A Finding Aid to the Ernest Blumenschein Papers,
1873-1964 , in the Archives of American Art, by Michael Yates
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Table of Contents:
- Biographical Information
- Overview of the Collection
- How to Use the Collection
- Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Ernest Blumenschein was born on May 26th, 1874 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He moved to Dayton, Ohio at the age of four, the same year his mother died. His father was a professional musician and composer, who chiefly made his living as a conductor of large choruses. During high school he contributed illustrations to "Tomfoolery," a handwritten and hand drawn weekly humor magazine. Besides his artistic talents, Ernest Blumenschein was a skilled violin player, and was awarded a scholarship to the Cincinnati College of Music. In 1892, Blumenschein auditioned for the New York National Conservatory, and was chosen by Anton Dvorak for the role of first violin. With the income from playing violin, Blumenschein attended classes at the Art Students League.
In 1892, Ernest Blumenschein first traveled to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. While in Paris, he met Joseph Henry Sharp who inspired Blumenschein with his stories and sketches of the American southwest, particularly the Taos area. He returned to American in 1896, rented a studio with another Académie Julian student Bert Phillips, and began a successful career as a commercial illustrator working for magazines such as Century, Harper's, Scribner's, and McClure's.
Blumenschein first visited Taos in the fall of 1898 while traveling en route to Mexico on a sketching trip with Phillips. A wheel on the wagon carrying their belongings broke and they took it to the nearest blacksmith in the area, which was in Taos. Upon arriving at Taos, Blumenschein was struck by the "the superb beauty and serenity" of the landscape and was "stirred deeply." The town made a strong impact on both Blumenschein and Phillips, but while Phillips decided to stay, Blumenschein returned to New York for a short while and continued working as an illustrator. The following year Blumenschein decided to concentrate on painting, and re-enrolled at the Académie Julian while supporting himself with his commercial work. In 1903, he met Mary Greene, an American painter living in Paris and they married in 1905, and began sharing a Paris studio. Their daughter and only child, Helen, was born in November of 1909.
While Ernest Blumenschein continued to study in Paris, he also kept working as an illustrator, supporting himself easily. His illustration work was much in demand by American magazines and book publishers. Blumenschein was commissioned to illustrate Jack London's first book, Love of Life, in 1904. He also worked with other famous writers such as Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, and Joseph Conrad.
Upon returning to New York after the birth of their daughter, Ernest and Mary taught at the Pratt Institute. Ernest spent every summer in Taos. In 1919, the family moved permanently to Taos, with Helen returning to New York for school. It was during this time that Blumenschein co-founded the Taos Society of Artists and became part of the Taos art colony. For four decades, Blumenschein created paintings of the landscape, local inhabitants, the Taos Pueblo culture, and city skylines. He won numerous awards for his work and exhibited widely. His work was responsible for changing perceptions about the native culture and peoples of the area - the Navajo and Pueblo Indians. Blumenschein also indulged his love of the outdoors and sports. He avidly camped, played tennis, and was part of the Taos amateur baseball team. His artistic output in the 1950s was hampered by his declining health, and the death of Mary in 1958. Blumenschein died in June of 1960, and his ashes are repositioned at the Taos Pueblo Reservation.
Overview of the Collection
Scope and Contents
The papers of southwest painter and illustrator Ernest Blumenschein measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1873-1964. The collection documents Blumenschein's artistic career, his relationship with his wife and daughter, his love of the American southwest, and his involvement in the art community of Taos, New Mexico. Found are biographical materials, personal and professional correspondence, scattered personal business records, writings, a large amount of juvenilia artwork, and photographs of artwork.
Biographical materials include biographical sketches, school notebooks and curriculum vita, family genealogical materials and other family records, certificates, diplomas, and materials commemorating Blumenschein's election to the National Academy of Design. Also found are scattered ephemera items, such as membership cards, tickets, and travel materials.
