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Lilian Swann Saarinen papers, circa 1909-1977

Lilian Swann Saarinen papers, circa 1909-1977

Saarinen, Lilian Swann, 1912-1995

Sculptor, Ceramicist, Illustrator

Collection Information

Size: 9 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Cambridge sculptor and illustrator, Lilian Swann Saarinen, measure nine linear feet and date from circa 1909 to 1977. The collection documents Saarinen's career through correspondence with artists, architects, publishers, and gallery owners; writings and notes, including manuscripts and illustrations for children's books and publications; project and teaching files; financial records; artwork, including numerous project sketches; and photos of Saarinen and her artwork. Saarinen's personal life is also documented through diaries and correspondence with friends and family members, including Eero Saarinen, to whom she was married from 1939-1953.

Biographical/Historical Note

Cambridge artist and sculptor, Lilian Swann Saarinen (1912-1995), studied at the Art Students League with Alexander Archipenko in 1928, and later with Albert Stewart and Heninz Warneke from 1934-1936, before moving to Michigan where she studied with Carl Milles at the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1936-1940.

Provenance

The papers were donated by Lilian Swann Saarinen in 1975.

Related Materials

Funding

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

A Finding Aid to the Lilian Swann Saarinen Papers, 1920-1977, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.saarlili
Author
Finding aid prepared by Stephanie L. Ashley
Biographical/Historical note
Cambridge artist and sculptor, Lilian Swann Saarinen (1912-1995), studied at the Art Students League with Alexander Archipenko in 1928, and later with Albert Stewart and Heninz Warneke from 1934-1936, before moving to Michigan where she studied with Carl Milles at the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1936-1940. Saarinen was an accomplished skier and a member of the 1936 US Olympic ski team.
At Cranbrook Lilian Swann met architect Eero Saarinen whom she married in 1939. She subsequently worked with Saarinen's design group on a variety of projects including the Westward Expansion Memorial, which later became known as the "Gateway Arch" in St. Louis. They had a son, Eric, and a daughter, Susie, before divorcing in 1953.
Saarinen, who had developed an affinity for drawing animals in childhood, specialized in animal portraits in a variety of sculptural media. In 1939, she exhibited her sculpture
Night
, which depicted Bagheera the panther from Rudyard Kipling's
Jungle Book
, at the World's Fair. The sculpture was placed in the Boston Public Garden in 1986. In the 1930s and 1940s Saarinen was commissioned to work on a variety of architectural projects, including reliefs for post offices in Bloomfield, Indiana, Carlisle, Kentucky, and Evanston, Illinois, and the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois. She also executed commissions for the Harbor National Bank in Boston, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) at JFK Airport, the Northland shopping Center in Detroit Michigan, and Toffenetti's Restaurant in Chicago.
Saarinen was a contributing author and illustrator for a variety of publications, including
Child Life
,
Interiors
and
Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly
. In 1935 she illustrated
Picture Book Zoo
for the Bronx Zoo and in 1946 Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc. published
Who Am I?
, a children's book which Saarinen wrote and illustrated.
Saarinen taught ceramic sculpture to soldiers for the Red Cross Arts and Skills Unit rehabilitation program in 1945, served on the Visiting Committee to the Museum School at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 1959-1964 where she taught ceramics, and later taught a course entitled "The Language of Clay" at the Cambridge Art Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of Saarinen's private students at Cambridge was her cousin, Edie Sedgwick.
Saarinen died in Cohasset, Massachusetts in 1995 at the age of 83.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 11 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1930s-1960s (3 folders; Box 1, OV 12)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1920-1974 (2 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, 8, OV 12)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1920s-1973 (1.3 linear feet, Boxes 2-3, 8, OVs 13-15, 19)
Series 4: Diaries, 1930-1973 (1.5 linear feet, Boxes 3-5, 8)
Series 5: Project Files, 1931-1966 (1.8 linear feet, Boxes 5-6, 8, OVs 20-23)
Series 6: Teaching Files, 1966-1970 (3 folders, Box 6)
Series 7: Financial Records, 1940s-1970s (2 folders, Box 6)
Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1930s-1970s (0.2 linear feet, Box 6)
Series 9: Scrapbooks, circa 1909-1974 (2 folders; Boxes 6, 9)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1920s-circa 1960s (2.1 linear feet, Boxes 6-7, 9-10, OVs 17-18, 24-31)
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1940s, 1977 (0.5 linear feet, Boxes 7, 11, OV 25)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of Cambridge sculptor and illustrator, Lilian Swann Saarinen, measure 9.4 linear feet and date from 1920 to 1977. The collection documents Saarinen's career through correspondence with artists, architects, publishers, and gallery owners; writings and notes, including manuscripts and illustrations for children's books and publications; project and teaching files; financial records; artwork including numerous project sketches; and photos of Saarinen and her artwork. Saarinen's personal life is also documented through diaries and correspondence with friends and family members including Eero Saarinen, to whom she was married from 1939-1953.
