Beatrice Fenton papers, 1836-1984, (bulk 1890-1978)

A Finding Aid to the Beatrice Fenton Papers, 1836-1984 (bulk 1890-1978), in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Beatrice Fenton was born on July 12, 1887 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to ophthalmologist Thomas H. Fenton and Lizzie Remak Fenton, who was the daughter of prominent lawyer Gustavus Remak.

From 1903-1904 Fenton began to study art at the Philadelphia School of Industrial Art under Alexander Stirling Calder. Through her father's aunt, Mary Fenton Holmes, she met Thomas Eakins who advised her to sculpt in clay in order to overcome flatness in drawings. In 1904 Eakins painted a portrait of Fenton as the central figure in The Coral Necklace.

Fenton was attracted to sculpture and continued her studies in this field from 1904-1908 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, under Charles Grafly. Here she began life-long friendships with fellow students Marjorie Martinet and Emily Clayton Bishop.

A Cresson European Traveling Scholarship enabled Fenton to visit Belgium, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, France, and England during the summer of 1909. She returned to the Pennsylvania Academy and won a second scholarship that financed further travel to Spain, France, Holland, Belgium, and England in 1910 with Marjorie Martinet. On her return from Europe Fenton began working as an artist in Philadelphia.

Both Fenton and Martinet were deeply affected by the sudden death of Emily Clayton Bishop in 1912, and spent several years promoting Bishop's sculpture. Martinet, who changed the spelling of her surname from Martenet to Martinet in June 1918, established her own art school in Baltimore, Maryland, and later taught painting at the Maryland Institute of Art. Fenton and Martinet maintained a close relationship for fifty years, primarily through correspondence.

Fenton's first success came with a portrait bust of her father's friend, painter and etcher Peter Moran, brother of Thomas Moran. The bust was purchased by the painter's friends for the Art Club and in 1915 won Honorable Mention in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The success of Fenton's Seaweed Fountain in 1922 generated many commissions, primarily for fountains.

Martinet taught at Oldfields School from 1925 to 1961. From 1942 to 1953, Fenton taught at the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, and later joined the faculty of St. John's Night School for Adults.

Beatrice Fenton died February 11, 1983 in Germantown, Pennsylvania.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of sculptor Beatrice Fenton date from 1836-1984 (bulk 1890-1978) and measure 9.3 linear feet. The collection documents Fenton's career as a sculptor and art instructor, as well as her life-long friendships with artist Emily Clayton and art educator Marjorie Martinet. Found are scattered biographical materials, correspondence primarily between Fenton and Martinet (approximately 1/2 of the collection), business records, notes and writings, scattered records of arts organizations, transcripts of interviews with Fenton, sketches and sketchbooks, a scrapbook, brochures, clippings, postcards, reproductions of artwork, and photographs of friends and family, travels, and artwork.

The collection includes scattered biographical material for Fenton, Emily Clayton Bishop, and Marjorie Martinet, such as biographical accounts, membership cards, and a diploma. The correspondence is primarily between Fenton and Martinet and documents the development of their close friendship and professional concerns. There are also scattered letters from Fenton's instructor, Alexander S. Calder and Emily Clayton Bishop. Personal business records include those of Fenton and Martinet and include wills, estate papers, insurance and banking records, price lists, receipts, and records from the Oldfields School where Marjorie Martinet taught for 36 years. Found within the Notes and Writings series are address books, hand-made illustrated booklets of poems by Emily Clayton Bishop, lecture manuscripts, and notes and typescripts on various topics, including a file Fenton created to promote Bishop's artwork following Bishop's death.

