Skip to main content

Jean Crotti papers, 1913-1973, bulk 1913-1961

Jean Crotti papers, 1913-1973, bulk 1913-1961

Crotti, Jean Joseph, 1878-1958


This site provides access to the papers of Jean Crotti in the Archives of American Art that were digitized in 2010. The papers have been scanned in their entirety, and total 1,551 images.

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

Collection Information

Size: 1.7 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of French Dada painter Jean Crotti measure 1.7 linear feet and date from 1913 to 1973, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1913-1961. Among the papers are autobiographical essays, correspondence with friends and family, including many letters from Marcel Duchamp, notes and writings by and about Crotti, printed materials, one scrapbook, drawings by Crotti and others, photographs of Crotti and his family and friends, photographs of artwork, and three audio recordings of interviews with Crotti.

Biographical material consists of autobiographical notes and an autobiographical manuscript Ma Vie.

Correspondence is with family members and colleagues. Correspondents include his brother Andre, wife Suzanne Duchamp, and other family members. There are eleven folders of correspondence between Suzanne's brother Marcel Duchamp and the Crotti family. A 1918 letter from Duchamp to Crotti is illustrated by Duchamp. Additional letters to Jean Crotti are from Jean Cocteau, Albert Gleizes, Georges Herbiet a.k.a. "Christian", Henri Matisse, Francis Picabia, and Jacques Villon. Three folders of letters from Georges Herbiet a.k.a. "Christian" include references to Francis Picabia and Germaine Everling and discussions of art criticism and Picabia's role in avant-garde art movements. Herbiet also describes a new painting procedure that he claims to have invented using a product that is impervious to acids, water, oil, or alcohol. There is a single letter from Jean Crotti to Pablo Picasso following their meeting in Cannes in which Crotti discusses a design with spheres and includes a sketch of his idea. There are also single letters to Crotti from Raoul Dufy, Walter Pach, and actor Pierre Renoir.

Notes and writings include poems, a script, and miscellaneous writings by Crotti concerning his art theories including "Tabu" and gemmail. Writings about Crotti are by miscellaneous authors including writers Waldemar George, Andre Salmon, and artists Armand Nakache, A. Ozenfant, and Michel Seuphor.

Art work includes seven folders of drawings and an etching plate by Crotti, 83 drawings by Paul Guillaume, and portrait drawings of Crotti by Henri Coudour and Francis Picabia.

A scrapbook contains clippings, a letter from Paul Guillaume and a letter to Elizabeth Crotti from a friend describing a 1932 Jean Crotti exhibition in the Balzac Galleries in New York City, and a typescript "Una Collezione a Parigi" by Gino Severini.

Additional printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Crotti and others, reproductions of art work, and books Jean Crotti (1930) and Jean Crotti et la Primaut du Spirituel (1959) by Waldemar George.

Photographs are of Crotti, his family, friends, colleagues, and art work by Crotti and by Suzanne Duchamp. Of particular interest are photographs of composer Edgard Varese and his wife Louise with Suzanne Duchamp, Jean Crotti, and art advocate Mary Reynolds in 1924, photographs of Crotti and Georges Braque examining a gemmail art work, and photographs of Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp talking with Pablo Picasso at Cannes and at the home of Bertrande Blancpain in 1957.

Audio recordings include two phonograph records of interviews with Jean Crotti, including topics "Assignment Switzerland" and "Assignment World." A third phonograph record contains an interview with Mr. and Mrs. Paul Blancpain as well as an additional interview with Crotti.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jean Crotti (1878-1958) was a painter who lived and worked in both Paris, France and New York, N.Y.


Donors Alice Buckles Brown and Andre Buckles are great-niece and great-nephew of Jean Crotti.

Related Materials


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

Location of Originals

  • Porfolio entitled "Tabu Dada," containing one drawing and one print after the drawing, were returned to the donor, Andre Buckles after microfilming.

