Jervis McEntee’s five volumes of diaries span the years 1872 to 1890 and are rich in details of the art world in America at the time. McEntee, a Hudson River School painter, was a member of the National Academy of Design’s old guard and fiercely opposed the influences of modern and avant-garde painting in Europe. Primarily a landscape painter, McEntee studied with Frederic Edwin Church and was among the leading artists in New York in the late 19th century.
In his nearly 4,500 diary entries, he ruminates on such subjects as the art market, patrons and collectors, his working arrangements and residence in the Tenth Street Studio Building, the Century Club, and the impact of European painting on American artists.
The McEntee diaries were donated to the Archives in 1964 by one of Jervis McEntee’s heirs, Mrs. Helen S. McEntee. Curator Garnett McCoy immediately delved into them, producing transcripts and indexing names that resulted, 4 years later, in a lengthy article in the Archives’ Journal (Vol. 4, No. 3, July 1964). Through a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., the Archives of American Art has built upon McCoy’s work to provide unprecedented access to this valuable resource.
Starting in 2006, Smithsonian Behind-the-Scenes volunteer Paul G. Stein began transcribing the remaining portions of the Jervis McEntee diaries after stumbling across some portions of the diaries on the Archives of American Art’s website. Stein blogged about his experience on the Archives of American Art Blog: A Hudson River School Diary.
In 2008, the remainder of the Jervis McEntee papers in the Archives, including letters and family records, were digitized as part of the Terra Foundation for American Art Digitization Project. Scans of all of these papers are available as the Jervis McEntee Papers Online.