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Clay Spohn papers, circa 1862-1985, bulk 1890-1985

Contents and Arrangement

The collection is arranged into three parts. Part 1 was lent to the Archives of American Art in 1964 by Clay Spohn, and was microfilmed and returned to Spohn. Part 2 was donated to the Archives of American Art by Urban Neininger in 1978 and was partially microfilmed. Because material from part 2 was not processed until over three decades after filming Part 1, the overall organization is inconsistent. In general, material within folders is arranged chronologically.

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Series 1: Clay Spohn Papers (Microfilm) , 1926-1963, undated

  • 1.1: Sketchbooks, 1926-1927
  • 1.2: Writings, 1963
  • 1.3: Correspondence and Related Material, 1939-1954, undated
1.1: Sketchbooks, 1926-1927
The three sketchbooks found here contain notes and annotated drawings made by Spohn during his stay in Paris. Sketchbook I contains a drawing of Hemingway's friend, Musgrave, at Le Dome, schematic drawings for a "portable studio," and notes about what to take to Giverny. Sketchbook II contains a self-portrait drawing and one drawing each of Musgrave and Duff Twisden, Hemingway's model for "Brett" in The Sun Also Rises, with whom Spohn became acquainted in the cafes of Paris. Sketchbook III contains designs for chairs and notes giving advice on art.
Description Container
Sketchbook I, [1926]
D169
Sketchbook II, 1926-1927
D169
Sketchbook III, 1926-1927
D169
1.2: Writings, 1963
Writings consist of Spohn's reminiscences in the form of a 100-page letter to sculptor and art historian Mary Fuller McChesney. He answers questions about his career and describes, with words and drawings, his works for the exhibition The Museum of Unknown and Little Known Objects at the California School of Fine Arts in 1949.
Description Container
Writings (entitled "Reminiscences" on microfilm), 1963
D169
1.3: Correspondence and Related Material, 1939-1954, undated
Found here is a letter from Reginald Vaughn discussing the acquisition of Spohn's Los Gatos mural for the Morrison Center for Rehabilitation, a letter from the W.P.A. office concerning exhibitions, and three clippings. Also found are twelve photographs of artwork (primarily Spohn's murals) including: the mural The Legend of New Almaden; mural for a post office in Montebello, California; a mural for Castro Valley community center; a mural Fireman Save My Child for Volunteer Fire Department in Carmel, California; scale drawings of Benimino Bufano's proposed statue for Twin Peaks, San Francisco; and the lithograph Greek Legend.
Description Container
Letter from Reginald Vaughn, 1954
D169
Photographs of Work Executed Between, 1936-1939, undated
D169
Letter from W.P.A., 1939
D169
Clippings, 1936-1941
D169

Series 2: Clay Spohn Papers , circa 1862-1985, undated
(boxes 1-22, OV 23, 19.9 linear ft.)

