William Anderson Coffin papers, 1886-1924

A Finding Aid to the William Anderson Coffin Papers, 1886-1924, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

William Anderson Coffin (1855-1925) of New York City was a landscape and figure painter and art critic. He organized several notable exhibitions and art-related charitable events for relief work in post-World War I France.

William Anderson Coffin was born near Pittsburgh in Allegheny, Pennsylvania on January 31, 1855, the son of Isabella C. Anderson and James Gardiner Coffin. Coffin studied art and graduated from Yale University in 1874. Three years later, he left for Paris and studied with academic artist Léon Bonnat. Coffin exhibited in the Paris Salons of 1879, 1880, and 1882.

In 1882, Coffin moved to New York City, participating in many exhibitions, including at the National Academy of Design. He also wrote as an art critic for Scribner's, Harper's Weekly, among other publications. From 1886 to 1891, he was art critic for The New York Evening Post, and was art editor at the New York Sun from 1896 to 1901.

Coffin directed the Fine Arts Division of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo from 1900 to 1901, and participated as a member of the New York Advisory Board of the Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915. Coffin was also president of the American Artists' Committee of One Hundred that established a relief fund for families of French soldier-artists. For this charitable work, Coffin received the medal of the Legion of Honor from the French government in 1917.

Coffin was a member of various arts organizations including the Lotos Club, the Architectural league of New York, and the National Academy of Design. His art work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Municipal Gallery of Venice, Italy, the Albright Art Gallery, and the Brooklyn Museum.

William Anderson Coffin died on October 26, 1925 in New York City.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of New York painter and art critic William Anderson Coffin date from 1886-1924 and measure 1.6 linear feet. Found within the papers are scattered biographical materials and correspondence, project files for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, the American Artist's Committee of One Hundred, and the exhibition of works by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, three additional scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs.

Scattered biographical material includes membership cards and an autobiographical essay. Correspondence is with colleagues and related generally to receptions and events, including an invitation to the launch of U. S. Battleship Arizona. There are one or two letters each from Frank W. Benson, Edwin Howland Blashfield, Royal Cortissoz, Walter Gay, and Whitney Warren.

Three series of project files document Coffin's work for the Fine Arts Division of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, the American Artists' Committee of One Hundred that established a relief fund for families of French soldier-artists, and an exhibition of art work by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris. Files contain a variety of materials, such as letters, drafts of reports, meeting minutes, photographs, catalogs and brochures, and other materials. There are two oversized scrapbooks for the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. The files for the Luxembourg Museum exhibition include a letter signed by Louis Bouché, Bernard Gussow, Alfred H. Maurer, Joseph Stella, and William Zorach protesting the exclusion of their work.

Three additional scrapbooks contain clippings of articles written by Coffin when he was employed as an art critic for The New York Evening Post, The New York Evening Post, Harper's Weekly, and The New York Sun.

Printed material consists of miscellaneous clippings primarily about Coffin, programs from American Rights Committee exercises, a Dixie Club of New York concert, a Lotos Club concert, and the Lafayette-Marne Anniversary exercises, and souvenir tickets to various art-related events including several Paris Salon Vernissage events sponsored by the Société des Artistes Francais.

Photographs include an album of photographs of Coffin, various family members, and residences; a photograph of Coffin posing with an unidentified group of his colleagues; and photographs of family friends. Project files also contain photographs.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as 8 series:

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects:

  • American Artists' Committee of One Hundred
  • American Rights Committee
  • Committee for the Exhibition of American Painting and Sculpture (Paris, France)
  • Lotos Club (New York, N.Y.)
  • Musée d'histoire et d'art (Luxembourg)
  • Exposition d'artistes de l'école Américaine (1919: Paris, France)
  • Pan-American Exposition (1901: Buffalo, N.Y.)
  • Harper's Weekly
  • New York post

Subjects-Topical:

  • War relief
  • Art Exhibitions France Paris
  • Art critics France Paris
  • Art critics New York (State) New York
  • Painters

Types of Materials:

  • Drafts (documents)
  • Minutes
  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks

Names:

  • Benson, Frank Weston, 1862-1951
  • Blashfield, Edwin Howland, 1848-1936
  • Bouché, Louis, 1896-1969
  • Cortissoz, Royal, 1869-1948
  • Gay, Walter, 1856-1937
  • Gussow, Bernard, 1881-1957
  • Stella, Joseph, 1877-1946
  • Warren, Whitney, 1864-1943
  • Zorach, William, 1887-1966

Provenance

The William Anderson Coffin papers were donated in 1970 by Stewart Klonis to whom the papers were given by Mrs. DeWitt M. Lockman of Manorville, Long Island, New York.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were minimally arranged prior to microfilming on reel 109. The collection was further arranged and described in a finding aid by Jean Fitzgerald in 2010.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The William Anderson Coffin 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 bulk of this collection is also available on 35 mm microfilm reel 109 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection on microfilm does not match the arrangement outlined in the finding aid.

