Jan de Swart papers, 1916-1994

A Finding Aid to the Jan de Swart Papers Papers, 1916-1994, in the Archives of American Art, by Catherine S. Gaines

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Biographical Information

Jan de Swart (1908-1987) was a sculptor and inventor that lived and worked primarily in southern California.

Jan de Swart was born in Breda, Holland in 1908. At age 13, he began a five-year apprenticeship in the atelier of Master Yonkers in S'Hertgenbosch, run by a famous carver of ecclesiastical sculpture and furniture, and then completed compulsory military service before emigrating to the United States in 1929.

During his early years in California, de Swart worked as a furniture maker. He prospected for gold in Arizona, and lived in an artists' colony at Calabasas, California, during the 1930s, eventually settling in Eagle Rock, outside of Los Angeles, where he remained for the rest of his life. In the 1940s, he devoted himself to sculpture in wood, metal, and plastic, and participated in many exhibitions. His many commissions included murals, jewelry, furniture, and sculptured screens in a wide variety of media.

In addition, de Swart was an inventor who held over 100 scientific patents. Many of his inventions were for rivets, grommets, and other types of fasteners used for ships, aircraft, and machinery; he also developed a strong, honey-combed core material that was used for a variety of structural purposes.

He died in 1987 after suffering a heart attack.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of southern California sculptor and inventor Jan de Swart measure 3.8 linear feet and are dated 1916-1994. They consist of correspondence, records concerning de Swart's inventions, writings, printed material, miscellaneous records, and photographs.

Correspondence mostly concerns de Swart's career as an artist and, to a lesser extent, his personal life. Series 2: Invention Files documents many of de Swart's inventions through drawings, patents, contracts, licensing and royalty agreements, printed material, and related correspondence.

Writings by de Swart consist of "Notes on My Film Metamorphoses" and brief notes for remarks to students during the run of his exhibition at San Fernando Valley State University. Included among the writings by other authors is an extensive manuscript by Ursula de Swart about her life and that of her husband. Printed material includes articles about Jan de Swart, exhibition reviews, exhibition catalogs and announcements, and an article by Jan and Ursula de Swart about plastic as a sculptural medium.

Among the miscellaneous records are a few biographical notes, guest books from many of de Swart's exhibitions, and pencil drawings by Jacobs and Jock D. Peters. The 1942 calendar/diary of Ursel Peters (Ursula de Swart) records her marriage to Jan de Swart. A grant proposal for the completion of Jan ?? A Tribute to Jan de Swart, a film by Judith Bronowski and Lauren Rickey, includes biographical information and photographs.

Photographs are of artwork by Jan de Swart, exhibition installations, people (among them Jan and Ursula de Swart, and their granddaughter), places (including "Allegro," the de Swart home, and de Swart's studio), miscellaneous topics, and a photograph album of de Swart's work. Also included are a large number of negatives, slides, and transparencies.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 6 series.

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects-Topical:

  • Modernism (Art)
  • Sculptors -- California -- Los Angeles
  • Inventors -- California -- Los Angeles

Types of Materials:

  • Blueprints
  • Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Slides (photographs)
  • Visitors' books
  • Essays
  • Manuscripts
  • Notes
  • Patents

Names:

  • De Swart, Ursula

Provenance

Gift of the artist's son, Jock de Swart, in 1996, with an addition received in 2001.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed to a preliminary level by Catherine S. Gaines in 2006.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Jan de Swart 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

Jan de Swart papers, 1916-1994. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1925-1991
(Box 1; 5 folders)

Correspondence documents de Swart's artistic career and, to a lesser extent, his personal life. Additional correspondence is found in Series 2: Invention Files.

Correspondence is arranged in chronological order.

Box Folder
1 1-4 Correspondence, 1925-1991, undated
(4 folders)
1 5 Correspondence regarding Miscellaneous Commissions, 1947-1961, undated

Series 2: Inventions, 1930-1980
(Box 1; 0.5 linear ft.)

This series consists of drawings, patents, contracts, licensing and royalty agreements, printed material, and correspondence relating to de Swart's inventions.

