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Bessie Potter Vonnoh papers, circa 1860-1991, bulk 1890-1955

Vonnoh, Bessie Potter, 1872-1955


The papers of Bessie Potter Vonnoh in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 731 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 0.8 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of sculptor Bessie Potter Vonnoh measure 0.8 linear feet and date from circa 1860 to 1991, with the bulk of material dating from 1890 to 1955. The scattered papers document the personal life and career of Bessie Potter Vonnoh, and, to a lesser degree, her husband, painter Robert William Vonnoh. Found within the papers are Vonnoh family correspondence, including letters between Bessie and Robert, and professional and personal correspondence, primarily Bessie's. The collection also contains scattered biographical materials, photographs of the Vonnohs, a photograph album, photographs of artwork, clippings, exhibition catalogs, and other printed material.

Biographical/Historical Note

Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872-1955) was born in St. Louis, Missouri to Alexander and Mary McKenney Potter. In 1874, after the death of her father, her family moved to Chicago. Also at this time, she suffered from a series of illnesses that she did not recover from until she was ten. In school she enjoyed clay-modeling class and decided at an early age that she wanted to be a sculptor. Beginning in 1890 she studied with Lorado Taft at the Art Institute of Chicago and later became one of his assistants (known as the "White Rabbits") for the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. She was also given her own commission for the Illinois building at the fair. After this success, Vonnoh opened her own studio in Chicago and made plaster figurines of society women, friends, and their children. She visited New York and took her first trip to Paris in 1895, visiting the studios of many eminent sculptors such as Auguste Rodin. Her work was influenced by the American Impressionist movement, depicted in one of her most famous works, Young Mother. This piece was exhibited in the National Sculpture Society exhibition of 1898 and led to several public sculpture commissions.


The collection was donated in 1995 by Lulette Jenness Thompson, a cousin of Bessie Potter Vonnoh.

Language Note

English .


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