  • 2.1: Biographical Material, 1892-circa 1978 (box 1, 0.3 linear feet)
  • 2.2: Correspondence, 1925-1981, undated (boxes 2-5, 4.7 linear feet)
  • 2.3: Business Records, 1890-1983 (boxes 6-7, 1.6 linear ft.)
  • 2.4: Notes and Writings, 1924-1985 (boxes 7-18, 10.8 linear ft.)
  • 2.5: Artwork, 1926-1968, undated (box 18, sol 22, OV 23, 0.6 linear ft.)
  • 2.6: Printed Material, 1894-1977, undated (boxes 18-19, 1.5 linear ft.)
  • 2.7: Photographs, circa 1862-1977, undated (boxes 20-21, 0.5 linear ft.)
  • 2.8: Artifacts, undated (box 21, 1 folder)
2.1: Biographical Material, 1892-circa 1978
(box 1, 0.3 linear feet)
Biographical material includes a variety of official documentation for Spohn and his parents. Documents concerning Spohn's parents include their marriage license. Documents concerning Spohn include his baptismal certificate, passport, the contents of two wallets, membership and identity cards, biographical sketches, two wills, and Spohn's death certificate. There is also a typescript biography of Spohn, "Life of a Painter," by David R. Beasley.
Description Container
Documents Concerning Spohn's parents, 1892-1916
1
1
Documents Concerning Clay Spohn
Baptismal Certificate, 1898
1
2
Naval Discharge Papers, 1918
1
3
Passport and Identity Card for Travel in France, 1925-1926
1
4
Contents of Wallet 1, 1941-1953
1
5
Contents of Wallet 2, 1966-1977
1
6
Membership Cards, 1951-1966
1
7
Miscellaneous Identity Cards, 1958-1965
1
8
Biographical Sketches and Résumés, 1932-1971
1
9-11
Spohn's Medical History, 1964
1
12
Wills, 1950-1969
1
13
Death Certificate, 1977
1
14
Typescript biography "Life of a Painter" by David R. Beasley, circa 1978
1
15
2.2: Correspondence, 1925-1981, undated
(boxes 2-5, 4.7 linear feet)
Correspondence is between Spohn and his colleagues, including two letters from Alexander Calder, eight letters from Mark Rothko, and twenty-eight letters from Clyfford Still.
See Appendix for an alphabetical list of correspondents from Series 2.2.
Description Container
Correspondence, 1925-May, 1953, undated
Reel 5461
1
16-52
Correspondence, June, 1953-1955
Reel 5462
1
53-71
Correspondence, 1956-July 13-16, 1958
Reel 5462
2
1-16
Correspondence, July 13-16, 1958-June, 1963
Reel 5463
2
17-58
Correspondence, June, 1963-April-June, 1967
Reel 5464
3
1-35
Correspondence, April-June, 1967-October, 1969
Reel 5465
3
36-57
Correspondence, November, 1969-February 1-10, 1970
Reel 5465
4
1-6
Correspondence, February 1-10, 1970-April 21-30, 1971
Reel 5466
4
7-30
Correspondence, April 21-30, 1971-January 1-19, 1973
Reel 5467
4
31-55
Correspondence, Jan 1-19, 1973-March, 1973
Reel 5468
4
56-59
Correspondence, April, 1973-September, 21-30, 1974
Reel 5468
5
1-18
Correspondence, October, 1974-March-May, 1976
Reel 5469
5
19-40
Correspondence, June 3, 1976-1981
Reel 5470
5
41-61
2.3: Business Records, 1890-1983
(boxes 6-7, 1.6 linear feet)
Business records primarily consist of Spohn's general accounting records, account books, banking records, contracts, inventories of artwork sold, records of support from the Lannan Foundation, records concerning Spohn's house in Taos, and miscellaneous receipts for healthcare, travel, art supplies, photographic services, and shipping. This subseries also includes documents concerning the companies managed by Spohn's father, John H. Spohn, and the patents and estate papers of Spohn's brother, John H. Spohn, Jr. These can be found at the beginning of the subseries.
Description Container
John H. Spohn, 1890-1928
6
1
John H. Spohn, Jr., 1940-1950
6
2-4
General Accounts, 1950-1975
6
5-7
Account Books, 1932-1976
(18 books)
6
8-25
Banking Records, 1943-1977
6
26-53
Contract and Financial Records (mural on Bob's Fine Food restaurant), 1945-1946
6
54
Contract and Consignment Records for The Little Gallery, Taos, NM, 1957
6
55
Inventory of Artwork in the Estate of Clay Spohn, 1981-1983
6
56
Records of Artwork Sold, 1941-1970