How to Cite this Collection

William Anderson Coffin papers, 1886-1924. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1916-1922
(Box 1; 2 folders)

Biographical material consists of a calling card; a place card; membership cards for the American Legion, the Citizens' League for America, and The Allies; and an autobiographical essay concerning the influence of Léon Bonnat, Coffin's art instructor in Paris.

Box Folder
1 1 Calling Card and Place Card for Coffin, and Membership Cards, 1916-1922, undated
1 2 Autobiographical Essay Concerning the Influence of Léon Bonnat, 1922

Series 2: Correspondence, 1915-1924
(Box 1; 12 folders)

Correspondence consists of scattered letters exchanged with colleagues that do not relate to other series. There are one or two letters each from Frank W. Benson, Edwin Howland Blashfield, Royal Cortissoz, Walter Gay, and Whitney Warren, and an invitation to the launch of U. S. Battleship Arizona.

Box Folder
1 3 Correspondence, undated
1 4 Correspondence, 1915
1 5 Correspondence, 1916
1 6-11 Correspondence, 1917
(6 folders)
1 12 Correspondence, 1918
1 13 Correspondence, 1919
1 14 Correspondence, 1920-1924

Series 3: Project File for the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, 1900-1901
(Box 1-2; 0.3 linear feet)

This series documents Coffin's involvement as director of the Fine Arts Division of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo and includes letters, drafts of reports, scrapbooks of clippings, and an album of photographs.

Box Folder
1 15 Letters, 1900
1 16-22 Drafts of Reports, 1901
(7 folders)
1 23 Photograph Album, 1901
Box Folder
2 1 Oversized Scrapbook 1 of Clippings, 1900-1901
2 2 Oversized Scrapbook 2 of Clippings, 1900-1901

Series 4: Project File for the American Artists' Committee of One Hundred, 1914-1923
(Box 1; 16 folders)

This series documents Coffin's involvement as president of the American Artists' Committee of One Hundred that established a relief fund for families of French soldier-artists and includes letters, a ledger of donations, a financial report, address lists of donors, catalogs for fund-raising exhibitions, brochures listing the American Artists' Committee of One Hundred, and a photograph of a relief sculpture Fraternité des Artistes by Antonin Mercié, used as a logo for the organization.

Box Folder
1 24 Letters, 1915
1 25 Letters, 1916
1 26 Letters, 1917-1923
1 27-28 Ledger of Donations to the Relief Fund for the Families of French Soldier-Artists, 1914-1916
(2 folders)
1 29 Financial Report for the Relief Fund for the Families of French Soldier-Artists, 1917
1 30-37 Address Lists, undated
(8 folders)
1 38 Exhibition Catalogs, 1915-1916
1 39 Brochures and a Photograph of Art Work, 1921-1923, undated

Series 5: Project File for the Exhibition of Works by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, 1919-1920
(Box 1; 29 folders)

This series documents Coffin's involvement in the organization of an exhibition of art work by American Artists at the Luxembourg Museum in Paris and includes correspondence including a letter signed by Louis Bouché, Bernard Gussow, Alfred H. Maurer, Joseph Stella, and William Zorach protesting the exclusion of their work, minutes of meetings, miscellaneous writings concerning the exhibition, and miscellaneous printed material.

Box Folder
1 40-59 Correspondence, 1919
(20 folders)
1 60 Correspondence, 1920
1 61-62 Minutes of Meetings, 1919
(2 folders)
1 63 Minutes of Meetings, 1920
1 64-67 Miscellaneous Writings, 1919
(4 folders)
1 68 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1919

Series 6: Scrapbooks of Clippings of Articles Written by Coffin, 1886-1913
(Box 2; 0.3 linear feet)

Scrapbooks contain clippings of articles written by Coffin when he was employed as an art critic. Scrapbook 1 contains clippings written for The New York Evening Post. Scrapbook 2 contains clippings written for The New York Evening Post, Harper's Weekly, and The New York Sun. Scrapbook 3 contains clippings written for The New York Sun and The New York Evening Post.

Box Folder
3 1 Scrapbook 1, 1886-1891
3 2 Scrapbook 2, 1891-1900
3 3 Scrapbook 3, 1900-1913

Series 7: Printed Material, 1912-1924
(Box 1; 6 folders)

Printed material consists of miscellaneous clippings, programs, and souvenir tickets from various art-related events.

Box Folder
1 69 Clippings, 1912-1916, undated
1 70 Clippings, 1917
1 71 Clippings, 1918-1919
1 72 Clippings, 1920-1923
1 73 Miscellaneous Programs, 1916-1919
1 74 Miscellaneous Souvenir Tickets, 1917-1924, undated

Series 8: Photographs, 1905-1923
(Box 1; 10 folders)

Photographs consist of an album of photographs of Coffin and various family members, a photograph of Coffin posing with a group of his colleagues, and photographs of family friends.

Box Folder
1 75-79 Family Photograph Album, 1905-1911
(5 folders)
1 80 Photograph of Coffin with Colleagues, undated
1 81-84 Photographs of Family Friends, 1918-1923, undated
(4 folders)