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Ellen Hulda Johnson papers, 1872-1994, bulk 1921-1992

Johnson, Ellen H. (Ellen Hulda), 1910-1992

Curator, Educator, Librarian, Art historian, Art critic

Collection Information

Size: 60.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of art historian, art critic, author, librarian, and educator Ellen Hulda Johnson measure 60.3 linear feet and date from 1872-1994, with the bulk of the material dating from 1921-1992. The papers include biographical materials; personal and family files; personal, professional, and business correspondence; extensive research and writing files; teaching files; subject files; professional and curatorial files; and artists' files. Johnson's papers reflect the full range of her career, interests, and close relationships with many artists. There is a 5.0 linear foot addition to this collection donated in 2019. Included are biographical material; correspondence; teaching and lecture files; financial and legal records; photographs of artists, events, and travels; sketchbooks; and video cassette tapes of events.
Personal papers consist of biographical materials and personal and family files, including "memorabilia" files compiled by Johnson. Correspondence is a mix of personal, business, and professional correspondence. Significant correspondents include David Saunders (who painted a portrait of Johnson), Claes Oldenburg, Jack Tworkov, Robert Venturi, the American Scandinavian Foundation. A folder of correspondence compiled for the Archives includes letters from Alfred Stieglitz, Wendell Wilkie, Carl Milles, Jim Dine, and Alexander Archipenko.
Extensive and comprehensive writing and research project files include articles, lectures, presentations, manuscripts, notes and notebooks, including her class notebooks from courses she attended in Paris in 1935, and additional notes and notebooks on a wide variety of subjects. The numerous articles, lectures, papers, and drafts were written primarily by Johnson for the College Art Association, the Allen Memorial Art Museum bulletin, and numerous additional publications and presentations; but there are also writings by others included in the research files. Major writing projects and related research files cover Scandinavian art, the Ossabaw Island artist's colony, Cezanne, Eva Hesse, John Frederick Kensett, Claes Oldenburg, Picasso, David Saunders, Athena Tacha, Pop Art, and many other topics. Johnsons research files, manuscripts, correspondence, and photographs for major exhibitions, including one on Eva Hesse (1982) and for her published books including, "American Artists on Art from 1940-1980," (1982), "Claes Oldenburg," (1971), "Fragments Recalled at 80: The Art Memoirs of Ellen H. Johnson," (1993), and "Modern Art and Object," (1976) are also arranged in this series. Johnson's bibliographic index cards are arranged here as well.
The collection also contains extensive teaching files for courses taught by Johnson at Oberlin and as a visiting professor at other institutions; professional and curatorial files reflecting her curatorial career at Allen Memorial Art Museum, as a consultant, jury member, and continuing education courses she later attended, including the Baldwin Lecture Series; and 18 linear feet of artist's files assembled by Johnson.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ellen Hulda Johnson (1910-1992) was an art historian, critic, and professor who worked and taught at Oberlin College in Ohio for most of her career.


The Ellen Hulda Johnson papers were donated in 1994, 1998 and 2019 by the estate of Ellen Hulda Johnson via exectutor Athena Tacha.

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Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian's Collection Care and Preservation Fund.