There is a series of scattered records of arts organizations to which Fenton belonged, including the Charcoal Club, the Three Arts Club, Lizette Wood Reese Memorial Association, and the Maryland Institute Alumni Association. Also found in the papers are interview tapes and transcripts of interviews conducted with Fenton by Mary Hamel-Schwulst and Marlene Obarzaneck, artwork consisting primarily of sketchbooks and loose drawings by Fenton and Bishop, a scrapbook concerning Martinet, additional printed material, and photographs and photograph albums depicting Fenton, Martinet, Bishop, other family, colleagues, studios, artwork, and travel destinations.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 9 series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents and under "Names" when they are creators or contributors.


  • Women sculptors--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
  • Sculptors--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia

Types of Materials:

  • Sketches
  • Photographs
  • Interviews
  • Sound recordings
  • Sketchbooks


  • Martinet, Marjorie D., 1886-1981
  • Bishop, Emily Clayton, 1883-1912


The Beatrice Fenton papers were donated from 1987-1991 by Joan Martin, a sculptor and former Fenton student, who inherited Fenton's studio and its contents.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed in September 2006 by Jean Fitzgerald.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Beatrice Fenton papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Beatrice Fenton papers, 1836-1984 (bulk 1890-1978). Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1897-1967
(Boxes 1, 10; 5 folders)

Biographical material for Fenton includes biographical accounts and student passes. There is also a Catholic confirmation card and a card of membership in the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons for Emily Clayton Bishop, and a curriculum vita, diploma, and membership cards for Marjorie Martinet.

1 Student Passes for Fenton, 1904-1912
1 Biographical Accounts for Fenton, 1926-1942, undated
1 Biographical Material for Emily Clayton Bishop, 1897-1907
1 Biographical Material for Marjorie Martinet, 1904-1967
(see also Box 10)
10 (sol) Diploma from the Maryland Institute for Marjorie Martinet, 1904

Series 2: Correspondence, 1857-1980
(Boxes 1-5, 10; 4.5 linear ft.)

Correspondence consists primarily of an intimate decades-long exchange of letters between Fenton and Martinet. There are also scattered letters from Fenton's instructor, Alexander S. Calder, and Emily Clayton Bishop, as well as scattered letters addressed to Martinet from others, including a cover letter from William Merritt Chase for a letter of recommendation written on Martinet's behalf. The bulk of the correspondence is arranged Most of the undated letters are filed alphabetically before the chronological correspondence. Undated letters from Fenton and Martinet have been filed separately from other undated correspondence, also before the chronological correspondence.

1 Unidentified Correspondents, undated
1 Correspondents with Surnames A-B, undated
1 Correspondents with Surnames C-F, undated
1 Letters from Beatrice Fenton, undated
1 Correspondents with Surnames G-L, undated
1 Letters from Marjorie Martinet, undated
(6 folders)
1 Correspondents with Surnames N-Z, undated
1 Correspondence, 1857-1868
1 Correspondence, 1870-1877
1 Correspondence, 1887-1896
1 Correspondence, 1900-1909
(7 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1910
(8 folders; see also Box 10)
1 Correspondence, 1911
(7 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1912
(20 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1913
(14 folders)
1 Correspondence, 1914
(8 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1914
(7 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1915
(18 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1916
(16 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1917
2 Correspondence, 1918
(9 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1919
(4 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1920
(9 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1921
(6 folders)
2 Correspondence, 1922
(2 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1922
(10 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1923
(22 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1924
(15 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1925
(9 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1926
(4 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1927
(6 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1928
(3 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1929
(4 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1930
3 Correspondence, 1931
(4 folders)
3 Correspondence, 1932
(2 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1933-1937
(8 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1938
(8 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1939
(2 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1940-1946
(8 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1944
(2 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1945-1947
(5 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1948
(6 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1949
(5 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1950
(3 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1951-1955
(3 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1956
(4 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1957
(6 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1958
(6 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1959
(4 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1960
(4 folders)
4 Correspondence, 1961
(3 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1962
(3 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1963
(7 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1964-1966
(6 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1967
(6 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1968
(5 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1969-1980
(5 folders)
5 Correspondence, 1970
5 Correspondence, 1971
5 Correspondence, 1972-1973
5 Correspondence, 1974-1980
10 (sol) Oversized Letter from Emily Clayton Bishop to Fenton, 1910

Series 3: Business Records, 1836, 1907-1978
(Box 5; 39 folders)

Business records consist of legal documents including indenture papers, wills, estate papers, and insurance records for various Fenton family members, as well as miscellaneous financial records including banking records, price lists, and records from the Oldfields School where Marjorie Martinet taught for 36 years.