6
57-59
Records of Support from the Lannan Foundation, 1961-1962
7
1-6
Records of Stocks, 1939-1969
7
7
Insurance, 1973
7
8
Spohn's House in Taos, 1952-1977
7
9-14
Receipts, 1933-1978
7
15-24
2.4: Notes and Writings, 1924-1985, undated
(boxes 7-18, 10.8 linear feet)
This subseries contains miscellaneous notes and writings and includes 188 notebooks, address lists, a card file of book titles, Spohn's "Subject Location," "Index and Date," and "School of Visual Arts" files, and two typescripts by other writers. The miscellaneous notes and writings, and the notebooks, are concerned with various topics, often intermingled, such as teaching notes; lists of names, books, and groceries needed; financial records for art supplies; Spohn's thoughts on philosophy and art; dietary advice; annotated studies and calculations concerning the "trisection of an arbitrary angle"; notes for his unpublished literary work "The Book," (sometimes entitled "The Actual Book" or "The Truth Book"); and brief and incomplete drafts written either for writing class assignments or for "The Book."
Files on the School of Visual Arts contains class schedules, grade sheets, and 37 notebooks of class assignments, records of student grades, notes for lectures, lists of books for teaching, writings about teaching, and notes on art supplies for class.
Description Container
Miscellaneous Notes and Writings, 1924-1985, undated
7
25-57
Miscellaneous Notes and Writings, 1951-1958
8
1-56
Miscellaneous Notes and Writings, 1959-June, 1962
9
1-57
Miscellaneous Notes and Writings, July, 1962-May, 1970
10
1-62
Miscellaneous Notes and Writings, June, 1970-1985
11
1-47
Notebooks 1-21, 1926-1927
11
48-63
Notebooks 22-76, 1927-1962
12
1-48
Notebooks 77-105, 1962-1965
13
1-29
Notebooks 106-136, 1965-1968
14
1-23
Notebooks 137-163, 1968-1973
15
1-25
Notebooks 164-182, 1973-1976
16
1-19
Notebooks 183-188, 1976-1977
17
1-6
Address Lists, undated
Reel 5470
17
7
Card File of Book Titles, 1959-1976
Reel 5470
17
8-12
Spohn's "Subject Location File", 1960-1961
Reel 5470
17
13
Spohn's "Index and Date File,", 1960-1961
Reel 5471
17
14-19
Notes from Private Trade School Teacher's Course at N.Y.U., 1965
Reel 5471
17
20-22
School of Visual Arts Notebook, 1964-1970
Reel 5471
17
23-33
School of Visual Arts Notebook, cont., 1964-1970
Reel 5471
18
1-12
Engagement Calendars, 1965, 1976
18
13-14
Typescript, "The Sickness of American Culture" by Reinhold Niebuhr, undated
18
15
Typescript, "Clay Spohn's Museum" by Douglas Macagy, 1965?
18
16
2.5: Artwork, 1926-1968, undated
(boxes 18, 22, and OV 23, 0.6 linear feet)
Artwork consists of 557 drawings, including 27 undated drawings of Washington D.C., and 14 sketchbooks.
Description Container
Drawings (see also box 22 and OV 23), 1926-1968, undated
18
17-38
Sketchbooks (see also box 22), 1925-1939
18
39-48
Oversized Drawings , 1926-1968, undated
22
1
Oversized Sketchbooks , 1925-1939
22
2
Oversized Drawings , 1926-1968, undated
OV 23
2.6: Printed Material, 1894-1977, undated
(boxes 18-19, 1.5 linear feet)
Printed material consists of clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Spohn and others, exhibition prospectuses, reproductions of artwork, calendars of events, programs, brochures, books, and miscellaneous printed material.
Description Container
Clippings, 1930-1939, undated
18
49-51
Clippings, 1941-1963
18
52-68
Clippings, 1964-1977
19
1-8
Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Spohn, 1939-1977
19
9-12
Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Others, 1940-1977
19
13-17
Exhibition Prospectuses, 1945-1954
19
18
Reproductions of Artwork, undated
19
19
Calendars of events, 1965-1977
19
20
Programs, 1965-1969
19
21
Brochures Concerning Taos Artists, undated
19
22
Brochures Concerning the School of Visual Arts, 1965-1969
19
23-24
Brochures Concerning Miscellaneous Schools, 1949-1967
19
25
