Skip to main content

Biesel family papers, 1859-1983, bulk 1915-1983

Biesel, family


Collection Information

Size: 3.1 Linear feet, (partially microfilmed on 3 reels)

Summary: Correspondence, essays, subject files, art work, clippings and other materials documenting the activities of a Chicago family of artists, the 57th Street Art Colony and the Chicago art world in the early twentieth century.
REELS 4207-4209: Biographical materials, including seven biographical accounts, a 1960 program and a 1961 certificate of honor for Frances Strain Biesel and four biographical accounts of Fred Biesel; correspondence, 1927-1963, primarily concerning activities of Fred and Frances; price lists for works of art; a 1955 estate list of the works of Charles Biesel; mailing lists; miscellaneous receipts, 1928-1961; a notebook, 1931-1934, containing addresses and financial notations concerning the sale of works of art.
writings, including two essays, "Is It Futuristic or Cubistic?" and "The 57th Street Colony," 2 untitled essays concerning the perception of modern art, a short story about an appointment with Charles Biesel, lecture notes by Fred Biesel, "War and Arts Exhibition" (Renaissance Society), an untitled lecture at the University of Chicago Art Gallery, "The Story of Modern Art" (Beverly Hills, 1957), lecture notes concerning printmaking, and a 1945 typescript annotated as the "Bohrod talk." Also included are
subject files, 1939-1962, containing correspondence and printed material on the Federal Art Project (Index of American Design), Renaissance Society, Artists Equity Association, Artists Union of Chicago, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Society of Artists, and the 1020 Club; art works, including six sketchbooks and miscellaneous drawings, 1907-1919, by the Biesels, a sketchbook, 1859-1878, by William T. Richards, 3 prints, 1928-1932, by Emil Armin, and a 1930 print by Frances Foy;
photographs, 1919-1960, of Biesel family members, friends, a costume party with John Sloan (2), art classes,1920 and 1950, at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Layton School of Milwaukee, "The Ten" opening reception at the Marshall Field Galleries, 1929 (2), Artists Equity members and activities, 1947-1948 (3), and of works of art;
and printed materials, including a scrapbook of clippings, 1915-1916, compiled by Charles Biesel, a scrapbook, 1926-1931, concerning "Ten Artists", clippings, 1897-1962, exhibition announcements and catalogs, 1921-1983, for Biesel and others, including 11 catalogs from the Chicago No-Jury Society of Artists, a 1923 souvenir program for the No-Jury Artists "Cubist Ball", and miscellany.
UNMICROFILMED: Papers, 1934-1944, relating to Fred Biesel's work for the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project in Illinois, including correspondence with John Walley, Increase Robinson, George Thorp, Franklin D. Roosevelt and others; printed material, 1934-1941, including the newsletter "Chicago Artist," 1937, published by the Artists Union of Chicago, and several exhibition catalogs of the National Exhibition of the Index of American Design; a 25 p. typescript of a speech by Holger Cahill; a teachers handbook with silk-screen illustrations of "Let the Artist Speak"; business records including project proposals for the W.P.A.; and Biesel's letter of resignation, 1943.

Biographical/Historical Note

Family of artists. Charles Biesel: marine painter, student of William Trost Richards; his son, Fred Biesel, a painter and art administrator; and Fred's wife, Frances Strain Biesel, a painter and director of the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago for many years.


Microfilmed material donated 1985 by Garnett Biesel, son of Fred Biesel; he donated unmicrofilmed material in 1990, after it had been used in preparation for the book The Federal Art Project in Illinois, 1935-1943 (1990), by George Mavigliano and Richard Lawson.

Language Note

English .

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 4207-4209 available at Archives of American Art offices, through interlibrary loan and at the Art Institute of Chicago Ryerson Library.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Biesel family papers, 1859-1983, bulk 1915-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.