William Kienbusch papers, 1915-2001, bulk 1936-1980

A Finding Aid to the William Kienbusch Papers, 1915-2001, bulk 1936-1980, in the Archives of American Art, by Erin Kinhart

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Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

William Kienbusch (1914-1980) was a painter and art instructor in New York, NY, and Cranberry Island, Maine.

Kienbusch was born in New York City and attended boarding school at Hotchkiss Preparatory school, where he was taught painting by Robert Osborn. During the summers of 1934 and 1935, while attending Princeton University, he studied watercolor with Eliot O'Hara at Goose Rocks Beach, Maine. After graduating from Princeton in 1936, he attended the Art Students League, studied with Henry Varnum Poor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, and spent a year in Paris, studying at the Academie Colarossi. During this time he also had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe before the outbreak of World War II. He returned to New York City in the winter of 1938 and settled in Greenwich Village, at one point living above artist Stuart Davis.

Kienbusch spent the summers of 1940 and 1941 in Stonington, Maine. Here he found his true identity as an abstract expressionist landscape painter. During World War II he served in the Army, teaching camouflage design and making maps in Guam. When he returned to New York in 1946, he began painting in casein rather than oils or watercolor. In 1947 he joined Kraushaar Galleries, which would continue to be his dealer for the remainder of his career. From 1948 to 1969 he taught at the Brooklyn Museum of Art School and spent summers in Maine. Kienbusch lost much of his artwork and personal papers in a 1969 fire at his New York studio apartment. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art among many others. After several years of poor health, Kienbusch died in 1980.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of landscape painter and art instructor William Kienbusch measure 5.0 linear feet and date from 1915 to 2001, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1936 to 1980. The collection documents Kienbusch's life as an artist in New York City and Cranberry Island, Maine. Files include biographical material; correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues; writings and notes; scattered printed material; photographs; and artwork, including 17 sketchbooks.

Biographical materials include military records, identification and membership documents, guestbooks, and an album entitled "Book of Friendship" containing short notes written by friends for Kienbusch on the occasion of his 60th Birthday. Also of note is copy of the "In Memoriam" written for Kienbusch by Karl Schrag.

The bulk of the papers consist of family and general correspondence. Family correspondence includes letters from Kienbusch to his parents regarding school, summer camps, travel, and the army. General correspondence includes many letters he sent to his close friend, Stanley Clifford, as well as letters from friends and associates, such as Stuart Davis, Antionette Kraushaar, Walter Maitland, Henry Varnum Poor, Abraham Rattner, Karl Schrag, Reuben Tam, and others.

Writings and notes include scattered notes, lists, and draft writings, as well as three notebooks, including one on casein technique. Printed material includes several armed forces publications and maps from World War II, clippings, and press releases. Photographs are of William Kienbusch, including two snapshots of Kienbusch with friends Dorothy Andrews and Reuben Tam. Also found are numerous travel and nature photographs. Artwork includes drawings created by Kienbusch while on his military tour in Guam and seventeen sketchbooks containting drawings in pencil, ink, and pastel.

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 index terms:

  • Clifford, Stanley
  • Davis, Stuart, 1892-1964
  • Kraushaar, Antoinette M., 1902-1992
  • Maitland, Walter McClymonds, 1912-1989
  • Poor, Henry Varnum, 1887-1970
  • Rattner, Abraham
  • Schrag, Karl
  • Tam, Reuben
  • Art teachers--New York (State)--New York
  • Drafts (documents)
  • Drawings
  • Landscape painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Notebooks
  • Notes
  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Painting, Abstract--United States
  • Painting, American
  • Painting--Technique
  • Photographs
  • Sketchbooks
  • Visitors' books
  • World War, 1939-1945

Provenance

The William Kienbusch papers were donated by his sisters, Millicent Kelly and Juliana Little, and his friend Stanley Clifford as co-executives of the Kienbusch estate from 1985-1991. Additional papers were donated by Stanley Clifford in 2008 and 2010.