The series is arranged alphabetically by folder title.

Box Folder
1 6 Agreements, Royalty Statements, Related Correspondence, 1942-1965, undated
1 7 Applicator Tool for Electrical Pass-Throughs, 1949
1 8 Bolts, 1945-1948, undated
1 9 Bottle Cap, 1954-1957, undated
1 10 Bottle Carrier, 1949
1 11 Container Closure, 1945
1 12 Core Material, 1949-1973, undated
(3 folders)
1 13 Core Material (American Thermoform Corp. v. Jess R. Hale), 1977-1980, undated
1 14 Correspondence with Charles A. Breskin (agent) and Lawyers, 1942-1969, undated
1 15 Correspondence with Mr. Martin, Progress Reports, 1945-1946
1 16 Dispensers, 1945-1950
1 17 Door Knobs, undated
1 18 Fastener, 1945-1946
1 19 Grommets and Grommet Applicator, 1945-1948
1 20 Lipstick Holder, 1947
1 21 Lists of Patents, 1941-1947
1 22 Miscellaneous Inventions, 1950
1 23 Paper Clip, Plastic, undated
1 24 Pass-Through Insulator, 1947
1 25 Products Incorporating de Swart Patents, undated
1 26-27 Rivet, Plastic, 1952-1959 (2 folders)
1 28 Rivets and Rivet Applicator, 1947-1949, undated
1 29 Self-Closing Top, 1941
1 30 Shelf Supports, undated
1 31 Unidentified Inventions, 1930-1945, undated

Series 3: Writings, 1920-1983
(Box 1; 0.3 linear ft.)

This series is arranged as 2 subseries:

3.1: Writings by de Swart, circa 1974

Box Folder
1 32 "Notes on My Film Metamorphoses," undated
1 33 "To the Students of SFVS" (San Fernando Valley State), circa 1974

3.2: Writings by Other Authors, 1920-1983

Box Folder
1 de Swart, Ursula
1 34-37 "This is about the Lives of Ursula and Jan de Swart?," undated
(4 folders)
1 38 "The Fairytale Grandmother," 1954
1 39 Travers, David. "de Swart ? de Swart," 1969
1 Unknown Authors
1 40 Christmas Play, "The Street of Hearts," 1941
1 41 Lists of Artwork (consignments, inventories, price lists), 1968-1983, undated
1 42 "Report on the Jan de Swart Exhibit March 15-April 10," undated
1 43 Untitled Manuscripts (in German), 1920, undated
1 44 Various Authors, Inspirational Quotations, undated

Series 4: Printed Material, 1919-1994
(Boxes 2, 4; 0.3 linear ft.)

Box Folder
2 Articles
2 1 About or Mentioning de Swart, 1944-1993, undated
2 2 About Jock D. Peters, 1920-1931, undated
2 3 About Miscellaneous Topics, 1919-1964, undated
(see also: Box 4)
2 4 By Jan and Ursula de Swart, "A Medium for Sculpture" in Modern Plastics (Nov. issue), 1944
2 Exhibition Catalogs and Announcements
2 5-6 de Swart, 1945-1994, undated
(2 folders)
2 7 Other Artists, 1962-1986
2 8 Exhibition Reviews (de Swart), 1945-1987, undated
2 9 Miscellaneous Items Mentioning de Swart, 1948-1989
2 10 Poems by Ursel Peters (Ursula de Swart), in Flights, Literary Magazine of Eagle Rock High School, 1931-1932
2 11 Postcards and Reproductions, undated
Box
4 (sol) Oversized Articles about Miscellaneous Topics, 1933
(see also: Box 2, F3)

Series 5: Miscellaneous Records, 1916-1989
(Boxes 2, 4; 14 folders)

Box Folder
2 12 Artwork, Pencil Drawing by Jock D. Peters and Jacobs, 1916-1928, undated
2 13 Biographical Data, undated
2 14 Business Cards, undated
2 15 Calendar/Diary of Ursel Peters/Ursula de Swart, 1942
2 16 Grant Proposal, Judith Bronowski and Lauren Rickey, "Application for Grant Funds to Complete the Film Project Jan ?? A Tribute to Jan de Swart," undated
2 17-19 Guest Books, 1968-1989
(6 vols. in 3 folders)
2 20 Scrapbook, 1950s
(see: Box 4)
2 21 Ticket to Olympic Games, Los Angeles (Ursel Peters/Ursula de Swart), 1932
Box
4 (sol) Oversized Scrapbook, 1950s
(loose pages; see also Box 2, F 20)

Series 6: Photographs, 1933-1987
(Boxes 2-4, OVs 5-14; 2.5 linear ft.)

