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Jervis McEntee papers, 1796

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Series 5: Diaries , 1872-1890

Series Five consists of the five volumes that compose the Jervis McEntee Diaries. The diaries provide a vivid, accurate impression of the life of a typical New York painter during and after the Gilded Age. There is much first-hand information on the inner workings of the National Academy and the Century Club, on the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, on efforts to revive the Art Union idea, on the vigorous growth of art societies and exhibitions throughout the country. The diaries reveal the economy of art during the period - prices, patterns of collecting and patronage, the artists' dependence on personal contacts through clubs, social gatherings, and influential friends. Descriptions of major events include the opening of the Metropolitan Museum and of the Brooklyn Bridge, the first major exhibition of French Impressionism in New York ("simply absurd, foolish and unlovely from any point of view"), and the Beecher-Tilton scandal.
McEntee's diaries offer researchers a valuable view of the everyday existence of a reputable American artist towards the close of the 19th century - how he painted, whom he associated with, how and to whom he sold his work, what he did when he was not working, what he thought of art, artists, and collectors. McEntee provides an account of the ultimately futile battle against the encroachment of European influences among both artists and collectors during this period. He writes in March 1877, "The Munich students work prevails, and the genuinely American productions are put aside to give prominence to the foreign looking art." According to McEntee, a certain painting by Whistler depicts "a woman dead or drunk by what is apparently the seashore, strewn with fragments of stale pound cake." The diaries also offer some clear insights into the character of several major artists who were McEntee's intimate friends: "Whittredge came to my room and sat until midnight and we talked, or rather he did for Whittredge generally does the talking." He is astonished to receive an invitation to join the Frederic E. Churches at the theatre because "I thought they only went to prayer meetings."
The five volumes of diaries are filled with McEntee's detailed thoughts, observations, activities, and encounters. Long passages describe his overwhelming anxieties over money and family difficulties. He is frequently lonely and depressed and always worried about his status as an artist.
Description Container Select
Diary, Volume I, 1872 May 10-1874 November 20
BV 3
1
Diary, Volume II, 1874 November 26-1878 December 8
BV 4
1
Diary, Volume III, 1878 December 15-1883 June 15
BV 5
1
Diary, Volume IV, 1883 June 16-1889 July 31
BV 6
1
Diary, Volume V, 1889 August 1-1880 November 1
BV 7
1

Make a Request

  • To request an appointment to view materials, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reading Room" button. Please note, you will receive the full box.
  • To request reproductions, make your selections using the checkboxes and click the "Reproduction" button.