Separated and Related Materials

William Kienbusch loaned materials for microfiliming in 1970. Originals of loaned material, including a scrapbook of clippings, exhibition catalogs, photographs of Kienbusch, letters, writings, and two journals describing his travels in Europe and the Orient were returned to Kienbusch after microfilming and were not subsequently donated by his estate. Loaned material is available on reel N70-22 but is not described in the container listing of this finding aid.

Also found in the Archives of American Art is the Walter Maitland correspondence with and about William Kienbusch, 1969-1981; the William Kienbusch letters to Francis and Sydney Hamabe, 1958-1977; the Thomas Barrett and Leni Mancuso papers relating to William Kienbusch, 1950-1980; and an oral history interview with William Kienbusch conducted by Forrest Selvig, November 1-7, 1968.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Erin Kinhart in 2011.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The William Kienbusch 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

William Kienbusch papers, 1915-2001, bulk 1936-1980. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1980
(Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)

Biographical material consists of military records, a passport, membership cards, school documents, awards, and art supply receipts. Also found are three gallery guestbooks and an album entitled "Book of Friendship" containing short notes written by friends for Kienbusch on the occasion of his 60th Birthday. Among Kienbusch's military service records is a letter to the 3rd Air Force Camouflage Caravan requesting transfer to the Photo Interpretation School in 1944. Also of note is copy of the "In Memoriam" written for Kienbusch by Karl Schrag.

Box Folder
1 1 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, 1976
1 2-4 Art Supply Receipts, 1941-1979
(3 folders)
1 5 Award Ribbon, circa 1930s
1 6 "Book of Friendship,," 1974
1 7 Guestbooks, 1975, undated
1 8 Hair Clippings from Childhood, 1915
1 9 Membership Cards, circa 1936-1980
1 10 Military Service Records, circa 1942-1945
1 11 Paintbrush, undated
1 12 Passport, 1965
1 13 Receipts, 1941-1973
1 14 School Documents, 1929-1937
1 15 Statement on Studio Apartment Fire, 1969
1 16 "William Kienbusch: A Talk In Memoriam,," 1980

Series 2: Correspondence, 1920-2001
(Box 1-3; 2.3 linear feet)

This series contains family correspondence and general correspondence. Family correspondence includes letters from Kienbusch to his parents and other family members regarding school, summer camps, travel, and the army. Also found are a few letters sent to Kienbusch from his parents. General correspondence includes numerous letters Kienbusch sent to his close friend, Stanley Clifford, as well as letters from friends and associates, such as Stuart Davis, Antionette Kraushaar, Walter Maitland, Henry Varnum Poor, Abraham Rattner, Karl Schrag, and Reuben Tam. Other miscellaneous letters are from Isabel Bishop, Charles Scribner's Sons, Cleve Gray, Philip Guston, Joseph Hirsch, Stefan Hirsch, Dorothy Miller, and Anton Refregier.

Also found are over forty letters written by Thomas Barrett to Stanley Clifford. Barrett was Kienbusch's student at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and occasionally mentions him in his letters to Clifford.

The series is arranged as 2 subseries:

2.1: Family Correspondence, 1920-1968

Box Folder
1 17-25 Family Correspondence, 1920-1933
(9 folders)
1 26-33 Family Correspondence, circa 1933-1940
(8 folders)
1 34-41 Family Correspondence, 1942-1944
(8 folders)
1 42-45 Family Correspondence, 1945
(4 folders)
Box Folder
2 1-10 Family Correspondence, 1946-1954
(10 folders)
2 11-22 Family Correspondence, 1955-1968
(12 folders)