Estate records, indenture papers and wills are followed by other business records arranged alphabetically by folder title.

5 Estate Papers for Fenton, Hector T., 1933-1944
5 Estate Papers for Fenton, Lizzie Remak, 1920-1926
5 Estate Papers, Will, for Bidlack, Laura V. (Fenton's paternal aunt), 1926-1932
(2 folders)
5 Estate Papers, Will, for Fenton, Thomas H., 1925-1929
5 Estate Papers, Will, for Sheppard, Laura (Fenton's cousin), 1935-1947
5 Indenture Papers for Martenet, Charles Frederick, 1836
5 Will of Fenton, Beatrice, 1934
5 Will of Martinet, Marjorie D., 1955
5 Banking Records, 1919-1978
(4 folders)
5 Financial Records, Miscellaneous Art-Related, 1907-1960
5 Income Tax Returns, 1937-1963
(3 folders)
5 Insurance Records, 1946-1964
(3 folders)
5 Leases and Records of Rent Payments, 1908-1924
5 Notebook of European Travel Expenses, 1916
5 Notebook of Household Expenses and Writings in German, 1944-1947
5 Oldfields School Financial Records, 1930-1960
5 Price Lists for Artwork, 1911-1963, undated
(2 folders)
5 Promissory Notes, 1927-1934
5 Real Estate Records, 1937-1968
5 Receipts for Casting and Carving of Artwork, 1912-1951
(7 folders)
5 Receipts for Household Expenses, 1922-1967, undated
5 Receipts, Miscellaneous, 1923-1974
5 Receipts, Miscellaneous Travel, 1909-1964
5 Stocks and Bonds Records, 1950-1973

Series 4: Notes and Writings, 1866-1971
(Boxes 5-6; 58 folders)

This series includes address books, art class notebooks and a journal from a trip to Greece, as well as notes concerning Fenton's friend Emily Clayton Bishop, and Marjorie Martinet's ancestors, the Hood family. Also included are Bishop's illustrated hand-made books of poetry, lecture typescripts, and miscellaneous writings.

5 Address Book 1, Fenton, undated
5 Address Book 2, Fenton, 1936
6 Address Book, Marjorie Martinet, 1969-1971
(2 folders)
6 Addresses, Miscellaneous, undated
6 Anatomy Notebook, Fenton, 1905-1906
6 Card File of Artwork, 1912-1963
(3 folders)
6 Class Lists, 1942-1962, undated
6 Illustrated Booklet of Poems, Spring, by Emily Clayton Bishop, 1898
6 Illustrated Booklet of Poems, Versicles, by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
6 Illustrated Booklet, Some Sonnets by Sir Philip Sidney, Illustrated by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
6 Poem, Escarda, by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
6 Itinerary for Travel to the American West, 1951
6 Manuscript for Daughters of Troy, 1908
(2 folders)
6 Manuscript for Lecture at the Progress Club, 1915
6 Manuscript for Lecture on Sculpture, undated
6 Notes Concerning Emily Clayton Bishop, 1912-1920
(9 folders)
6 Notes Concerning the Hood Family, 1866-1944, undated
(6 folders)
6 Notes, Miscellaneous, 1915-1964, undated
(4 folders)
6 Travel Journal for Greece, undated
6 Typescript for A Persian Cat by Marjorie Martinet, undated
6 Typescript for Lecture, American Women Artists of Today, undated
6 Writings, Miscellaneous, 1898, undated
(5 folders)
6 Writings, Poems, undated
(2 folders)

Series 5: Organization Records, 1903-1938
(Box 6; 9 folders)

This series contains records of the Charcoal Club, the Lizette Wood Reese Memorial Association for which Fenton designed a bas-relief memorial tablet, the Maryland Institute Alumni Association, and the Three Arts Club. Records include notes, by-laws, minutes and typescripts.