Biographical material consists of resumes and biographical sketches, as well as a 1951 blueprint for the Eero Saarinen and Associates Office Building in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Correspondence documents Saarinen's personal and professional life through letters to and from Eero Saarinen and other family members including 6 letters from Loja Saarinen, correspondence with artists and architects including Merle Armitage, Charles and Ray Eames, Carl Koch, Henry Kreis, Carl Milles, Laszlo and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Robert Venturi and Harry Weese; and friends and colleagues at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Knoll Associates. Also documented is Saarinen's business relationship with Midtown Galleries and Caresse Crosby, and publishers and publications including
Child Life
,
Interiors
, Otava Publishing Company, and Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc.
Writings and Notes document Saarinen's work on several children's publications, including
Picture Book Zoo
(1935) and
Who Am I?
(1946), through correspondence, notes, manuscript drafts and extensive sketches. This series also includes Saarinen's ideas for other publications and incorporates some early writings and notes, as well as typescripts of her reminiscences about Eliel Saarinen, the Saarinen family, and the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Diaries consist of bound diary volumes, loose-leaf journal entries, and heavily annotated engagement calendars, documenting Saarinen's personal life, artistic aspirations and developing career from the 1930s-1970s. They provide an in-depth view into the emotional landscape of Saarinen's life and her relationship with the internationally renowned architectural family into which she married.
Project files document Saarinen's work on book cover designs, federal and post office commissions in Bloomfield, Indiana, Carlisle, Kentucky, and Evanston, Illinois, reliefs for the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois, and other important commissions including the Harbor National Bank Clock in Boston, Massachusetts, the KLM Airlines installation at JFK Airport, the
Fountain of Noah
sculpture at the Northland Center in Detroit, Michigan and the interior of Toffenetti's restuarant in Chicago, Illinois. Also documented is her role in designs for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, with Eero Saarinen.
Teaching files document Saarinen's "Language of Clay Course" which she taught at Cambridge Art Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Financial records document exhibition and sales expenses for two exhibitions, including her show at G Place Gallery in 1944.
Printed material consists of clippings about Saarinen and her family, exhibition announcements and catalogs for herself and others, and source files from the 1930s-1940s, primarily comprising clippings of animals.
Additional printed material documenting Saarinen's career can be found in one of two scrapbooks found in the collection. An additional scrapbook consists of clippings relating primarily to Saarinen's parents.
Artwork comprises extensive sketches, particularly animal and figure sketches, in pencil, crayon, ink, pastel and watercolor. The sketches demonstrate in particular Saarinen's developing interest in and skill with animal portraiture from her childhood to the 1960s.
Photographs are primarily of artwork and Saarinen's 1944 exhibition at G Place Gallery. Also found are 1 negative of Saarinen, probably with Eero Saarinen, and a group photo including Lilian, Eero and Eliel Saarinen with the model for the Detroit Civic Center, circa 1940s.
Provenance
The papers were donated by Lilian Swann Saarinen in 1975.
Separated Materials note
Also in the Archives are materials loaned for microfilming by Saarinen in 1976, including a scrapbook containing clippings, copies of letters and telegrams received, and reproductions of Saarinen's work; a copy of Saarinen's book,
Who Am I
?; and 3 albums containing photographs of Saarinen, photographs and reproductions of her work, a list of exhibitions, quotes about her, and writings by her about sculpture.
Loaned material is available on reels 1152 and 1192, but is not described in the Container Listing of this finding aid.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to an intermediate level and a finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley in 2015. Processing included arrangement to the series, subseries, and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. Folders within boxes may not be numbered. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2017 with funding provided by The Walton Family Foundation. Material not digitized includes blank pages of diaries, unannotated pages of engagement calendars, routine financial transactions, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates.

Restrictions on Access

Collection is being digitized and is CLOSED to researchers.

How to Cite This Collection

Lilian Swann Saarinen papers, circa 1909-1977. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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