A Finding Aid to the Jean Crotti Papers,
bulk 1913-1961,
in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Jean Crotti (1870-1958) was a Dadist painter who worked primarily in Paris, France and New York. He was married to Suzanne Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp's sister, and friends with notable avant-garde and Dada European and American painters of the period. He is also known for creating the "Gemmail" technique of layering colored glass that produced unique color combinations when illuminated.
Jean Crotti was born April 24, 1878 in Bulle, near Fribourg, Switzerland, the son of a painting contractor. The family moved to Fribourg in 1887.
Beginning in 1898, Crotti struggled with questions of a religious and spiritual nature while at the School of Decorative Arts in Munich. Dissatisfied there, he moved to Paris in 1901, where he spent a year studying at the Acad?©mie Julian under Tony-Robert Fleury and Jules Lefebvre. Still dissatisfied in 1902, he established a small independent studio in the Rue Fontaine.
Crotti exhibited a canvas at the Salon des Ind?©pendants in 1907, and was accepted as a member of the Salon d'Automne in 1909. From 1910 to 1912, he was influenced by Cubism and its offshoot, Orphism.
To escape from wartime Paris in 1914, Crotti and his first wife, Yvonne Chastel, moved to New York City where Crotti had his first solo exhibition at the Bourgeois Gallery. In 1915, Crotti met Francis Picabia and also shared a studio with Marcel Duchamp who was a major influence. Crotti began his Dada period and was included in an exhibition of French paintings at the Montross Gallery in New York, with Duchamp, Albert Gleizes, and Jean Metzinger.
Crotti separated from his first wife, Yvonne Chastel, in 1916 and returned to Paris alone. By 1917, Crotti's marriage had dissolved and he married Suzanne Duchamp in 1919. Crotti met Suzanne Duchamp, also a painter, through his friendship with her brother Marcel Duchamp. During this time, Crotti completed and exhibited paintings associated with the Dada movement. One of his more notable works was entitled
, bearing the word "Tabu" that expressed Crotti's concepts of mystery and infinity with spiritual overtones.
In 1935 Crotti began to research a new technique using layers of colored glass, referred to as "gemmail." The term is a contraction of "gem" referring to the colored glass and "enamel" referring to the method of affixing the pieces of glass to each other. After much experimentation, an "enamel" fixative was found that would permanently hold the glass pieces in place while still allowing light to shine through all the layers. Several prominent artists including Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso became interested in using this medium. Crotti had the process patented, but in 1955 ceded the rights to Roger Malherbe who adapted it to commercial uses.
Jean Crotti died on January 30, 1958 in Paris, France.
The collection is arranged as 8 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1954-1955 (Box 1; 3 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1916-1961 (Box 1; 43 folders)
Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1924-1958 (Box 1; 27 folders)
Series 4: Art Work, 1913-1925 (Box 1, 3; 12 folders)
Series 5: Scrapbook, 1931-1935 (Box 1; 1 folder)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1921-1973 (Box 1, 2, 3; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, 1920-1957 (Box 2; 25 folders)
Series 8: Sound Recordings, 1955 (Box 3; 1 folder)
Donors Alice Buckles Brown and Andre Buckles are great-niece and great-nephew of Jean Crotti.
Location of Originals
  • Porfolio entitled "Tabu Dada," containing one drawing and one print after the drawing, were returned to the donor, Andre Buckles after microfilming.
Processing Information
Portions of the collection were microfilmed on reels 2394-2395 shortly after donation. Previously microfilmed and unmicrofilmed portions were merged, arranged, and described by Jean Fitzgerald in April 2009, and the collection was digitized in 2010 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The papers have been scanned in their entirety and are available online via AAA's website. Materials not digitized include an etching plate by Crotti, photographs of artwork, and phonograph audio recordings of interviews with Crotti. Only the covers and title pages of most published books and exhibition catalogs were scanned.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Jean Crotti papers, 1913-1973, bulk 1913-1961. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available