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Beatrice Wood papers, 1894-1998, bulk 1930-1990

Beatrice Wood papers, 1894-1998, bulk 1930-1990

Wood, Beatrice, 1893-1998

Educator, Author, Ceramicist

Representative image for Beatrice Wood papers, 1894-1998, bulk 1930-1990

This site provides access to the papers of Beatrice Wood in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2011. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 51,326 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 26.6 linear feet

Summary: The papers of California ceramicist Beatrice Wood measure 26.6 linear feet and date from 1906 to 1998, with the bulk dating from 1930-1990. There is extensive correspondence with gallery owners, fellow artists, clients, friends, and family. The collection also contains biographical materials, personal business records, writings, printed materials, photographs, and works of art. Of particular interest are the 28 diaries that Wood maintained from 1916 until her death in 1998 and 42 glazing formula notebooks dating from 1934-1997. Also found are documents of Steven Hoag and Esther Rosencranz, her husband and aunt respectively, that consist of correspondence, business records, and photographs given to the Archives of American Art as part of the Beatrice Wood papers.

Biographical material contains certificates, licenses, degrees, legal documents, and extensive interview transcripts, which describe her philosophy on art and her development as a ceramic artist.

Correspondence is particularly rich in documenting Wood's passion and dedication to her work as a writer and artist. The records reflect Wood's close professional and personal relationships with many friends and colleagues, including Henri-Pierre Roche, Marcel Duchamp, Anais Nin, Elizabeth Hapgood, and Walter and Lou Arensberg. Additional correspondence with editors and publishers is also included. Wood enjoyed illustrating her letters, as did many of her correspondents.

Personal business records include financial material, sales and consignment records, and correspondence with gallery owners, including Garth Clark Gallery, John Waller Gallery, and Zachary Waller Gallery.

Notes and writings extensively document Wood's second career as a writer. Edited drafts of her monographs and short stories are available, as well as her journal writings and notes. Drafts of, "I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood," "Angel Who Wore Black Tights," "33rd Wife of a Maharajah," among others are included. Also found here are the illustrations that Wood created for her monographs. She often did a series of drawings for each illustration and these copies are included as well.

Twenty-eight detailed diaries contain information about studio sales, clients, and the economic uncertainties of being a self-employed artist. The diaries, arranged in one-year and five-year volumes, begin in 1916 and end just a few days before her death in 1998.

Forty-two glaze books record the formulas for the pottery glazes Wood developed throughout her career.

Printed material includes copies of Wood's published monographs as well as exhibition announcements and brochures. Also found are clippings about Wood, including numerous articles about her trips to India.

Photographic material includes photographs and slides of Wood, her friends, travels, and other events. Many of the photographs are identified by Wood.

Artwork includes original sketches, drawings, watercolors, lithographs and designs by Wood. The original illustrations from her books are included in this series.

The last two series contain records generated by her husband, Stephen Hoag and her maternal aunt, Esther Rosencrantz. Wood was married to Hoag from 1937 until his death in 1960. The bulk of the material contains Hoag's financial records, mostly receipts, from his early years as a engineer in the Pacific Northwest. Esther Rosencranz, a physician in San Francisco, collected book plates that are included in this series.

Biographical/Historical Note

Beatrice Wood (1893-1998) was a ceramacist, painter, and writer who relocated to Ojai, California in 1948.


Beatrice Wood donated her papers in several accretions between 1976 and 2002. Additional material was donated by Francis Naumann in 1993 and the Beatrice Wood Personal Property Trust in 1999. Material from a 1977 loan was included in Wood's later donations.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Many letters: Originals in the possession of Beatrice Wood.

