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Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers, 1872-2004, bulk 1904-2004

Bernarda Bryson Shahn papers, 1872-2004, bulk 1904-2004

Bryson, Bernarda, 1903-2004

Painter, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 14.5 linear feet

Biographical/Historical Note

Bernarda Bryson Shahn (1903-2004) was a painter and printmaker from Roosevelt, New Jersey. Bernarda was the wife of artist Ben Shahn.

Provenance

Donated 1983 by Bernarada Bryson Shahn and in 2005 and 2011 by Bernarda Brsyon Shahn estate via Jonathan Shahn and Abigail Shahn, co-executors.

Related Materials

Scope and Contents

The papers of painter, printmaker, and illustrator Bernarda Bryson Shahn measure 11.9 linear feet and date from 1872 to 2004, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1904-2004. Found within the papers are family and biographical materials, correspondence, writings including sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns, voluminous notebooks, five diaries, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, seven scrapbooks, one sketchbook and other art work, and photographs. Although the bulk of the collection documents Bernarda's work, there are materials about or created by Ben Shahn scattered throughout the collection.

Biographical material includes biographical accounts for Bernarda and Ben Shahn, identification cards, membership cards, awards, appointment books and calendars, address books, and a Japanese videotape about Ben Shahn.

Correspondence is primarily between Bernarda Shahn and publishers, educational institutions, and colleagues and friends including Leo Lionni, Russell Lynes, Robert Osborn, and Warren Robbins.

There are four linear feet of notes, notebooks, typescripts, and other writings by Bernarda Shahn and others, many of which concern Ben Shahn. Included are numerous files of research notes for published and planned books about Ben Shahn, notebooks concerning art-related topics, card files of art work, lists, sound recordings of lectures by the Shahns and Gwen Knight, and many typescripts of writings about art and Ben Shahn, among other topics. There is also a folder of notes by Ben Shahn for the Mural for the Rural Rehabilitation Program. Five of Bernarda Shahn's diaries contain very brief daily entries and some illustrations. The 1972 diary contains much more elaborate illustrations.

The exhibition files contain letters, notes, and printed material concerning exhibitions of art work by Ben Shahn.

Personal business records include files concerning property, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, miscellaneous contracts, files concerning publishing, art price lists, and other scattered legal and/or financial records.

Printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, press releases for Bernarda Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others, books including, "A Partridge in a Pear Tree," illustrated by Ben Shahn, and printed reproductions of art work. Seven scrapbooks also contain printed materials, notes, and photographs. Scrapbooks 1-4 document the creation of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial for which Jonathan Shahn created the large portrait bust. Scrapbooks 5-7 concern a book by Bernarda Shahn, and scrapbook 8 contains obituaries for Ben Shahn.

Art work includes a sketchbook with annotations, drawings, a portfolio of drawings, lettering designs, watercolor sketches, and layouts for publications.

Photographs are of unidentified and identified Shahn family members, Ben Shahn, Ben Shahn with friends and colleagues including Alexander Calder, Helen Hayes, Senator Jacob Javitz, and Nelson Rockefeller, Ben Shahn's studio, exhibition installations, and art work by Bernarda Shahn, Ben Shahn, and others. There are also travel photographs.

An addition of 2.6 linear feet donated in 2011 includes administrative files regarding Bernarda Shahn's work on the board of Skowhegan consisting of correspondence, contact lists, newsletters, notes, mission statements, and by-laws; correspondence of both Bernarda and Ben Shahn; an inventory ledger with names of works of art by Ben Shahn; a scrapbook containing clippings and photographs from an exhibition of Ben Shahn's work in Japan; photographs of Ben and Bernarda Shahn at parties, exhibitions, and events, installation photographs of Ben Shahn's 1947 MoMA retrospective, and contact prints of Ben Shahn's works of art; Ben and Bernarda Shahn's sketchbooks and notebooks; and small exhibition catalogs, playbills, and gallery announcements regarding exhibitions of Ben and Bernarda Shahn's work.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

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