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Chester Beach papers, 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999

Chester Beach papers, 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999

Beach, Chester, 1881-1956


Collection Information

Size: 7.3 linear feet

Summary: The Chester Beach papers measure 7.3 linear feet and are dated 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999. Biographical material, project files, business records, correspondence, artist-designed Christmas cards sent and received by the Beach family, artwork by Beach and others, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs document the Beaux Arts sculptor's work and professional activities, as well as his family's efforts to exhibit and sell work from the estate.

Biographical/Historical Note

Chester Beach (1881-1956) was a sculptor and medalist in New York, N.Y.


The Chester Beach papers were donated in 2009 by the estate of Eleanor Beach Fitchen, Chester Beach's daughter, through her grandson and executor, John Fitchen.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Chester Beach Papers, 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999, in the Archives of American Art
Finding aid prepared by Catherine S. Gaines
Biographical/Historical note
Sculptor Chester Beach (1881-1956) was known for portrait busts, allegorical and mythological figures, coins and medallic art in the Beaux-Arts tradition. He lived and worked in New York City and Brewster, New York.
Chester Beach, son of Chilion Beach and Elizabeth Ferris Beach, was born in San Francisco on May 23, 1881. Beach initially studied at the California School of Mechanical Arts in 1899. He remained in San Francisco and between 1900 and 1902 continued his art training at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art while working as a jewelry designer. To further his career and exposure to artistic trends, Beach moved to New York City in 1903. The following year, he went to Paris, enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and also studied with Raoul Verlet at the Académie Julian.
Upon his return to New York in 1907, Beach established a studio on Tenth Street. He won the National Academy of Design's Barnett Prize for sculpture in 1907 and the Academy elected him an Associate Artist the following year. His increased stature resulted in numerous portrait commissions and eventually lead to commissions for monuments and architectural sculpture. In 1910, Chester Beach married Eleanor Hollis Murdock, a painter he met when both were art students in Paris. The couple spent the next two years in Rome; for several years and after returning Beach continued to spend time in Italy and maintained a studio in Rome.
Solo exhibitions of Beach's work were presented at Macbeth Gallery (1912), Pratt Institute (1913), Cincinnati Art Museum (1916), John Herron Art Institute (1916), and Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester (1917). In addition to frequent participation in annual exhibitions at the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Beach was represented in the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1915), and in group shows at venues including: Art Institute of Chicago, Boston Art Club, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, and National Arts Club.
The gold medal presented by Académie Julian (1905), Beach's first award, was followed by many other prizes, among them: American Numismatic Society prize for a medal commemorating the Peace of Versailles (1919) and its Saltus Medal for distinguished medallic art (1946); Architectural League of New York gold medal (1924); National Academy of Design Barnett Prize (1907) and Watrous gold medal (1926); National Arts Club medal and prizes (1923, 1926, 1932); and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition silver medal (1915).
Beach was an Academician of the National Academy of Design, a member of the American Numismatic Society, Architectural League of New York, National Arts Club, National Institute of Arts and Letters, and the National Sculpture Society (President, 1927-1928).
For more than 40 years, Beach lived and worked at 207 East 17th Street. The brownstone, purchased in 1913, was large enough for the family's home, his studio, and additional studios that were rented to other artists. Through barter, Beach acquired land in Brewster, NY, and in 1917 hired Italian stonemasons to build a studio. Later, they erected a summer house for the family. Many old stone walls on the site provided material for both buildings and Beach named the property Oldwalls.
After a long illness, Chester Beach died at Oldwalls on August 6, 1956. The funeral service was held at his Brewster, NY, studio and he is buried in Cold Spring Cemetery, Cold Spring, NY.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 10 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1910-1947 (Box 1; 4 folders)
Series 2: Project Files, 1846-1999 (Boxes 1-2, 11, OV 12-13; 1.6 linear ft.)
Series 3: Business Records, circa 1900-1958 (Box 2; 0.4 linear ft.)
Series 4: Writings, 1913-1935 (Box 3; 2 folders)
Series 5: Correspondence, 1875, 1933-1996 (Box 3; 0.5 linear ft.)
Series 6: Christmas Cards, 1909-1961 (Boxes 3-4; 0.7 linear ft.)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1900-1955 (Boxes 4, 11; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1903-1972 (Box 10; 0.3 linear ft.)
Series 9: Printed Material, 1910-1997 (Box 4; 0.4 linear ft.)
Series 10: Photographs, circa 1885-circa 1960s (Boxes 4-9, 11, 14; 3.1 linear ft.)
Scope and Contents note
The Chester Beach papers measure 7.3 linear feet and are dated 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999. The work and professional activities of Beaux Arts sculptor Chester Beach (1881-1956) and his family's efforts to exhibit and sell work from the estate are documented by project files, business records, correspondence, scrapbooks, printed material, and photographs. The papers also include many artist-designed Christmas cards sent and received by the Beach family, and artwork by Chester Beach and others.
Biographical material consists of biographical notes, identification cards and a membership certificate.