A Finding Aid to the Beatrice Wood Papers, 1894-1998, bulk 1930-1990, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Beatrice Wood (1893-1998) was a ceramicist, painter, and writer who relocated to Ojai, California in 1948.
Beatrice Wood was born on March 3, 1893 in San Francisco to socially prominent and wealthy parents. In the late 1890s, the family moved to New York City where Wood was expected to begin the process of "coming out" in New York society. This process included boarding schools, a convent school in Paris, and frequent summer trips to Europe where she was exposed to museums, galleries, and the theater. Wood studied acting and dance in Paris until the outbreak of the war in 1914. She returned to New York and soon joined the company of the French National Repertory Theatre. From 1914 through 1916, Wood played over 60 parts as a stage actress.
In 1917, Wood met the writer Henri Pierre Roche, with whom she had a brief affair and a long friendship. Roche introduced her to the New York world of artists and writers and encouraged her interest in drawing and painting. During a visit to see the composer Edgard Varese in the hospital, Wood met Marcel Duchamp, with whom she had a love affair and who also had a strong influence in her development as an artist. Their long discussions about modern art encouraged Wood to show Duchamp a recent drawing entitled "Marriage of a Friend." Duchamp liked the drawing so much that he published it in
, a magazine partly financed by Walter and Louise Arensberg, friends of Duchamp. The Arensbergs were pioneering collectors of modern art and soon became friends of Wood as well. She became a frequent guest at their evening gatherings, forming friendships with Walter Pach, Francis Picabia, Joseph Stella, Myrna Loy, Galka Scheyer, and others.
Through Duchamp and the Arensbergs, Wood was introduced to the world of the New York Dada. Following the formation of the Society of Independent Artists in 1917, Wood exhibited work in their
exhibition. Together with Duchamp and Roche, she published a short-lived avant-garde journal, called
Blind Man
, in which the Alfred Steiglitz photograph of Duchamp's famous ready-made "Fountain" appeared. She also designed the poster for the Dada event, The Blind Man's Ball.
Throughout the 1920s, Wood continued to draw and paint, especially watercolors. Late in 1927, she moved to California to join the Arensbergs, who had been there since 1921. She also developed an interest in clay and took her first ceramics classes with Glen Lukens at the University of Southern California in the late 1930s. In 1940 Wood studied with Otto and Gertrud Natzler, Austrian potters who were known for their technical mastery and ability to throw almost perfectly formed pots. The Natzlers taught her how to throw pots and calculate glaze formulas.
Museums and galleries began to take an interest in her pottery and she held several shows in New York, San Francisco, and Phoenix. Several department stores, including Nieman Marcus and Gumps, also began to feature her pottery. During the 1940s, Wood began making figurative art in addition to more traditional pots. In 1947, for example, she included a large blue fish with white spots in an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science, and Art. As her skills developed, Wood moved to a new home and studio in Ojai, California. By 1950, Wood was experimenting with luster surfaces, pottery with a metallic glaze that gives the effect of iridescence. These lusterware plates, in addition to her decorative figures and traditional ceramics, were sold at her studio, advertised with a sign out front that read "Beatrice Wood: Fine Pottery, Reasonable and Unreasonable."
In 1961, Wood visited India as a cultural ambassador, sponsored by the State Department. She toured the country and showed her work in fourteen cities. She became enamoured with Indian decorative arts and began to weave shimmering gold and silver threads into her palatte. Wood returned a second time in 1965 at the invitation of the Indian government. It was during this trip that she decided to adopt the sari as her style of dress, a style she continued until her death in 1998. She made her third and last trip to India in 1971. Her book,
33rd Wife of a Maharajah
is about her adventures in India.
Wood always enjoyed writing, recording her daily activities in a diary and creating stories about her experiences with friends and colleagues. She published her first book,
Angel Who Wore Black Tights
in 1982, followed by her autobiography,
I Shock Myself
, in 1985.
Wood considered her last 25 years as her most productive. In addition to her literary publications, Wood also had several successful exhibitions, including
Intimate Appeal: The Figurative Art of Beatrice Wood
at the Oakland Museum in 1990 and
Beatrice Wood: A Centennial Tribute
at New York's American Craft Museum in 1997. The film,
Beatrice Wood: The Mama of Dada
, was filmed on the occasion of her 100th birthday in 1993. She died in Ojai, California in 1998, nine days after her 105th birthday.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1924-1993 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1910-1998 (Box 1-8; 7.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Business Records, 1909-1988 (Box 9-11, 26, OV 31; 3.5 linear feet)
Series 4: Notes and Writings, circa 1912-1997 (Box 11-16, 27; 5.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Diaries, 1915-1998 (Box 17-20; 4 linear feet)
Series 6: Glaze Books, circa 1930-1997 (Box 21-22, 27-30; 2.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1940-1997 (Box 23, OV 31; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 8: Photographic Material, 1913-1997 (Box 24, 30; 1 linear foot)
Series 9: Artwork, 1917-1991 (Box 24-25, 30; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 10: Stephen Hoag papers, 1906-1960 (Box 25; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 11: Esther Rosencranz papers, 1894-1959 (Box 25; 0.1 linear feet)
Beatrice Wood donated her papers in several accretions between 1976 and 2002. Additional material was donated by Francis Naumann in 1993 and the Beatrice Wood Personal Property Trust in 1999. Material from a 1977 loan was included in Wood's later donations.
Location of Originals
  • Many letters: Originals in the possession of Beatrice Wood.
Processing Information note
Portions of the collection received a preliminary level of processing for microfilming on reels 1236 and 3483-3500; these reels are no longer in circulation. Material loaned for microfilming in 1977 was later donated. All accretions, as well as three collections that were previously cataloged separately were fully integrated as one collection and processed by Diana Shenk and digitized in 2011 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation of American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2011 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Personal tax returns, duplicate materials, and slides have not been scanned. Exhibition catalogs, published monographs, and miscellaneous printed material have had their covers and relevant pages scanned. Business papers of Wood's husband Stephen Hoag and papers created by Wood's aunt Esther Rosencratz were not scanned.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Beatrice Wood papers, 1894-1998, bulk 1930-1990. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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