred to as his “little lovelies,” which he painted onto found objects with nail polish, make–up, white–out, and sometimes a little (or a lot of) glitter. He often appropriated Greco–Roman mythology, Catholic iconography and art historical references, playfully combining these tropes of western culture with irreverent humor, overt sexuality, and gender fluidity. Jerome was also... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Leading Armory Show scholar Laurette E. McCarthy, returns with a guest blog uncovering some new evidence found in some old photographs. Installation view of Gallery A in the Armory Show, 1913 / unidentified photographer. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. An overhead installation view of Gallery A at the Armory Show, 1913 / unidentified photographer. Walt Kuhn, Kuhn family papers, and Armory Show records, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Upon entering the cavernous space of the 69th Regiment Armory in New York, site of the 1913 Armory Show, one was... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Kelly Quinn, the Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives, introduces a new series, Tip of the Hat, which takes a light–hearted look at artists and their headgear. Malvina Hoffman, 1921 / Edith M. White, photographer. Miscellaneous photographs collection, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Malvina Hoffman (1887—1966) was an American sculptor and author. At age 14, she studied at the Art Students League in New York. And later, after moving to Europe with her mother, she studied with Auguste Rodin and Ivan Mestrovic. She also worked as a studio assistant to Janet Scudder. Hoffman is perhaps... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Guest blogger Kurt Holman is a park manager at the site of Kentucky's Perryville Battlefield State Historical Site. He describes the ways he and the park staff have used Henry Mosler's drawings to understand better the landscape its history. "The Henry Mosler Drawing of the Battle of Perryville" We have... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary
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From at least the age of 22, Henry Mosler represented himself as an artist in official documents. He claimed the title and profession early in his career. For example, in draft registration records from June 1863, Mosler used the title when asked for his profession. Here, he appears among a... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary
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Archivist Rihoko Ueno, who recently processed holdings and curated an exhibit related to the Monuments Men at the Archives of American Art, examines how the actions of Rose Valland and James J. Rorimer saved valuable works of art in World War II. Edith Standen and Rose Valland with art to be restituted to France, 1946 May / unidentified photographer. James J. Rorimer papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Since processing several collections on the Monuments Men at the Archives of American Art, thanks to funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation’s grant program for World War II provenance research,... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Guest blogger Dr. Susanna Gold reflects on how Archives’ materials enriched collaborative exhibition and performance projects about the life and work of African American painter Charles Searles. “Charles Searles: In Motion” installation shot. Photo: Sam Fritch The Archive of American Art’s newly acquired papers of Charles Searles (1937–2004), one of Philadelphia’s most understudied but influential African American artists, served as a trove of primary source material for sixteen student curators working on a collaborative exhibition project at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, and the La Salle University Art Museum. Art History graduate students at Tyler and undergraduates at... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Armory Show scholar Laurette E. McCarthy guest blogs on her recent detective work in tracking down a Van Gogh painting exhibited in the seminal 1913 show. Vincent van Gogh, The Weeders, 1890, Oil on paper, on canvas, 49.3 x 64 cm, Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection. Image used with permission. One of my most significant and exciting recent “rediscoveries” is a Vincent van Gogh painting that none of us recognized—not even the current owners—as having been in the 1913 Armory Show. Quite a find! In the Armory Show scrapbooks in the Walt Kuhn papers and Armory Show records held by the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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The dog days of summer—those sweltering days of August, when the air hits you like a blast furnace—are upon us. To lighten our spirits in this oppressively hot month, the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has selected 31 photographs of artists with their dogs for the 31 days of August for our Flickr site. These photographs chosen from the Archives’ collections show artists with their pets as faithful companions, willing models, or members of the family. Jackson Pollock with his dogs, ca. 1955 / unidentified photographer. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Jackson Pollock... Continue reading
Posted Aug 16, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Artist Henry Mosler's diary is the primary piece of evidence to understand his travels through Kentucky during the Civil War. Other items from his papers, including this rail pass, also help us to identify his plans and to locate his whereabouts during 1861 and 1862. Mosler intended to travel westward... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2013 at Henry Mosler's Civil War Diary
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Notes on Alma Thomas' participation in the March on Washington, 1983?. Alma Thomas papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Alma Thomas (1891–1978) lived most of her adulthood in Washington, D.C. first as a student, then later as a teacher and artist. For talented, educated African American women and men such as Thomas, the city offered considerable advantages: she was an active participant in civic, social, and cultural circles. As a painter, she drew inspiration from her environment whether from memories of childhood summers spent in the rural fields of the South, or glimpses of the garden she tended near... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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One of the two suitcases in which Jock Truman stored his personal papers and photographs. Photo: Jason Stieber The Archives of American Art recently received as a bequest the personal papers of Jock Truman, an art dealer who served for many years as director of the Betty Parsons Gallery. Truman’s papers, approximately 3.5 linear feet of correspondence, photographs, biographical material, artwork, and printed material, arrived in two suitcases. This was an unusually personal mode of delivery for material that normally arrives in pasteboard boxes and manila envelopes, and my curiosity about this new acquisition was instantly piqued. An archivist’s initial... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog
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Moby Dick silk scarf designed by Rockwell Kent, 1947. Papers relating to Rockwell Kent and Lynd Ward, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Moby Dick silk scarf designed by Rockwell Kent, 1947. Rockwell Kent papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. As a keen collector of vintage scarves, and someone who appreciates the intersections between art and fashion, when I stumbled upon a box of Dan Burne Jone’s Papers relating to Rockwell Kent and Lynd Ward that listed MOBY DICK SCARF among the contents, it caught my attention. I was compelled to investigate further. W. A. Kittredge letter to Rockwell... Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2013 at Archives of American Art Blog