Project files contain correspondence, financial records, notes, drawings and plans, research materials, printed matter, and photographs that document commissions for sculpture, medals and coins, monuments, and Beach's own projects. Among the most thoroughly documented projects are a fountain sculpture for the grounds of the Cleveland Museum of Art (
Fountain of the Waters
, and
) and the
Edward W. Bok Memorial
in Mountain Lake, Florida; both commissions were executed in conjunction with the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted.
Business records include Chester Beach's general business correspondence and correspondence concerning consignments. An address book records names, addresses, and occasionally indicates prices of services and supplies used by the sculptor. Other record books detail expenses and income of the studio building Beach owned,with a list of the effects of the former owner, sculptor William Couper; bronzes cast; sales, with titles, prices, and buyers; and names and addresses of clients, dealers, and suppliers; and instructions for cleaning and bronzing plaster.
Family correspondence consists mainly of letters, many mentioning Chester Beach, addressed to Mrs. Chester Beach and daughter Eleanor Beach Fitchen. Estate correspondence and related documents concern efforts to exhibit, sell, and research Beach's remaining work. These records, for the most part, were created by Mrs. Fitchen who acted as sales agent, ran the Chester Beach Memorial Studio, and maintained the Beach archive. Of particular interest is a series of letters from Brenda Kuhn that relate what she learned from handling the estate of her father, Walt Kuhn; in addition, she offered ideas and advice about exhibitions, the Memorial Studio, and the Beach Centennial.
Beach designed his family's annual Christmas cards, most of which incorporate images of their three daughters. A complete set, preserved in an album, includes a few later cards that reproduce artwork by his widow. Many of the cards received - some with original artwork - are from artist friends, among them: Ernest Blumenschein, Edward W. Greacen, Hazel Brill Jackson, Paul Jennewein, Bonnie Leibig, F. Luis Mora, Robert Nisbet, and Ezra Winter. Also of note are a card from Walker Hancock bearing a photograph of his studio; a painting of Beach's
at Brookgreen Gardens, reproduced on Anna Hyatt Huntington's card; and a card from Beach patron Mary Jester Allen containing a brief note about the Frontier Art Colony she had established near Cody, Wyoming.
Among the drawings and sketches by Chester Beach are student work, designs for some of his Christmas cards, and a sketchbook containing drawings of sculpture. Work by other artists consists of prints, including one by Ezra Winter.
Three scrapbooks, largely comprised of newspaper clipping and other printed material, contain a variety of other items, including: Letters from the American Academy in Rome, Architectural League of New York, Ecole des Beaux Arts, Daniel Chester French, Hazel Brill Jackson, Frederick MacMonnies, National Academy of Design, National Sculpture Society, Jessica B. Piexotto, and Salon d'Autome. Awards and certificates from the National Academy of Design, Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Bookplates and a place card Beach etched for Mr. and Mrs. George Davison; and an unfinished poem by FitzRoy Carrington. Photographs are of a night school class Beach attended at the Mark Hopkins Art Institute in San Francisco, Beach at work in his studio, and a portrait of him painted by G. Laurance Nelson.
Printed material includes Panama-Pacific International Exposition guide books, brochures about the Chester Beach Memorial Studio in Brewster, NY, and catalogs for solo and group exhibitions.
Photographs of artwork are mainly of Chester Beach's sculpture and include views of work in progress. Also found are photographs of drawings and sculpture from his student years in California and Paris. Pictures of work by other artists are portraits of Chester Beach painted by G. Laurance Nelson and by his daughter, Natalie Beach McLaury. Among the photographs of Chester Beach are several by Gertrude Kasebier, circa 1910. Other pictures show Beach in his studio, Beach with family and friends, and a "Dinner tendered to Edmund W. Greacen by Samuel T. Shaw, Salmagundi Club, March 2, 1922." Places documented are Beach's boyhood home in San Francisco, the interiors of his studios, and Brookgreen Gardens. Miscellaneous subjects are nude models.
The Chester Beach papers were donated in 2009 by the estate of Eleanor Beach Fitchen, Chester Beach's daughter, through her grandson and executor, John Fitchen.
Separated Materials note
Portions of the Chester Beach papers were loaned by Eleanor Beach Fitchen in 1967 and 1968 for microfilming on reels N727-N729 and N68-11; some of these papers were not included in the 2009 gift and are still available on microfilm and for interlibrary loan. The loaned materials are not described in the container listing of this finding aid but include passports, genealogical materials, photograph albums, travel sketches, travel diaries of Mrs. Beach, and business and family correspondence. Loaned obituary letters on reel N68-11 are also referenced in a scrapbook in Series 8.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed in 2011 by Catherine Gaines. One item was previously microfilmed on reel 1817 and has been integrated with the bulk of the papers; the reel is no longer in circulation. Earlier loaned material is available only on microfilm. The glass plate negatives were re-processed and the finding aid updated by Anna Rimel in 2014 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Additional Forms Available

Materials loaned for microfilming are available on reels N727-N729 and N68-11 and for interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is being processed and digitized and is CLOSED to researchers.

How to Cite This Collection

Chester Beach papers, 1846-1999, bulk circa 1900-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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