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Jack Lenor Larsen papers, 1941-2003

Jack Lenor Larsen papers, 1941-2003

Larsen, Jack Lenor, 1927-

Weaver, Designer

Collection Information

Size: 3.7 linear ft.

Summary: The Jack Lenor Larsen papers measure 3.7 linear feet and date from 1941-2003. Larson was a renowned weaver and designer, entrepreneur, and a scholar who wrote and lectured on modernist design. His career in the New York design world is documented by biographical materials, correspondence, writings by and about him, various printed materials and photographs.

Found are biographical materials and artifacts including items from his early years, 4 volumes of daily planners and numerous awards. Correspondence includes letters from notables such as Isamu Noguchi, Walter F. Mondale, and various craft artists such as Helen W. Drutt English, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Beatrice Wood, and author Hannah Tillich, widow of Paul Tillich. Business correspondence is from museums, professional societies, magazines and other organizations such as the Josef Albers Foundation. Larsen also curated textile exhibitions and there are records pertaining to these exhibitions.

There are a substantial number of writings, lectures and speeches by Larsen, and proofs of a book he co-authored with Mildred Constantin, "Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric." Also found are writings about Larsen and 3 interviews with him including a 1965 videotaped interview, 2 transcribed interviews, and an audio tape of Larsen's talk "Personal Perspective," presented at a conference of the American Craft Council.

Photographs show Larsen and his employees at work and at professional events. Photographs removed from albums retain their original order. Lastly, printed materials include catalogs and announcements, newspaper and magazine clippings, and press and promotional materials.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jack Lenor Larsen (1927- ) is a designer, weaver, and writer from New York, N.Y. and East Hampton, N.Y. Founded Larsen Design Studio in New York City (1958-2004).


The records were donated to the Archives in 2004 by Jack Lenor Larsen in connection with the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.

A Finding Aid to the Jack Lenor Larsen Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Jack Lenor Larsen (b. 1927), based in New York and of international reputation, has been deeply involved in the design of hand woven fabric and its application to modernist interior design. An international entrepreneur, Larsen also has written books on design and has been a frequent lecturer.
Larsen was born in Seattle, Washington to parents of Canadian/Scandinavian descent; his father was a building contractor. Larsen studied architecture at the University of Washington and became interested in materials design, receiving his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1951. Following graduation, he opened a studio in New York and established Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated. Just months later, Larsen successfully competed for the commission to design draperies for the important glass walled Lever House building on Park Avenue designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.
Larsen was highly successful in marketing his ideas and innovations, which included combining metallic thread with natural polished linen and hand woven fabrics consisting of varied yarns in random and repeating patterns. This later style of fabric became known as the "Larsen Look" and was synonymous with modern design. Larsen's firm successfully adapted technological advances to fabric design but also used ancient techniques; they were first to design fabrics for jet air planes, stretch upholsestry and printed velvets.
In 1958-1960, Larsen represented the United States Department of State in Vietnam and Taiwan, studying those countries' crafts with the goal of developing industry to create jobs and products for export. Larsen then saw the opportunity for international fabric design and production. He travelled to Latin America, Africa and Asia to study local crafts and weaving with an eye towards business opportunites, focusing on hand spun and hand woven silks. By the 1990s Larsen was producing fabric in over 30 countries. In 1997, Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc. merged with the British fabric house, Cowtan and Tout and became the United States subsidiary of the British company, Colefax and Fowler.
Many museums have collected and/or exhibited Larsen fabrics. Notable among them are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musee des Arts Decoratifs (in the Louvre Museum), Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In addition, Larsen is the author of several books relating to fabric and fabric design including
Material Wealth: Living with Luxurious Fabrics
(an international survey of contemporary fabric design) and an autobiography,
Jack Lenor Larsen: A Weaver's Memoir.
The Jack Lenor Larsen papers are organized into 7 series based primarily on record type and arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1941-2001, (Box 1, 5; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1958-2003, (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 3: Exhibition Records, 1986-1990, (Boxes 1-2; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings, 1950-2003, (Boxes 2-3; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Photographs, 1970-1992, (Box 3, 5; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1972-2002, (Boxes 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
Series 7: Audio Recordings, 1965, (Box 4; 0.1 linear feet)
The records were donated to the Archives in 2004 by Jack Lenor Larsen in connection with the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
Processing Information
The papers were processed by Justin Brancato in June, 2008.

Restrictions on Access

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How to Cite This Collection

Jack Lenor Larsen papers, 1941-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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