6 Charcoal Club, Constitution, 1916
6 Lizette Wood Reese Memorial Association
6 Membership Lists, 1936-1938
6 Minutes of Meetings, 1938-1938
6 Typescripts, 1936-1938
6 Maryland Institute Alumni Association
6 Bulletins, 1903-1915
6 Constitution and By-Laws, 1903-1913
6 Three Arts Club
6 Constitution and By-Laws, 1907
6 Minutes of Meetings, 1907-1910
6 Miscellaneous Notes, 1912-1913, undated

Series 6: Interviews, 1978
(Box 6; 5 folders)

This series consists of audio cassettes and transcripts of interviews with Fenton conducted by Dr. Mary Hamel-Schwulst and Marlene Obarzaneck. There is also an audio cassette of a television program, "From the Lands of Scythians," narrated by Thams Hering.

6 Audio Cassettes of Interviews of Fenton, 1978
(3 folders)
6 Transcripts of Interviews of Fenton, 1978
(2 folders)
6 Audio Cassette of Television Program, undated

Series 7: Artwork, 1903-1943
(Boxes 7, 10; 21 folders)

Artwork consists of sketchbooks, loose sketches, and an engraved portrait of Thomas H. Fenton. Because Fenton, combined the unsigned work of her colleagues with her own, correct attributions of the artwork is not always possible.

7 Engraving of Portrait of Thomas H. Fenton, undated
7 Oil Painting on Board, undated
7 Sketchbook 1 by Unidentified Artist, undated
7 Sketchbook 2 by Unidentified Artist, undated
7 Sketchbook 3 by Unidentified Artist, undated
7 Sketchbook 4 by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
7 Sketchbook 5 by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
7 Sketchbook 6 by Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
(2 folders)
7 Sketchbook 7 by Emily Clayton Bishop, 1909
(2 folders)
7 Sketchbook 8 by Emily Clayton Bishop, 1909
(2 folders)
7 Sketches, Loose, 1903-1943, undated
(6 folders; see also Box 10)
7 Sketches, Watercolors, undated
10 (sol) Two Oversized Sketches by Unidentified Artists, undated

Series 8: Scrapbook, 1905-1925
(Box 10; 1 folder)

This series consists of one scrapbook containing clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs concerning Marjorie Martinet.

10 (sol) Scrapbook, 1905-1925, undated

Series 9: Printed Material, 1865-1984
(Boxes 7-8, 10; 1.7 linear ft.)

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Fenton and others, programs, brochures, reproductions of artwork, picture postcards from various trips, a published thesis by Beatrice Fenton's sister Doris, yearbooks from Oldfields School, and miscellaneous printed material including a blueprint for the Memorial to Mrs. Eli Kirk Price.