Correspondence consists primarily of letters between Blumenschein, his wife Mary, and his daughter Helen. These discuss Blumeschein's career, domestic life, financial matters, Helen's schooling, and travel. Blumenschein's activities during World War I are documented by correspondence with the Committee of Public Information, the Salmagundi Club, and with Aide de Camps of army bases. There are a few letters from other artists and writers including William Glackens, Walt Kuhn, Ward Lockwood, Booth Tarkington, and a long letter from Cass Gilbert.
Scattered personal business records consist of a guest list, a list of Blumenschein works in a private collection, a jury duty certificate, and a car payment record.
Writings include personal, critical, and creative writings. There are writings by Blumenschein about the founding of the Taos Society of Artists and the artistic community of Taos and his memoirs about his first trip to Taos. Additional writings include a satirical discussion of modern art, and essays about artists John Gaw Meem, Joseph Henry Sharp, and Walter Ufer, and discussions of select paintings. Blumenschein also wrote of his travels in Paris, Switzerland, and Pittsburgh, as well as about French churches and cemeteries. Creative writings explore the landscape, life and culture of the American southwest.
Artwork consists primarily of fourteen folders of Blumenschein's illustrations for "Tomfoolery," a handwritten and hand drawn magazine that Blumenschein contributed to in high school. His illustrations for "Tomfoolery" include portraits, caricatures, and sequential art. Also found is one folder of small sketches.
Printed materials about Blumenschein include clippings, exhibition announcements, and exhibition catalogs. There are also brochures related to the Taos Art Colony and a 1902 menu for a Salmagundi Club program/dinner Also found here is a 1915 signed menu from a National Academy of Design event signed by Gifford Beal, George Bellows, and Eugene Spiecher among others.
Photographs include two portraits of Blumenschein and a group portrait of National Academy of Design members that includes Blumenschein. There are also photographs of Blumeschein's artwork and installation views of Blumenschein exhibitions.
Arrangement and Series Description
The collection is arranged into 7 series:
- Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1873-1971 (Boxes 1, OV1; 17 folders)
- Series 2: Correspondence, 1891-1970 (Box 1; 0.5 linear feet)
- Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1918-1950s (Box 1; 4 folders)
- Series 4: Writings, 1880s-1959 (Box 1-2; 0.5 linear feet)
- Series 5: Artwork, 1888-1925 (Box 2; 0.25 linear feet)
- Series 6: Printed Materials, 1891-1964 (Box 2, OV1; 0.5 linear feet)
- Series 7: Photographs, 1880s-1955 (Box 2, OV1; 0.25 linear feet)
Subjects and Names
This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms.
- Meem, John Gaw, 1894-
- Sharp, Joseph Henry, 1859-1953
- Ufer, Walter, 1876-1936
- National Academy of Design (U.S.)
- Painting--New Mexico--Taos
- Taos School of Art
- Illustrators--New Mexico--Taos
- Painters--New Mexico--Taos
- World War I, 1914-1918
- Types of Materials:
- Works of Art
- Blumenschein, Helen G., (Helen Greene)
- Blumenschein, Mary Greene
- Glackens, William J., 1870-1938
- Kuhn, Walt, 1877-1949
- Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946
- Gilbert, Cass, 1859-1934
- National Academy of Design
- Committee on Public Information
- Samagundi Club
- Taos Society of Artists
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art by Helen Greene Blumenschein, Ernest Blumenschein's daughter, in 1971.
Separated and Related Materials
Found in the Archives of American Art is a small collection of "Ernest Blumenschein letters and transcripts", available on microfilm reel 3281, and consisting of eleven letters between Blumenschein and Thomas Gilcrease, a letter between Helen Blumenschein and Gilcrease, and the transcript of a 1958 radio interview with Blumenschein.
Additionally, the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library in Santa Fe, New Mexico holds papers related to Ernest Blumenschein, Mary Greene Blumenschein, and Helen Greene Blumenschein.
How the Collection was Processed
The collection was originally processed upon receipt for microfilming on reels 269 and 270. The entire collection was re-processed and described by Michael Yates in 2008 and digitized in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
How to Use the Collection
Restrictions on Use
Use of the original papers requires an appointment.
Ownership & Literary Rights
The Ernest Blumenschein 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.