Brochures Concerning the Oakland Museum, undated
19
26
Brochures Concerning Art Supplies, 1956-1963
19
27-29
Brochures Concerning Books, 1969, undated
19
30
Brochures Concerning Health, 1958-1973
19
31-35
Miscellaneous brochures, undated
19
36
Book, Riverside Recipes, 1894
19
37
Book, A Poet's Breath, by Judson Crews, 1950
19
38
Book, Painting and Sculpture, Published by the San Francisco Art Association, 1952
19
39
Book, Applied Teaching Techniques by Gilbert Weaver and Louis Cenci, 1960
19
40
Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1940-1958
19
41
2.7: Photographs, circa 1862-1977, undated
(boxes 20-22, 0.5 linear feet)
Photographs are of Spohn and his family, colleagues, studio, house in Taos, exhibition installations, and artwork. There are also photographs of San Francisco, including six views of damage done by the 1906 earthquake. Colleagues pictured in the photographs include Marion Karnes, Urban Neininger, Jeanne Reynal, Louis Ribak, Alfred Rogoway, and Maurice Sievan.
Photographs of artwork for projects by Spohn picture the following: an entrance hall mural for Officers Club, San Francisco (undated); a cartoon for copper repousee sculpture for Carmel, California, Volunteer Fire Department (1936); a cartoon for copper repousee sculpture for Castro Valley Community Center (1937); a mural for Montebello, California, post office (1938); and a mural for Los Gatos Union High School (1939).
Description Container
Spohn with Family Members, 1900-circa 1915
20
1-2
Clay Spohn (see also box 22), circa 1916-1974
20
3-6
Family Members
Spohn's Paternal Grandfather, [circa 1862]
(ambrotype)
20
7
Spohn's Grandmother, undated
20
8
Spohn's Mother (see also box 22), undated
20
9
Spohn's Father, circa 1890-1920
(including 7 tintypes)
20
10-12
Spohn's Parents, circa 1910s-1920s
20
13-14
Spohn's Brother and Friends, circa 1910-1940
20
15-17
Family Friends, circa 1910-1920s
20
18-20
Bell Moose Convention, 1917
20
21
Spohn's Colleagues, 1944-1974
20
22
Spohn's Childhood Home, circa 1900
20
23-24
San Francisco Earthquake Damage, 1906
20
25
From World War I, 1917
21
1
Views of San Francisco, 1932
21
2
Miscellaneous Travel Photographs, undated
21
3-5
Spohn's House in Taos, 1952-1970
21
6-8
Spohn's studio, 1977
21
9
Exhibition Installations, undated
21
10
Miscellaneous Artworks by Spohn (see also box 22), 1936-1977
21
11-13
Projects, Entrance Hall Mural for Officers Club, San Francisco, undated
21
14
Projects, Cartoon for Copper Repousee Sculpture for Carmel, California, Volunteer Fire Department, 1936
21
15
Projects, Cartoon for Copper Repousee Sculpture for Castro Valley Community Center, 1937
21
16
Projects, Mural for Montebello, California, Post Office, 1938
21
17
Projects, Mural for Los Gatos Union High School, 1939
21
18
Photograph of a Painting Number 10 by Mark Rothko, undated
21
19
Oversized Photographs of Spohn, Family, and Artwork , 1916-1977, undated
22
3
2.8: Artifacts, undated
(box 21, 1 folder)
Artifacts consist of four military pins from Marion Karnes.
Description Container
Military pins from Marion Karnes, undated
21
20

Series 3: Addition to the Clay Spohn Papers , 1958-1977
0.4 Linear feet
box 24

The addition includes nine notebooks of notes and writings on art, class assignments, telephone calls and appointments, plans and procedures, an index for the history and location of paintings, and financial records.
The addition is unfilmed.
Description Container Select
Notebook, Thoughts on Art, 1958
24
1
Notebook, Art Notes , 1958
24
2
Notebook, Plan and Procedure for One's Work , 1963
24
3
Notebook, Telephone Records, Appointments, and Notes , 1969
24
4
Notebook, Notes for The Real Book , 1969
24
5
Notebook, Personal Notes , 1974
24
6
Notebook, Class Assignments , 1977
24
7
Notebook, Index of History and Location of Paintings , 1964-1965
24
8
Notebook, Financial Records , 1973-1975
24
9

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.