Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Artists
I am thrilled to tell you of this upcoming exhibit showcasing the personal handwritten letters of a group of American Artists. Some are well known and others are members of the Lyme Art Colony. Talk about the Art of Letter Writing: here it will be in grand display. If you live anywhere near the Connecticut shoreline, I urge you to treat yourself and visit The Florence Griswold Museum. (Feb. 9 -May 6, 2018)
From the News Release...“Handwritten letters are a performance on paper,” states Mary Savig, curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art and organizer of the exhibition Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. The Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut, is the only northeast venue for this traveling exhibition. On view February 9 to May 6, 2018, Savig’s selection reveals the beauty and intimacy of the craft of letter writing. From casually jotted notes to elaborately decorated epistles, Pen to Paper explores the handwriting of celebrated artists such as Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt, Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Eakins, Howard Finster, Jacob Lawrence, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenburg, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and many others.
The nearly 50 letters in Pen to Paper date from the early 19th century to the present day and contain valuable insight into the artists’ everyday lives, their creative process, their relationships, and often, some semblance of self. With bold and confident penmanship Georgia O’Keeffe frequently spelled phonetically and used squiggly lines instead of punctuation. As an artist who did not concern herself with the rules of art, O’Keeffe’s letters had no regard for grammatical structure.
To complement the Smithsonian’s collection, handwritten letters from the Museum’s archives form the exhibition, P.S.: Letters from the Lyme Art Colony. Paintings from the Florence Griswold Museum and works from private collections hang alongside selected artists’ letters.
In P.S.: Letters from the Lyme Art Colony, the Museum uses selections from its collection of artists’ letters to explore the world of the Lyme Art Colony. During the heyday of the Colony, letter writing was an important tool used by Florence Griswold and visiting artists to communicate and confirm their travel plans. Once artists arrived at the Griswold boardinghouse, corresponding by mail was an important part of colony life—when artists wrote to family back home as well as to art world contacts. In these letters, handwriting can conjure mood, time, and place and offer insight into the person behind the pen. In some early letters in the exhibition, artists contemplate their professional futures, and correspondence from later in their lives reflects the enduring bonds they formed as part of the Lyme Colony. A selection of paintings from the Florence Griswold Museum’s collection will hang alongside artists’ letters.
For more further information or to order the accompanying book go to http://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/exhibitions/pen-to-paper/
The accompanying book, Pen to Paper: Artists’ Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016), features 56 letters with brief reflections from art historians, curators, and the artists. It is available in the Museum’s shop for $27.50.