The bulk of this collection was digitized in 2009 and is available via the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include photographs of artwork, negatives, news clippings, and all but a few printed reproductions of artwork.
How to Cite this Collection
Ernest Blumenschein papers, 1873-1964. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Detailed Description and Container Inventory
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1873-1971 (Box 1, OV 1; 17 folders)
Included are certificates from art organizations, honorary diplomas from New Mexico institutions, and materials commemorating Blumenschein's election to the National Academy of Design. Family materials include genealogical records and his parents' wedding certificate. Found are many handwritten biographical sketches, and a typed copy of records kept by Blumenschein listing awards, memberships, patrons, dealers, sales, and exhibitions. School notebooks include notes on chemistry and "natural philosophy," creative writing, and many small sketches. Also found are loose notes, a tennis association membership card, and travel ephemera. Of special interest is a questionnaire about Blumenschein's artistic influences.
This series has been scanned in its entirety.
|1||1||Artistic Influences, 1948|
|1||2||Biographical Sketches, circa 1920s-1950s|
|1||3||Certificates, 1922-1955 (Oversized items housed in OV1)|
|1||4||Curriculum Vita, circa 1920s-1940s|
|1||6||Genealogical Materials, 1927-1971|
|1||7||Membership Cards, 1930-1943|
|1||8||National Academy of Design, 1911-1927|
|1||9||Notes, circa 1900s-1950s|
|1||10-12||School Notebooks, circa 1888-1891 (3 folders)|
|1||14||Travel Materials, circa 1890s|
|1||15||Wedding Certificate, 1873|
|OV1||Certificates, 1915, 1926 (scanned with Box 1, F3)|
Series 2: Correspondence, 1891-1970 (Box 1; 0.5 linear feet)
The bulk of correspondence is between Blumenschein, his wife Mary, and his daughter Helen. Mary's correspondence discusses domestic life, Blumenschein's artistic career, the Taos community, relationship issues, travel, and financial matters. Correspondence with Helen is about school, domestic life, travels in Europe, and discussion of art, movies, and books. Blumenschein sometimes refers to Helen by the nickname of "Bill." Helen's letters sometimes contain small sketches.
Found are letters from magazines, publishers, museums, galleries, and patrons that record the sale, exhibition, and publication of Blumenschein's artwork. Correspondence from sports organizations documents Blumenschein's interest and participation in athletics. World War I era correspondence is with the Committee of Public Information, the Treasury Department, the Salmagundi Club, and the Aide de Camps of military bases in Kansas and New Mexico.
Of special interest in this series are an 1891 letter from Harper's Young People evaluating Blumenschein's art submission, a letter from General John Pershing in regards to Blumenschein's portrait of Pershing, and a letter from Blumenschein to "a." discussing the conflict between artistic pursuits and Blumenschein's personal life. Also found are a few letters from artists and writers, including William Glackens, Walt Kuhn, Ward Lockwood, Booth Tarkington, and a long letter from Cass Gilbert.
This series has been scanned in its entirety.
|1||18||Blumenschein Family, 1902-1960|
|1||19-31||Helen Blumenschein, 1917-1947 (13 folders)|
|1||32-49||Mary Blumenschein, 1904-1947 (18 folders)|
|1||50||Mary Blumenschein, circa 1920s-1930s|
|1||51||Committee On Public Information, 1918|
|1||53||Mabel Dodge, 1959|
|1||54||Cass Gilbert, 1930|
|1||55||William Glackens, 1925|
|1||57||Walt Kuhn, circa 1910s-1920s|
|1||58||Ward Lockwood, 1948|
|1||59||Military Correspondence, 1918|
|1||60||Museum of New Mexico, 1948|
|1||62||John Pershing, 1929|
|1||64||Salmagundi Club, 1918|
|1||65||Booth Tarkington, 1935-1945|
|1||67||Unknown Correspondents, circa 1910s-1920s|
Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1918-1950s (Box 1; 4 folders)
The series consists of a guest list for an exhibition at the Grand Central Art Galleries, a list of Blumenschein works in a private collection, a certificate verifying Blumenschein's jury duty service, and a car payment record.
