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Louis Bunce papers, 1890s-1983

Louis Bunce papers, 1890s-1983

Bunce, Louis, 1907-1983

Painter, Educator, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 9.1 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Portland, Oregon painter, printmaker, and educator Louis Bunce (1907-1983) measure 9.1 linear feet and date from the 1890s to 1983. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, interviews and interview transcripts, organizational records, personal business records, printed materials, nine scrapbooks, eighteen sketchbooks, artwork, and photographs. A few audiovisual recordings are scattered throughout series.

Biographical materials include address and appointment books, awards, life documents, resumes, and Bunce family genealogical records. There is a video recording of Bunce's retirement party from the Portland Museum School and of Bunce hanging his artwork for a show at the Fountain Gallery.

Bunce's correspondence is with his wives, Eda and Gloria, family, friends, fellow artists, and galleries and institutions. Notable correspondents include Jackson Pollock, Pee Wee Russell, and Max Weber. Writings and notes by Bunce include a notebook containing sales information, lists of works of art, sketches, and artist's statements. There are also autobiographical sketches and a video recording of a 1961 television show hosted by Bunce entitled "The Jazz Arts" depicting Bunce painting while jazz musicians perform. There are a few writings about Bunce by others.

There are two recorded interviews and three transcripts of interviews with Bunce conducted by Rachel Griffin, Wendy Wells of the Fountain Gallery, the Oregon Historical Society, KOIN TV, and an art student.

Organizational records document Louis Bunce's association with the Portland Center for the Visual Arts and the Portland Building Public Art Selection Committee of the Metropolitan Arts Commission. Personal business records include agreements and contracts, including an agreement with Sally Judd to form a gallery, consignment records, income and sales records, price lists and inventories (see also series 3 for a notebook containing lists of artwork and sales information), and personal legal documents. Printed materials consist of bulletins, clippings, and exhibition catalogs and announcements. There is also a video recording of a broadcast of KGW-TV depicting Bunce painting an outdoor mural.

Nine mixed media scrapbooks contain sketches, notes, printed material, photographs, correspondence, project proposals, writings, notes, addresses, receipts and sales records. Many of the scrapbooks contain artwork drawn directly onto the paper while some have artwork pasted into the pages. Eighteen sketchbooks of Bunce depict abstract drawings, figures, portraits, landscapes, and street scenes in pencil, pen and watercolor. Also found is a Valentine's Day-themed flipbook by Bunce and unidentified sketches likely by John Hammack and others.

Photographs are of Bunce, Bunce's family, Bunce at events, Bunce with his art, and Bunce at work in his studio. Also found are photographs of travel, stills of footage used on KOIN-TV, works of art, and exhibitions.

Biographical/Historical Note

Louis Bunce (1907-1983) was a painter, printmaker, and educator in Portland, Oregon. Taught painting at the Portland Museum school for over 25 years.


The Louis Bunce papers were donated by the artist's son, Jon Bunce in 1984.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

A Finding Aid to the Louis Bunce Papers, 1890s-1983, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Louis Bunce (1907-1983) was a painter, printmaker, and educator active in Portland, Oregon. His modernist style influenced many artists in the Pacific Northwest.
Born in Wyoming in 1907, Bunce began his art education at the Museum Art School in Portland Oregon in 1925. After two years, he moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League. During the great Depression, Bunce returned to Oregon and worked for the federal WPA Section of Painting and Sculpture. He painted murals for post offices in Portland (St. Johns neighborhood), and Grants Pass. Bunce moved back to New York in 1940, where he continued working as a WPA mural and easel painter, and befriended fellow artists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Franz Kline, and other American modernists.
A prominent member of the arts scene of Portland, Bunce taught at the Museum Art School (now the Pacific Northwest College of Art) from 1946 until 1972. In 1949, he and his wife Gloria opened the Kharouba Gallery, the first art gallery in Portland to show modernist, avant-garde, and experimental art. In 1958, Bunce’s abstract mural for the Portland International Airport created some controversy over its modernist style. The mural can still be seen in the airport.
Bunce married twice, to Eda Hult and Gloria Scott. With Eda, he had a son, Jon Bunce. Louis Bunce died in Portland, Oregon in 1983 from an aneurysm.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 11 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1902-1983 (Box 1, 13; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1916-1983 (Box 1-3; 1.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1940-1970s (Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Interviews and Interview Transcripts, 1955-1982 (Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 5: Organizational Records, 1970s-1983 (Box 3; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, 1948-1983 (Box 3-4; 0.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1930s-1980s (Box 4-6, 13; 1.7 linear feet)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, 1941-1982 (Box 6, 9-10; 1.0 linear feet)
Series 9: Sketchbooks, 1940-1960s (Box 6-7, 11; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1944-1979 (Box 7, 13-15; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 11: Photographs, 1890s-1981 (Box 7-8, 12; 0.9 linear feet)
The Louis Bunce papers were donated by the artist's son, Jon Bunce in 1984.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Jayna Josefson in 2016, with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics when possible in order to increase information about and access to more of our collections.
Minimal processing included arrangement to the series, subseries, and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder titles, but not arranged further. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders, but not all staples and clips were removed.

Additional Forms Available

Jackson Pollock letters, catalog and announcement: microfilm reel 3999 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advanced notice.

Restrictions on Use

Videos: Not for commercial use. Consult reference staff for citation/credit information.

How to Cite This Collection

Louis Bunce papers, 1890s-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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