7 Book, A Study in Karma by Anne Besant, 1918
7 Books, Life Ahead and The Flight of the Eagle by J. Krishnamurti, 1963-1971
7 Book, The Influence of the Zodiac Upon Human Life by Eleanor Kirk, 1894
7 Brochures for Art Supplies, 1928-1931, undated
(3 folders)
7 Brochures for Beatrice Fenton, undated
7 Brochures for Martinet School of Art, 1915-1943, undated
(2 folders)
7 Brochures for Miscellaneous Art Schools, 1911-1961, undated
(2 folders)
7 Brochures for Oldfields School, 1960, undated
7 Brochures, Miscellaneous 1923-1973
7 Brochures, Travel, 1951-1976, undated
(2 folders)
7 Clippings, undated
(4 folders)
7 Clippings, 1901-1926
(37 folders)
8 Clippings, 1927-1940
(25 folders)
8 Clippings, 1933-1940
(12 folders)
8 Clippings, 1943-1949
(8 folders)
8 Clippings, 1952-1958
8 Clippings, 1960-1964
8 Clippings, 1973-1984
(2 folders)
8 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Beatrice Fenton, 1910-1946, undated
(5 folders)
8 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Others, 1908-1978, undated
(2 folders)
8 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1907-1947, undated
(3 folders; see also Box 10)
8 Picture Postcards of California, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Eastern United States, undated
8 Picture Postcards of France and Italy, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Grand Canyon, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Oregon, Washington, and Canada, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Philadelphia, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Utah and Wyoming, undated
8 Picture Postcards of Yellowstone Park, undated
8 Programs and Tickets, 1865-1944
(2 folders)
8 Prospectus for the National Academy of Design, 1920
8 Reproductions of Artwork by Beatrice Fenton, undated
(6 folders)
8 Reproductions of Artwork by Marjorie Martinet, undated
8 Reproductions of Artwork by Others, undated
(2 folders; see also Box 10)
8 Published Thesis, The Extra-Dramatic Moment in Elizabethan Plays Before 1616 by Doris Fenton, 1930
8 Yearbook, Oldfields School, 1930
8 Yearbook, Oldfields School, 1931
10 (sol) Oversized Reproduction of Artwork by Others, undated
10 (sol) Oversized Poster for the Martinet School of Art, undated

Series 10: Photographs, 1890-1978
(Boxes 9-10; 1.0 linear ft.)

Photographs are of Beatrice Fenton, her family, colleagues, models, her studio, art classes, artwork by Fenton and others, and miscellaneous exhibitions and installations. There are also albums containing photographs of friends and trips to Europe.

The series is arranged as 3 subseries:

10.1: People, 1890-1978

9 Beatrice Fenton, 1891-1978
(10 folders; see also Box 10)
9 Lizzie Remak Fenton, undated
9 Thomas H. Fenton, 1890-1929
(see also Box 10)
9 Miscellaneous Family Members, undated
(3 folders)
9 Emily Clayton Bishop, undated
(2 folders)
9 Marjorie Martinet, undated
9 Miscellaneous Friends, undated
(2 folders)
9 Friends in Costume for the Play The Daughters of Troy, 1908
(2 folders)
9 Friends in Various Costumes, undated
9 Models (Wrestlers), undated
10 (sol) Oversized Photograph of Beatrice Fenton, undated
10 (sol) Two Oversized Photographs of Thomas H. Fenton, undated

10.2: Classes and Studios, 1909-1978

9 Studio, 1978, undated
(3 folders)
9 Art Classes, 1909
(2 folders)
9 Art Classes at Oldfields School, undated
(3 folders)
9 Miscellaneous Art Classes Taught by Marjorie Martinet, undated
(2 folders)

10.3: Artwork, 1912-1915

This subseries includes one folder of photographs of exhibitions and installations.

9 Artwork by Beatrice Fenton, undated
(22 folders; see also Box 10)
9 Artwork by Emily Clayton Bishop, 1912-1915, undated
(3 folders)
9 Artwork by Marjorie Martinet, undated
(2 folders)
9 Artwork by Unidentified Sculptors, undated
(6 folders)
9 Miscellaneous Exhibitions and Installations, undated
10 (sol) Two Oversized Photographs of Portrait Bust of Peter Moran, undated
10 (sol) Four Oversized Photographs of Seaweed Fountain, undated

10.4: Albums, 1909-1910

9 Photograph Album 1, undated
9 Photograph Album 2 (Travel Photographs), 1909-1910
9 Photograph Album 3 (Travel Photographs), 1909-1910
9 Miscellaneous Travel Photographs, 1909-1910