Skip to main content

James Britton papers, circa 1905-1984, bulk circa 1905-1935

Britton, James, 1878-1936

Painter, Editor, Art critic

This site provides access to the papers of James Britton in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2010. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 6,872 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 4.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter and writer James Britton measure 4.3 linear feet and date from circa 1905-1984, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1905-1935. The bulk of the papers consist of 49 diaries dating from 1918-1935, plus notebooks of diary excerpts, that chronicle Britton's daily activities and include lists, illustrations, and drafts of correspondence. Additional papers include biographical information compiled by the Britton family; scattered business and financial records; correspondence, including copies of Britton's letters to the editors of the Hartford Courant and the Hartford Times; additional writings and notes that include drafts and manuscripts of an autobiography, drafts of articles for his publication Art Opus, and other writings; sketches and a woodcut print; printed materials, including clippings of his published writings for Art Review International, Book Notes, and Opus; and one photograph of Britton and of works of art. There is a 1.4 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated 2020 that includes correspondence, writings by Britton about art, printed material (some annotated ), lists of works of art by Britton and others, and sketches by Britton.
Biographical information consists of a file of photocopied materials prepared by the Britton Family. Scattered business and financial records include papers relating to Britton's auto accident, indexes of letters, illustrated indexes and lists of works of art, miscellaneous invoices and receipts, and file relating to Arlington Gallery.
Nine folders of correspondence include letters written to and by Britton along with posthumus materials to his widow, Caroline Britton. Correspondents include artists and friends Gertrude Fiske, Eugene Higgins, Kyonei Inukai, Andrew Kelly, Dewitt McClellan Lockman, Edwin Valentine Mitchell, Maurice Prendergast, Duncan Phillips, Alfred Steiglitz, Robert Vonnoh, and Robert C. Vose.
The bulk of the Britton papers consist of his extensive diaries - 49 volumes, plus notebooks of excerpts and detailed indexes. The diaries date from 1918-1935 and detail Britton's daily activities and observations about art figures active in New York and Connecticut, classical music, the Great Depression, Prohibition, the Catholic Church, and politics. In addition, Britton talks of his relationships with his wife and children. The diaries served as a place for Britton to make lists of works of art, portrait subjects, potential clients, etc. Britton also created "Notebooks of Diary Excerpts" and a detailed index of many of the diaries.
Additional writings and notes include a handwritten and incomplete typescript of an autobiography, writings for Britton's publication Opus, and miscellaneous writings about art, music and plays. Writings by others include works by Duncan Scott Kent and Blackfield.
Artwork includes a print and sketches by Britton, and children's drawings.
Printed materials include issues of Britton's Art Review International, Opus, and other publications for which he wrote articles or provided illustration, clippings, exhibition catalogs, and programs.
Photographs include one photo of the artist with a painting and photos of works of art.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Britton (1878-1936) was a critic, painter, woodcut artist, publisher/editor of American Art Review and Opus, and frequent contributor to American Art News. Britton was active in New York and Connecticut. Member of an artist' group known as the Eclectics, charter member of the New Society of American Artists, and founding member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts. He worked mainly as a portrait painter.


Donated 1985 and 2020 by Barbara and Ursula Roberts Britton, granddaughters of James Britton.


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