Austin Merrill Mecklem and Marianne Greer Appel papers, 1910-2006, bulk 1928-1977

A Finding Aid to the Austin Merrill Mecklem and Marianne Greer Appel papers, 1910-2006, bulk 1928-1977, in the Archives of American Art, by Harriet E. Shapiro

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

Artists Austin Merrill Mecklem "Meck" (1894-1951) and Marianne Greer Appel (1913-1988) married in 1937 and lived and worked in Woodstock, New York as part of the Woodstock artists' colony, Maverick. Mecklem died in 1951 at age 56. In 1953, Appel and her two daughters moved to New York City where she pursued a career as a puppet designer and author and illustrator of children's books. She worked for puppeteer, Bill Baird, and later, Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Appel married Carl Harms, actor and puppeteer, in 1960.

Both Mecklem and Appel were associated with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Mecklem received notable commissions from the WPA, including the painting of murals for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D. C., the Wrangell, Alaska Custom House and Post Office, and the Post Office in Portland, Connecticut. Mecklem also taught art at the Museum School in Portland, Oregon, the Art Students League in New York, the Albright Art School in Buffalo, New York, and the Woodstock School of Painting. Mecklem's work has been exhibited in a number of one-man shows and at major museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Austin Mecklem was born in Califax, Washington and studied at Washington State University, the San Francisco School of Fine Arts, the Art Students League in New York and in Paris and Holland. His first marriage to Hannah Small, also of the Woodstock artist's colony, ended in divorce. In 1906 Appel began her studies at the Woodstock School, where she met Mecklem. Appel's work has been exhibited at museums such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Austin Merrill Mecklem and Marianne Greer Appel papers measure 1.4 linear feet and date from 1910-2006, with the bulk of materials dating from 1928-1977. Correspondence, writings, drawings, printed material, miscellaneous items and photographs document Mecklem as an artist, muralist and art instructor and Appel as an artist, puppet designer and author and illustrator of children's books. A significant portion of Appel's papers consist of drafts of two illustrated children's books.

Austin Mecklem's papers include biographical materials, personal and professional correspondence and letters, and printed material from the WPA. Printed material includes newspaper clippings, exhibition catalogs, announcements and press releases, and an article from Fortune Magazine concerning the Coulee Dam, a subject of interest to Mecklem. Also found is a CD labeled Mecklem "Catalogue Raisonee as of Feb. 2009".

Of particular note are Mecklem's lecture and teaching notes on the "Fundamentals of Art" prepared for his class at the Albright Art School. Also, there are photographs of Mecklem's paintings and murals, including his design for a mural for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D. C. Original artwork by Mecklem includes the blueprint for the Portland, Connecticut Post Office mural, drawings on tissue paper, a watercolor landscape, and a cartoon entitled "Life at the High."

Appel's papers consist of drafts of children's books, "The Story of Juliet" (1945) and "Perlydew" (after 1953), correspondence, writings, sketches and clippings from the period after Mecklem's death. Correspondence includes personal letters and letters from the Federal Works Agency Public Buildings Administration regarding the Agency's purchase of Appel's artwork. Also found are sketch books and an original watercolor signed by Appel.

Also found are photographs of friends and family as well as photographs of Appel's paintings and puppets she designed. Some photographs of puppets carry notes by Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets. Appel's book drafts include manuscripts, both typed and hand-written, with layouts and illustrations in tempera or gouache.

This collection contains scattered notes by the donors which identify or explain materials.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 3 Series. Materials are generally arranged by record type and chronolgically thereafter.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:

Subjects:

  • Albright Art School (Buffalo, N.Y.)--Faculty

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art teachers--New York (State)--New York
  • Artists' studios--Photographs
  • Authors--New York (State)--New York
  • Illustrated books, Children's
  • Muralists--New York (State)--New York
  • Puppeteers--New York (State)--New York

Types of Materials:

  • Drawings
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
  • Sketchbooks
  • Sketches
  • Watercolors

Names:

  • Appel, Marianne, 1913-
  • Henson, Jim
  • Mecklem, Austin Merrill, 1894-1951
  • Federal Works Agency
  • United States--Works Progress Administration