2.2: General Correspondence, 1936-2001

Box Folder
2 23-24 Barrett, Thomas (letters to Stanley Clifford), 1950-1951, 1967
(2 folders)
2 25 Beal, James, 1978
2 26-39 Clifford, Stanley, 1951-1975
(14 folders)
Box Folder
3 1-5 Clifford, Stanley, 1976-2001
(5 folders)
3 6 Davis, Stuart, 1942-1943, 1974
3 7 Heliker, Jack, 1968-1969, 1977
3 8 Hoopes, Donelson, circa 1972-1978
3 9 Kraushaar Galleries, 1964-1976
3 10 Maitland, Walter and Ruth, 1970-1983
3 11 Nesjar, Carl, circa 1968-1977
3 12-15 Poor, Annie, 1936-1980
(4 folders)
3 16-17 Poor, Henry Varnum, 1937-1961
(2 folders)
3 18 Portland Museum of Art, 1973
3 19 Rattner, Abraham, 1938-1946
3 20 Schrag, Karl, 1968-1978
3 21 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, 1972-1975
3 22 Tam, Reuben, 1947-1980
3 23-26 Miscellaneous Letters, A-Z, 1936-1979
(4 folders)
3 27 Unidentified Letters, circa 1937-1978

Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1940s-1970s
(Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)

This series contains three of Kienbusch's notebooks from early 1940s, including one containing notes on casein wax technique. All notebooks include notes, drawings, and diagrams. Also found are various handwritten notes and lists on scraps of paper, notes and slide list for a lecture at the Portland Museum of Art, and notes and quilting diagrams from Kienbusch's interview of Doris Sanborn.

Box Folder
3 28 Notebook, 1940
3 29 Notebook, 1941-1942
3 30 Notebook, "Notes on Cassein Wax Technique," 1942
3 31 Notes for Slide Lecture, Portland Museum of Art, circa 1973
3 32-34 Notes and Lists, circa 1940s-1970s
(3 folders)
3 35 "Interview of Doris Sanborn," undated

Series 4: Printed Material, circa 1937-1980
(Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)

This series contains scattered printed material including blank postcards, maps from World War II, press releases, news clippings regarding Kienbusch, and several armed forces publications. Catalogs and announcements are primarily for exhibitions of other artists.

Box Folder
3 36-37 Armed Forces Publications, 1941-1945
(2 folders)
3 38 Blank Postcards, circa 1970s
3 39 Exhibition Catalogs and Announcements, circa 1949-1980
3 40 Maps, circa 1944-1945, 1967
3 41 News Clippings, circa 1950s-1977
3 42 Newspapers, 1945
3 43 Press Releases, 1971
3 44 Miscellaneous Printed Material, circa 1937-1974

Series 5: Photographs, circa 1920-1980s
(Box 3-5; 1.3 linear feet)

Photographs are of William Kienbusch, including photographs taken during his military service in Guam and two snapshots of Kienbusch with friends Dorothy Andrews and Reuben Tam. Also found are photographs his house on Cranberry Island, Maine, and numerous travel and nature photographs.

Box Folder
3 45-46 Photographs of William Kienbusch, circa 1920-1975
(2 folders)
3 47 Photographs of William Kienbusch in Guam, circa 1943
3 48 Photographs of Kienbusch Grave Site, circa 1980s
3 49-50 Photographs of House on Cranberry Island, Maine, 1977, 1980
(2 folders)
3 51 Photographs of Trevett House, circa 1960s
3 52 Photographs of Backyard, circa 1970s
Box Folder
4 1 Photographs of Churches, circa 1970s
4 2-22 Travel and Nature Photographs, circa 1970s
(21 folders)
Box Folder
5 1-3 Travel and Nature Photographs, circa 1970s
(3 folders)
5 4-5 Negatives, circa 1970s
(2 folders)

Series 6: Artwork, circa 1930s-1970s
(Box 5; 0.8 linear feet)

Artwork includes loose drawings and pastels created by Kienbusch while on his military tour in Guam and seventeen sketchbooks containting drawings in pencil, ink, and pastel. Also found is a pencil drawing of Kienbusch by "Tina."

Box Folder
5 6 Drawings, undated
5 7 Drawing of William Kienbusch, circa 1930s
5 8-11 Drawings of Guam, 1945
(4 folders)
5 12 Sketchbook, circa 1940s
5 13 Sketchbook, 1940
5 14-15 Sketchbooks, 1941
(2 folders)
5 16 Sketchbook, 1947
5 17 Sketchbook, 1952
5 18 Sketchbook, 1970
5 19 Sketchbook, 1974-1975
5 20-28 Sketchbooks, undated
(9 folders)