Thomas Craven papers, 1919-1949, 1975

A Finding Aid to the Thomas Craven Papers, 1919-1949, 1975, in the Archives of American Art, by Rosa M. Fernandez

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Author, art critic, and lecturer Thomas Craven (b.1888) was dubbed the "the principal ideologue of the American Scene" movement by the art historian Matthew Baigell. Craven wrote numerous articles, essays, criticisms, and reviews for Scribners, Harpers, The Dial, The Nation, The New Republic and The Forum. He was art critic for the New York American, the Hearst Paper. After graduating from Kansas Wesleyan University in 1908, Craven lived in Paris for a time. Upon his return to the United States, he settled in Greenwich Village where he began his reaffirmation of American art and culture. He roomed with American painter Thomas Hart Benton and was friends with John Steuart Curry, George Grosz, Reginald Marsh and Grant Wood. Craven's first book, Men of Art, was published in 1931. The book was an art historical survey of painting in the Western world and described as a combination of social history, biography and description and criticism. Craven also wrote Modern Art, A Treasury of Art Masterpieces, and Greek Art. Craven was noted for his often caustic reviews and criticisms of the modernistic movement. He died in 1969 at the age of 81.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of art critic Thomas Craven measure approximately .07 linear feet and date from 1919 through 1949 and 1975. The collection consists primarily of a dismantled scrapbook (1925 1949; 1975) containing newspaper clippings of Craven's articles and writings which span his career. Also found within the scrapbook are reviews by Oscar Bluemner and Byron Browne of Craven's two anti-modernist books, Men of Art and Modern Art. The collection also contains four letters concerning publications, a typescript essay about Thomas Craven's early career, two files of scattered writings in manuscript form, two bound handwritten manuscript versions of A Treasury of Art Masterpieces (1939), and Greek Art (1950), and miscellaneous loose newsclippings.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into six 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 "Names" when they are creators or contributors and under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents.


  • Art critics -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Art criticism
  • Art, Modern

Types of Materials:

  • Manuscripts
  • Scrapbooks


The collection was donated in 1999 by Richard Craven, Thomas Craven's son.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Rosa Fernandez in June, 2000. The scrapbook was microfilmed in 2000.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility. Patrons must use microfilm copy for portions on microfilm.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Thomas Craven 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.

Available Formats

The microfilm portion of the collection is available on microfilm reel 5670. The microfilm is available for interlibrary loan.

How to Cite this Collection

Thomas Craven papers, 1919-1949, 1975. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Materials, undated
(Box 1; 1 folder)

One file containing an essay about Craven by an unidentified author.

1 Essay, undated

Series 2: Letters, 1919-1956, undated
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Four letters concerning publishing from the World Publishing Company, Marian McNamara, and E. Pollock.

1 Letters, 1919-1956, undated

Series 3: Writings, 1920-1949
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Original manuscripts of essays, articles, and commentaries written by Thomas Craven. Found here are "A League for Democratic Art", an essay about the Art Student's League; "Nude Ascends A Staircase" about a watercolor Craven owned by George Grosz; "The Books as Illustrated Books" about artists who have successfully illustrated books; and "The New Century", an excoriation of the French.

1 Writings, 1920-1949
(2 folders)

Series 4: Manuscripts, 1939, 1950
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Two bound original handwritten manuscripts versions of Craven's books A Treasury of Art Masterpieces (1939) and Greek Art (1950).

1 Handwritten Manuscripts, 1939, 1950
(2 folders)

Series 5: Loose Newsclippings, 1941
(Box 1; 1 folder)

1 Loose Newsclippings, 1941

Series 6: Scrapbook, 1925-1941, 1975, undated
(Box 2; 5 OV folders)

A dismantled scrapbook of clippings of Craven's numerous articles written for such periodicals as The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune, Art Digest, The New York American and others. Reviews in the form of letters of his anti modernist books, Men of Art and Modern Art are also found including those, most notably, by Oscar Bluemner and Byron Browne.

2 (sol) Dismantled Scapbook 1925-1941; 1975, undated
(5 oversized folders