Provenance

The papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2010 by the artists' daughters, Sarah Greer Mecklem and Merrill Mecklem Piera.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Harriet E. Shapiro in 2011.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Austin Merrill Mecklem and Marianne Greer Appel papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donors have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Austin Merrill Mecklem and Marianne Greer Appel papers, 1910-2006, bulk 1928-1977. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Austin Merrill Mecklem papers, 1910-2006
(Boxes 1-2; OV3; 0.9 linear feet)

Biographical materials include Mecklem's high school diploma and graduation program, a United States Passport in his name, membership cards and an automobile registration. Among Mecklem's teaching notes is an essay entitled "A Tentative Introduction to Aesthetics" by Fritz Mart, Ph.D. There also are Work Progress Administration (WPA) bulletins covering the period from April, 1935 to July, 1936 and September, 1936 to February, 1937, WPA assignment cards, and materials explaining the WPA Federal Art Project and its gallery operation. The letters and correspondence primarily concern Mecklem's professional memberships and his efforts to secure employment and exposure for his art.

Additional Mecklem drawings can be found in a shared sketchbook found in the Appel papers, Series 2.

Box Folder
1 1 Biographical Material, 1929-1939
(oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 2-3 Professional Correspondence, 1928-1950
(2 folders)
1 4 Letters from Friends, 1930-1950
1 5 Letters from the Work Progress Administration, 1930-1943
(oversized material housed in OV3)
1 6 Teaching Notes - Albright School of Art, undated
1 7 Lecture Notes, after 1924
1 8-9 Exhibition Catalogs and Labels, 1937-1994
(2 folders)
1 10 Exhibition Announcements, 1928-2006
1 11 Work Progress Administration Bulletins, 1934-1937
1 12 Clippings, 1928-1999
(oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 13 Drawings, circa 1911-circa 1940
(oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 14-15 Photographs - Artwork, 1920's-1950, 1932-1950
(2 folders)
Box
2 High School Biographical Material: High School Diploma and Graduation Program 1910
(from Box 1, folder 1)
2 Grand Coulee Dam Article, circa 1940
(from Box 1, folder 12)
2 Drawings, circa 1911-circa 1940
(from Box 1, folder 13)

Series 2: Marianne Greer Appel papers, 1928-2006
(Boxes 1-2; 0.4 linear feet)

Letters include communications from the Federal Works Agency Public Buildings Administration concerning the Carville, Louisiana Marine Hospital Water Color Competition and reference letters in support of Appel's application for a Guggenheim Fellowship, including one by Ernest Gruening, then Governor of Alaska. Gruening became acquainted with Appel's work when she and Mecklem worked in Alaska for the Works Progress Administration. More personal are the hand-written letters from friends, including notes of condolence on the passing of Mecklem. Writings by Appel express her interest in nature and thoughts about life. There are illustrated drafts of her children's book "The Story of Juliet," about life lessons of a seal. Also found are three sketchbooks including one she shared with Mecklem.

The photographs are of puppets, paintings by Appel, and what are probably family snapshots. The donors' notes suggest that writings that accompany certain puppet photos are notes from Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.

Box Folder
1 16 Letters including Works Progress Administration, 1933-1952
1 17 Writings, Notebooks and Notes, 1954-1977
(oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 18 "The Story of Juliet," Typed Manuscript, 1945
1 19 "The Story of Juliet," Handwritten, with Illustrations, circa 1945
1 20 "The Story of Juliet," Handwritten, with Illustrations, 1945
(oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 21 "The Story of Juliet," Handwritten, with Illustrations, circa 1945
(2 folders; oversized material housed in Box 2)
1 22 Printed Material, 1954-2003
1 23 Sketchbooks, undated
(3 volumes)
1 24 Photographs of Artwork and Puppets, 1935-1988
Box
2 "The Story of Juliet," Handwrittten, with Illustrations, 1945
2 "The Story of Juliet," Handwritten, with Illustrations, circa 1945
(2 folders)
2 "Polydew," after 1953
2 Garden Plan and Notes, undated

Series 3: Photographs, 1928-1950
(Box 1; 0.1 linear feet)

This series contains photographs of both Mecklem and Appel and their family and friends. Among the photographs found are their wedding picture, a snapshot of the couple and their two small daughters, numerous pictures of Mecklem at various ages and a snapshot of the couple's Woodstock house and family members skiing. There also is a photograph of Mecklem with his brothers in front of an abstract painting probably by him.

Box Folder
1 25 Family Photographs, 1928-1950