This series is arranged as 7 subseries:

6.1: Artwork, circa 1940s-circa 1980s

Box Folder
2 Artwork By de Swart
2 22 Furniture, undated
2 23 Lucite Sculpture, undated
2 24 Metal Sculpture, undated
2 25 "Sold (by trade) to Geo. Turner for Jock's and Ulli's estate planning," undated
2 26 Wood Sculpture, undated
2 27-31 Unsorted, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(5 folders; see also: OVs 5-11)
2 32 Artwork by Other Artists, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
Box
OV 5 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 6 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 7 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 8 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 9 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 10 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)
Box
OV 11 Oversized, Unsorted Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also Box 2, F 27-31)

6.2: Exhibition Installations, 1984-1986

Box Folder
2 33 Laguna Art Museum, 1986
2 34 Unidentified Locations, 1984, undated

6.3: Miscellaneous Subjects, circa 1940s-circa 1980s

Box Folder
2 35 Chairs, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see: OV 12)
2 36 Flowers, Wreath, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 37 Inventions, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 38 Ursula de Swart Projects, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see: OV 13)
Box
OV 12 Oversized, Chairs, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also: Box 2, F 35)
Box
OV 13 Oversized, Ursula de Swart Projects, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also: Box 2, F 38)

6.4: People, 1961-1987

Box Folder
2 39 Jan de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 40 Jan de Swart at Work/in Studio, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 41 Jan de Swart with Others, 1987, undated
2 42 Jan and Ursula de Swart (wife); Jan and Lisi de Swart (granddaughter), 1979-1987, undated
2 43 Jock de Swart [?] (son), undated
2 44 Lisi de Swart (granddaughter), undated
2 45 Ursula de Swart (wife); Ursula de Swart with Others, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 46 Unidentified Individuals, 1961, undated

6.5: Places, circa 1940s-circa 1980s

Box Folder
2 47 "Allegro" (de Swart home), circa 1940s-circa 1980s
2 48 Studio, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also: OV 14)
Box
OV 14 Oversized, de Swart Studio, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(see also: Box 2, F 48)

6.6: Photograph Album, circa 1940s-circa 1980s

Box
4 (sol) Photograph Album, circa 1940s-circa 1980s

6.7: Negatives, Slides, Transparencies, 1933-1985

People include Jan de Swart at work, and with his wife (Ursula de Swart) and his granddaughter (Lisi de Swart). There are also separate images of Ursula de Swart and Lisi de Swart, as well as a number of unidentified individuals.

Box Folder
3 Negatives
3 1 Artwork by de Swart, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
(in 4 x 6 card file)
3 2 Miscellaneous Subjects, People, Places, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
3 Slides
3 3-4 Artwork by de Swart, 1970s-1980s, undated
(2 folders)
3 Exhibition Installations
3 5 Chicago Tower (includes opening), 1973
3 6 San Fernando Valley State College, 1974
3 7 Miscellaneous Subjects, Tea Service, Welcome Banner, Wreath, 1974-1983
3 8 People, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
3 Places
3 9-10 "Allegro" (de Swart home), 1971-1985, undated
(2 folders)
3 11 Tunisia, undated
3 12 Unidentified Landscapes, 1980-1983, undated
3 13 Stereo Slides, Various Unidentified Subjects, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
3 Transparencies
3 Artwork by de Swart
3 14 Kaiser Screen, undated
3 15 Unsorted, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
3 16 People, Unidentified Individuals, circa 1940s-circa 1980s
3 17 Places, "Allegro" (de Swart home), circa 1940s-circa 1980s