Skip to main content

Jan Butterfield papers, 1950-1997

Biographical Note

Jan Butterfield (1937-2000) was an art writer and critic of contemporary art who spent most of her career in California. She is best known for her writings on late twentieth century installation and craft artists, particularly those who worked in California and the American West.
Butterfield was born Jan Van Alstine in Los Angeles, California in 1937 and attended the Univeristy of California, Los Angeles. She received numerous fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts as an art critic, and contributed art writing to dozens of exhibition catalogs and art publications including
Art International
,
Images and Issues
,
Art News
,
Art in America
, and
Flash Art
. Her most ambitious work of writing was
The Art of Light and Space
(Abbeville Press: 1993), which profiles the work of contemporary artists Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Maria Nordman, Douglas Wheeler, Bruce Nauman, Eric Orr, Larry Bell, DeWain Valentine, Susan Kaiser Vogel, and Hap Tivey. She was also the author of a 1972 monograph of the Abstract Expressionist painter Sam Francis.
Butterfield held positions in public relations at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from its opening until 1970, and at the Fort Worth Art Museum from 1970 to 1974. She taught at Northwood Experimental Art Institute in Dallas, Texas, the San Francisco Art Institute, San Jose State University, and Mills College in Oakland, California between 1973 and 1983. At the San Francisco Art Institute, she was Director of the extension program and Coordinator of the visiting artist program and the Waterfront Project between 1976 and 1978. In 1984, Butterfield and the artist Sam Francis co-founded the Lapis Press, where she served as Executive Director from its founding until 1988.
Butterfield was married twice, the second time to Henry Hopkins, Museum Director at LACMA, the Museum of Fine Art of Houston, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She died in 2000 after an extended illness.