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Carl Bohnen papers, 1888-1977

More Information

Jean Fitzgerald
Scope and Contents
The papers of portrait painter Carl Bohnen date from 1888-1977, and measure 3.7 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials; correspondence among family, clients, and colleagues; scattered business records; a sketchbook and loose sketches; miscellaneous notes and writings; three scrapbooks of clippings and additional printed materials. Photographs are of Bohnen, family members, colleagues, views of Paris in the late 1920s, Native American models, portrait clients, and artwork.
Biographical material includes miscellaneous Bohnen family histories and chronologies of Bohnen's career, Bohnen's marriage certificate, school transcripts, and copies of his burial certificate.
Family correspondence consists of letters exchanged between Bohnen, his wife, siblings, and children. General correspondence is with colleagues including Carl Von Marr, and portrait clients including Constance Collier, John Erskine, Edna Ferber, and Frank B. Kellogg. The letters are often emotional and illustrate occasionally volatile relationships between Bohnen, his clients, and his children. Also included are condolence letters received by the family following Bohnen's death.
Business records include a contract for financial backing of artistic activities, insurance records, miscellaneous receipts, and a file concerning the elderly Bohnen's injuries on an American Airlines flight bringing him from California to live with his son in Chicago.
Artwork found within the papers consists of a sketchbook, miscellaneous sketches, hand-lettered signs for Bohnen's portrait business, etchings by Bohnen and others, a bronze plaque displaying a self-portrait of Bohnen, and etching plates. Scattered notes and writings include typescripts of speeches, plays, and poems.
Three scrapbooks of clippings and additional printed material consisting of loose clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and reproductions of artwork offer a good overview of Bohnen's career.
Photographs are primarily of Bohnen's artwork and protrait clients. Two photograph albums contain scattered photographs of Bohnen, family members, colleagues, and artwork. Other photographs are of Bohnen at his easel, family members, colleagues including sculptor Paul Dubois working in his studio, artist Grace Neal, and views of Paris. There are also photographs of Native American models in ceremonial headdresses. Photographs of clients include Sarah Bernhardt, William Jennings Bryan, Enrico Caruso, Fritz Feld, Mary Garden, and Helen Hayes, among others.
The Carl Bohnen papers were donated in 1978 by the artist's daughter-in-law, Dorothy Clark Bohnen, and his granddaughter, Blythe Bohnen.
Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.
Processing Information
The Carl Bohnen papers were processed in January 2008 by Jean Fitzgerald. Glass plate negatives were re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.