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Jay DeFeo papers, circa 1940s-1970s

Jay DeFeo papers, circa 1940s-1970s

DeFeo, Jay, 1929-1989

Painter

Collection Information

Size: 1.3 linear feet

Summary: The papers of artist Jay DeFeo measure 1.3 linear feet and date from circa 1940s to circa 1970s. The collection documents her career through biographical material, correspondence with friends, personal business records, writings, printed material, artwork, and photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) lived and worked in Northern California where she was a prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene as both a painter in the progressive art community. Prominent in Bay Area art scene as painter and "hostess" of numerous parties from mid 1950's to 1960's.

Provenance

Donated between 1975-1981 by Jay DeFeo.

Related Materials

The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley holds some of DeFeo's archival materials.

A Finding Aid to the Jay DeFeo Papers, circa 1940s-1970s, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.defejay
Author
Finding aid prepared by Helen MacDiarmid
Biographical/Historical note
Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) lived and worked in Northern California where she was a prominent figure in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene as a painter in the progressive art community. She identified her artistic style as expressionist and symbolist.
DeFeo was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, and was three years old when her family moved to the Bay Area. She attended the University of California Berkeley and earned an Associate’s Degree in 1948, a B.A. in 1950 and a M.A. in Fine Arts in 1951. After earning the M.A. she took 18 months to travel in France, Spain, northern Africa, and Italy. She spent 6 months in Florence where she painted and produced her first important body of work. DeFeo returned to San Francisco at the end of her trip.
DeFeo married fellow artist Wally Hedrick in 1954. They settled in a large Victorian flat at 2322 Fillmore Street and actively participated in Beat counter culture. DeFeo and Hedrick counted many artists among their friends and colleagues, including musicians, painters, poets, and photographers. They threw large parties with hundreds of guests. DeFeo produced a range of works during her four-decade long career. She began working on her most celebrated and massive painting,
The Rose
, in the Fillmore flat.
In the mid-1960s, DeFeo began teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. She and Wally Hedrick divorced in 1969, and she moved to Larkspur in Marin County to regroup from personal set-backs and the draining experience of working on
The Rose
. In 1980 she joined the art faculty at Mills College. She maintained personal and professional correspondences with many people, and her papers include letters about conservation efforts for
The Rose
.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series
Series 1: Biographical material, 1948-1969 (1 folder; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1960-1970s (0.3 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1960s (3 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1964-1974 (2 folders; Box 1)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1950s-1970s (2 folders; Box 1, OV 3)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1940s-1970s (0.4 linear feet; Box 1, OV 3)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1950s-1960s (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of artist Jay DeFeo measure 1.3 linear feet and date from circa 1940s to circa 1970s. The collection documents her career through biographical material, correspondence with friends, personal business records, writings, printed material, artwork, and photographs.
About half of the collection is made up of correspondence and photographs. DeFeo maintained ongoing communications with many artists, friends, and business associates. Notable correspondence is with Wallace and Shirley Berman, Irving Blum/Ferus Gallery, Bruce Conner, Frank Lobdell, Fred Martin, Michael McClure, Margaret Peterson, Deborah Remington, Ruth Terrill, and Eleanor (Nell) Sinton. The photographs document her adult years, although there are some as a teenager. DeFeo, her artist husband Wally Hedrick, and friends appear in many of the images. The remainder of the collection includes printed materials, exhibition information, some writings and some limited artwork. The collection is particularly rich in documentation on her artwork,
The Rose
.
Provenance
Donated between 1975-1981 by Jay DeFeo.
Related Archival Materials note
The Archives of American Art has an oral history interview with DeFeo conducted 1975 June 3-1976 January 23 by Paul Karlstrom for the Archives of America Art. An 83 page transcript is available online.
The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley holds some of DeFeo's archival materials.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Helen MacDiarmid in 2014. All materials have been rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability.

Additional Forms Available

Microfilm reels 1645, 908, 2673 and 3957 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Jay DeFeo papers, circa 1940s-1970s. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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