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William Benton papers, 1940-1983

Benton, William, 1900-1973

Collector, Publisher


Collection Information

Size: 1 Linear foot, (on 3 microfilm reels)

Summary: Correspondence; writings; notes; estate lists; contracts; photographs of works of art; exhibition catalogs; clippings; miscellaneous printed material.
REEL 925: Correspondence with artists, 1954-1968, concerning Benton's purchase and background of their works; and writings by Benton on Soviet art.
REEL 3134: A 13-page, incomplete, typescript, 1955, "Reginald Marsh as I Remember Him," by Benton. He writes of working with Marsh on the YALE RECORD and collecting Marsh's paintings.
REEL 4073: Correspondence, 1940-1983, with artists; typescripts on Marsh; writing by Jack Levine "How the Witches' Sabbath was Painted";
photographs and lists of works of art; a notebook "Works of Art on Loan to the William Benton Museum, University of Connecticut" from Benton's estate; a notebook "Painting Contracts" between artists, galleries, and Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.; notebook "Sold," containing data on the sale of Reginald Marsh's work;
printed material on Rockwell Kent, Thomas Hart Benton, Benton's collection, and others; photocopies of 2 portions of Ivan Albright's sketchbooks; a notebook "Britannica Painting Exhibitions Manual of Procedure"; a 2 p. typescript "The Story of My Portrait" by Grant Wood's sister Nan Wood Graham; 3 illustrated notebooks by Ivan Albright; and a sketchbook by Reginald Marsh containing 33 figure sketches.
Correspondents include Ivan Albright, Thomas Hart Benton, George Biddle, Isabel Bishop, Aaron Bohrod, Salvador Dali, Abner Dean, Koren Der Harootian, Jimmy Ernst, Milton Hebald, Joseph Hirsch, Ben Johnson, Rockwell Kent, Frank Kleinholz, Jack Levine, Reginald Marsh, Henry Varnum Poor, James N. Rosenberg, Hella Moravic Sachs, and Orest G. Vereisky.

Biographical/Historical Note

Art collector, politician; Chicago, Ill. Publisher of ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Vice-President of the University of Chicago, Congressman from Connecticut, and an avid collector of American art. Benton and Reginald Marsh were classmates and collaborated respectively as editor and illustrator for the Yale newspaper. During the Depression, Benton provided Marsh with a monthly stipend for which he received a monthly painting. When he became chairman of the board of ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, Benton collected contemporary American painting to Americanize BRITANNICA's British image.


Material on reel 925 and 3134 donated by Benton 1968. His family donated and lent additional material 1985-1986, including originals of some letters which were originally donated as photocopies.

Language Note

Reel 4073:1-1134, Rockwell Kent exhibition catalog is in Russian.

Location of Originals

  • Albright and Marsh sketchbooks; and Marsh letter (reel 4073, fr.1158-1266: Originals returned to the lenders, Charles and Marjorie Benton, after microfilming.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 925, 3134, and 4073 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Most letters are photocopies.

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

William Benton papers, 1940-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.