This series has been scanned in its entirety, except for the car payment receipt.
|1||68||Guest List, 1927|
|1||69||Holdings, circa 1940s-1950s|
|1||70||Legal Materials, 1918-1948|
|1||71||Car Payments, 1923 (Not scanned)|
Series 4: Writings, 1880s-1959 (Boxes 1-2; 0.5 linear feet)
Found in this series are writings by Blumenschein as well as a few scattered writings by others. Professional writings include Blumenschein's lectures delivered to art organizations, essays on John Gaw Meem and Joseph Henry Sharp, writings on the artistic community of Taos, and written discussions of select paintings. Personal writings are mostly about travel, including memoirs about Blumenschein's first trip to Taos, life in Paris, French churches and cemeteries, Switzerland, and Pittsburgh, Pensylvania.
Creative writings mostly explore the life and culture of the southwest. The manuscript for "Pablo, a Story Of a New Mexico Harvest" has an elaborately illustrated cover, while "The Channel Boys' Vacation" contains many illustrations. Additional sketches meant to accompany the manuscript "The Road to Milky," are filed in Series 5: Artwork. There is also a satirical piece about a janitor's thoughts on modern art.
Writings by others include a series of talks on Blumenschein related to a 1948 retrospective exhibition, an essay on Blumenschein by a Spanish scholar, and a memoir on Taos by Bert Phillips.
This series is arranged alphabetically by title, either given or supplied by the processing archivist. Writings by others follow Blumenschein's writings. This series has been scanned in its entirety.
Series 5: Artwork, 1888-1925 (Boxes 2; 0.25 linear feet)
This series consists primarily of printed issues of "Tomfoolery," a handwritten and hand drawn magazine created by Blumenschein and others during high school. Issues contain portraits, caricatures, sequential art, and lettering by Blumenschein signed "B" or "Shine." Writings by Blumenschein can also be found.
Also found are several small sketches by Blumenschein, and sketches for illustrating Blumenschein's manuscript "The Road to Milky's" (see Series 4: Writings). Artwork by others includes a work of juvenilia by Helen Blumenschein, and a small landscape sketch by Mary Worral-Wisca.
This series has been scanned in its entirety.
|2||24||Sketches, circa 1890s-1920s|
|2||25||Tomfoolery, 1888, September-December|
|2||26||Tomfoolery, circa 1888|
|2||27-33||Tomfoolery, 1889 (7 folders)|
|2||34||Tomfoolery, circa 1889|
|2||35-37||Tomfoolery, 1890, January-March (3 folders)|
|2||Artwork by Others|
|2||39||Helen Blumenschein, 1917|
|2||40||Mary Worral-Wisca, 1925|
Series 6: Printed Materials, 1891-1964 (Box 2, OV1; 0.5 linear feet)
Printed materials include clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, printed illustrations of Blumenschein's work, and ephemera mostly related to the Taos Art Colony. Topics covered are Blumenschein's exhibitions, published illustrations, early years in France, critical reception to his work, Taos Artists Society, the National Academy of Design, and sports. There is a small pamphlet for the Taos Heptagon, an "affiliation of painters" including Blumenschein, Dorothy Brett, and Ward Lockwood.
Also found are invitations, a program for a "vaudeville" performance at the Salmagundi Club, and two postcard reproductions of Blumenschein paintings that have annotations by Blumenschein on the verso. Of special interest are a 1915 menu from a National Academy of Design event signed by Gifford Beal, George Bellows, and Eugene Speicher among others, and a 1902 menu from a Salmagundi Club event honoring Bruce Crane with many signatures.
