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Claire Falkenstein papers, circa 1914-1997, bulk 1940-1990

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Diana Shenk
Scope and Contents
The papers of sculptor, painter, jewelry designer, and teacher Claire Falkenstein measure 42.8 linear feet and date from 1917 to her death in 1997. There is extensive correspondence with fellow artists, collectors, critics, friends, museums, and galleries. The collection also contains biographical materials, much of it collected and organized by Falkenstein, personal and business records, writings, diaries, exhibition files, commission files, teaching files, photographs, original artwork, scrapbooks, and printed materials. There is a short motion picture film of an interview with Falkenstein featuring the windows she designed for St. Basil's Church in Los Angeles.
Biographical material includes appointment calendars, awards and honorary degrees, interview transcripts, passports, resumes, wills, and scrapbooks. Scrapbooks were compiled by Falkenstein and focus primarily on her exhibitions at the Galerie Stadler and Gallery Meyer in 1959 and 1960. Also of interest are the "biography files" created and arranged by Falkenstein. These files contain material that she personally felt was the most important in documenting her activities each year. They include correspondence, exhibition catalogs, printed material, and invitations.
Measuring nine linear feet, correspondence is extensive and comprehensively documents Falkenstein's work, social life, relationships, and other business and personal activities. Correspondence dates from 1941 to 1997 and includes business letters and correspondence with friends and family. Her communications with friends, family, clients, gallery owners, collectors, museums, publishers, foundations, and grant agencies reveal many of her ideas and techniques. Individual correspondents include Ray Green, Peggy Guggenheim, Katharine Kuh, May O'Donnell, Ken Sawyer, Clyfford and Pat Still, Michel Tapie, Allan Temko, Mark Tobey, and Frans Wildenhain. Gallery and museum correspondence is with the San Francisco Museum of Art, Coos Art Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Art, Galerie Stadler (Paris), Gallery Mayer (Paris), Malvina Miller (New York), Martha Jackson Gallery (New York), Jack Rutberg Fine Arts (Los Angeles), Galerie Anderson-Mayer (Paris), and Bolles Gallery. Correspondence is also found in the Commission Files and Exhibition Files.
Personal and business records contain a wide variety of material documenting Falkenstein's business, financial, legal, professional, and personal transactions. Files are found for sales and prices, art inventories, smaller jewelry commissions, her work as a juror, her business with galleries, legal affairs and contracts, expenses, records of arts organizations to which she belonged, conferences, grants and fellowships, studio and house renovations, her Paris studio and Paris expenses, travel, donations, loans and consignments, conservation, art shipping, insurance, and taxes. Oversized visitor's logs contain comments from visitors to Falkenstein's studio in Venice, California.
Falkenstein maintained comprehensive documentation of her exhibitions from her first exhibition in the 1930s to the last one at the Merging One Gallery in 1996. Files include both a chronological record and individual record for nearly all of her exhibitions. Found with the files are correspondence, photographs, loan and shipping records, catalogs, announcements, clippings, articles, and other records. Most of the photographs related to exhibitions are found in the Photographs Series. The files for exhibitions at the Fresno Art Museum, Martha Jackson Gallery and Jack Rutberg Fine Art Gallery are particularly rich.
Commission files document nearly all of Falkenstein's public and private large-scale projects and often contain a visual record of the work, as well as correspondence, design notes, contracts, and expense reports. There is documentation of the St. Basils Church windows in Los Angeles; the Peggy Guggenheim gate in Venice, Italy; and the fountain at the California Savings and Loan, in Los Angeles; and many others. There is also a chronological record of her commissions. The bulk of the photographs of commissions are found in the Photograph series. Also, most of Falkenstein's jewelry design commissions are found in the Personal and Business Records series.
Falkenstein's work as a prolific writer, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, is well-documented here through her numerous published articles in Arts and Architecture magazine, and the New York Herald-Tribune. Her work for Arts and Architecture was primarily written for the "Art Comments from San Francisco" section. She was living in Paris when she contributed an art news column to the New York Herald-Tribune. Also found here are five diaries and one journal dating from circa 1929-1978. The entries are inconsistent and concern mostly travel. The diaries from 1929 and 1934 are more personal. Falkenstein also maintained extensive notes and notebooks about artwork ideas, observations about art, research, and even drafts of letters. There are also many notes about various topics, including art and class notes. Additional writings are eclectic and cover a wide range of topics, including music, poetry, the script for Falkestein's film entitled Touching the Quick, and drafts of her unpublished book on murals. A handful of writings by others are found, most with annotations by Falkenstein.
Teaching files include Falkenstein's numerous lectures given while teaching at Mills College, Pond Farm Workshops, and California School of Fine Arts, and various symposiums and conferences. Also found are lesson plans, contracts, scattered correspondence, and notes. The files on her tenure at the Pond Farm Workshops are particularly interesting, with notes about her fellow teacher Frans Wildenhain and correspondence with workshop owners, Jane and Gordon Herr.
There are extensive photographs of Falkenstein, her family and friends, colleagues, commissions, exhibitions, and works of art. Included are many images of Falkenstein, of Falkenstien with her art, of Falkentstien working, and of Falkenstein's studio. There are numerous photographs of Falkenstein with friends, family, and colleagues in social or work settings. Also found are photographs of exhibition openings, installation views, and works of art exhibited. Additional photographs document Falkenstein's commissions, including images of her at work. Additional images of commissions may also be found in the Commission Series, but the bulk are filed here. There are numerous photographs of Falkenstein's works of art, including drawings, sculpture, jewelry, murals, lamps, and ceramics.
Falkenstein's papers include a large amount of sketches, sketchbooks, and drawings. Many of the sketches and drawings relate to her ideas about commissions and large sculpture, jewelry designs, and general sketches. Sketches are also found in the Commission Files. Also included are drawings by Mark Tobey and Michel Tapie, and others.
Finally, printed materials include general exhibition catalogs, newspapers clippings, and clippings of articles by and about Falkenstein. Also included are books that have been inscribed and signed by the author.
The Claire Falkenstein papers were donated in 1997 by Steffan Wacholtz and Nancy Kendall, trustees for the Claire Falkenstein Trust.
Related Material
The Archives of American Art also holds two oral history interviews with Claire Falkenstein. The interview on April 13, 1965 was conducted by Betty Hoag and the one on March 2 and 21, 1995 was conducted by Paul Karlstrom.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Getty Foundation.
Processing Information
The collection was processed by Diana Shenk in 2009 with funding provided by The Getty Foundation.