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Elizabeth McCausland papers, 1838-1995, bulk 1920-1960

McCausland, Elizabeth, 1899-1965

Author, Educator, Art critic

The papers of Elizabeth McCausland in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2008 and 2015. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 52,884 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 45.0 linear feet

Summary: The papers of art critic, writer, and historian Elizabeth McCausland measure approximately 45.0 linear feet and date from 1838 to 1995, with the bulk of the material dating from 1920 to 1995. The collection provides a vast accumulation of data on various artists and aspects of American art, especially the early American modernists and the Federal Arts Projects. Papers include McCausland's extensive research and writing files, particularly on Marsden Hartley, E. L. Henry, Lewis Hine, George Inness, and Alfred H. Maurer. McCausland's correspondence with artists includes a substantial amount with Arthur Dove and Alfred Stieglitz. Her collaborative work with Berenice Abbott on the "Changing New York" book and series of photographs is well-documented within the collection. Also found are general writings, subject files, files relating to exhibitions, teaching, and committees, photographs, art work, personal papers, and printed material. Additional McCausland material from the estate of Berenice Abbott include biographical materials, project files, writings, and printed materials.
McCausland's personal papers consist of appointment books and engagement calendars, scrapbooks, student papers, works printed on her private press, financial records, biographical material, and scattered memorabilia, which together document other aspects of her life apart from her work. Correspondence includes incoming and outgoing letters along with enclosures, dating from McCausland's time as a journalist for "The Springfield Republican" in the 1920s and 1930s to her time as a freelance writer, art critic, and historian (1940s-1960s) and mostly concerning professional matters. Also included is a substantial amount of correspondence with artists, particularly Arthur Dove and Alfred Stieglitz, and some personal correspondence with her mother. General writings consists primarily of copies of McCausland's speeches and lectures on various art topics in addition to her early poems (dating from the 1930s) and scattered essays and articles.
The most extensive part of the collection is comprised of McCausland's research and writing files pertaining to large research and curatorial projects, such as ones on the artists Alfred H. Maurer and Marsden Hartley (which was begun by the American Art Research Council and subsequently taken over by McCausland), and one for the American Processional exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery in 1950. A wide variety of smaller projects are also well-documented in the series Other Research and Writing Files, including ones on E. L. Henry, Lewis Hine, George Inness, her collaborative work with Berenice Abbott on the "Changing New York" book and series of photographs. Numerous other artists and art topics are covered as well, such as Arthur Dove, Robert Henri, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Hawthorne, film, and photography. Files for her book, "Careers in Art" (1950), her many speaking and lecture engagements, and editing work are also found in this series. Files consist primarily of correspondence, notes, research material, manuscripts, bibliographies, photographs of works of art, completed research forms for works of art, card index files, and printed material.
Also found are subject files containing printed material, scattered notes and correspondence, and photographs, which may have been used for reference and/or collected in the course of McCausland's research activities; files relating to various exhibitions organized by McCausland from 1939 to 1944, including ones of silk screen prints and modern photography; files relating to courses on art history taught by McCausland, especially the one she taught at Barnard College in 1956; and files stemming from her participation in various art organizations and committees, especially during the time period just before and during the Second World War.
Printed material consists primarily of clippings and tear sheets of McCausland's newspaper articles and columns, which document her contributions to "The Springfield Republican," from 1923 to 1946, in addition to scattered exhibition catalogs, announcements, books, and miscellaneous publications. Photographs include ones of various artists and works of art, ones from the Farm Security Administration, and ones by photographers, such as Berenice Abbott (including ones from the Federal Art Project book, "Changing New York"), Barbara Morgan, Weegee, and Edward Weston, among others. Photographs, sometimes annotated or including notes, are scattered throughout her research files. Also included are photographs of McCausland, dating from her childhood. Art work found in the collection includes drawings, prints, and watercolors that were either given to McCausland by the artist or collected by her in the course of her work as an art critic and historian.
Additional material belonging to Elizabeth McCausland and donated by the estate of Berenice Abbott includes biographical material; business and personal correspondence; professional project files and writings, including drafts and research materials related to the book projects "Art in America," "Conversations with March," and "Frank Kleinholz"; and printed materials, including reprints of critical essays and articles by McCausland.

Biographical/Historical Note

Elizabeth McCausland, the art critic and writer, was born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1899. Taught at Barnard College, New School for Social Research, and Sarah Lawrence College; art critic for Springfield Sunday Union and Republican, late 1920s; author of text for Berenice Abbott's "Changing New York" (1939), "The Life and Work of Edward Lamson Henry, N.A., 1841-1919" (1945), "A. H. Maurer" (1951), "George Inness, An American Landscape Painter" (1946), "Charles W. Hawthorne, an American Figure Painter" (1947), "Careers in the Arts, Fine and Applied" (1950), "Art Professions in the United States," and other books, articles and catalogs. Organized Lewis Hine exhibition, 1939. She spent the last fifteen years of her life extensively researching painter Marsden Hartley.


Elizabeth McCausland donated the bulk of her papers in several installments from 1956 to 1961. An unknown donor, perhaps her literary executor, donated additional papers sometime after her death in 1965. It appears that McCausland originally donated her research files on Marsden Hartley, measuring 10 linear feet, to the Whitney Museum, who then lent them to the Archives for microfilming in 1966, and donated them sometime thereafter. McCausland originally donated files of newspaper clippings and offprints of her articles to the The New York Public Library, who gave them to the Archives in 1968. Additional McCausland material from the estate of Berenice Abbott was donated to the Archives in 2009.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.