The bulk of this series has been scanned, except for news clippings printed reproductions of artwork and business cards. In some cases, only the covers and title pages for exhibition catalogs have been scanned.
|2||41||Blumy's Taos Tournament, circa 1910s-1930s|
|2||42||Business Cards, circa 1900s-1930s (Not scanned)|
|2||43-46||Clippings, 1896-1899 (4 folders; not scanned)|
|2||47||Clippings, 1890s (not scanned)|
|2||48-52||Clippings, 1900-1909 (5 folders; not scanned)|
|2||53-54||Clippings, 1900s (2 folders; not scanned)|
|2||55-63||Clippings, 1910-1919 (9 folders; not scanned)|
|2||64||Clippings, 1910s (not scanned)|
|2||65-77||Clippings, 1920-1929 (13 folders; not scanned)|
|2||78-80||Clippings, 1920s (3 folders; not scanned)|
|2||81-90||Clippings, 1930-1939 (10 folders; not scanned)|
|2||91-92||Clippings, 1930s (2 folders; not scanned)|
|2||93-100||Clippings, 1940-1949 (8 folders; not scanned)|
|2||101-103||Clippings, 1940s (3 folders; not scanned)|
|2||104-115||Clippings, 1950-1959 (12 folders; not scanned)|
|2||116-117||Clippings, circa 1950s (2 folders; not scanned)|
|2||118-120||Clippings, 1960-1964 (3 folders; not scanned)|
|2||121||Clippings, circa 1960s (not scanned)|
|2||122||Exhibition Announcements, 1934|
|2||123||Exhibition Catalogs, 1927-1958|
|2||124||Exhibition Catalogs [Fragments], circa 1920s-1940s|
|2||125||Invitations, circa 1930s-1958|
|2||126||National Academy of Design, 1915|
|2||127||Postcards, circa 1929-1930|
|2||128||Reproductions of Artwork, 1891-1898|
|2||129||Reproductions of Artwork, 1900-1911 (Not scanned)|
|2||130||Reproductions of Artwork, 1915-1930 (Not scanned)|
|2||131-134||Reproductions of Artwork, circa 1890s-1910s (4 folders; not scanned)|
|2||135||Reproductions of Artwork: Mary Blumenschein, circa 1900s-1920s (Not scanned)|
|2||136||Reproductions of Artwork: Others, circa 1910s-1930s (Not scanned)|
|2||137||Salmagundi Club, 1902 (Oversized item housed in OV1)|
|2||138||School Of American Research, 1952|
|2||139||Taos Heptagon, circa 1900s-1920s|
|OV1||Salmagundi Club, 1902 (Scanned with Box 2, F137)|
Series 7: Photographs, 1880s-1955 (Box 2, OV1; 0.25 linear feet)
Photographs include two portraits of Ernest Blumenschein, a photograph of Blumenschein with other members of the National Academy of Design, and exhibition/installation views at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Institute, and a Colorado post office. The bulk of the photographs are of artwork by Blumenschein, including paintings, murals, and student work. Also found are photographs of artwork by others including Oscar Berninghaus and E. Martin Hennings.
Photographs of artwork have not been scanned.
|2||140||Ernest Blumenschein, 1924-1930|
|2||141||Artwork, circa 1893 (Not scanned)|
|2||142||Artwork, 1906-1907 (Oversized item housed in OV1; not scanned)|
|2||143||Artwork, 1912-1919 (Not scanned)|
|2||144||Artwork, circa 1910s (Not scanned)|
|2||145||Artwork, 1920-1924 (Not scanned)|
|2||146||Artwork, 1926-1929 (Not scanned)|
|2||147||Artwork, circa 1920s (Not scanned)|
|2||148||Artwork, 1931-1934 (Not scanned)|
|2||149||Artwork, 1935-1939 (Not scanned)|
|2||150||Artwork, circa 1930s (Not scanned)|
|2||151||Artwork, 1941-1949 (Not scanned)|
|2||152||Artwork, circa 1940s (Not scanned)|
|2||153||Artwork, 1955 (Not scanned)|
|2||154||Artwork By Others, circa 1910s-1930s (Not scanned)|
|2||155||Artwork Installation, 1912-1945|
|2||156||National Academy of Design, 1937|
|2||157||Unknown Subject, 1919|
|2||158||Ernest Blumenschein, 1927 (Not scanned)|
|2||159||Artwork, 1937 (Not scanned)|
|OV1||Artwork, 1906 (see also Box 2, F142; not scanned)|