The Carlen Galleries, Inc., records measure 10.4 linear feet (gift portions) and date from 1775 to 1997 (bulk 1940-1986). Correspondence, business records, subject files, a scrapbook, printed matter, and photographs document the operation and activities of Carlen Galleries, Inc., and its founder Robert Carlen.
Scope and Content Note:
The Carlen Galleries, Inc., records measure 10.4 linear feet (gift portions, Parts 1 and 3) and date from 1775-1998 (bulk 1940-1986). Correspondence, business records, subject files, a scrapbook, printed matter, and photographs document the operation and activities of Carlen Galleries, Inc., and its founder Robert Carlen.
Part 1: Received in 1986 as a gift from Robert Carlen, these records document the activities of Carlen Galleries and its founder, 1937-1986. Correspondence mainly concerns the sale and purchase of works of art. Also included are artist files containing correspondence, receipts, and printed matter regarding Albert Davies, Edward Hicks, Käthe Kollwitz, Horace Pippin, and Maurice Prendergast. Subject files concern African American artists, Raphael Peale, Raymond Feuillate, and the French Moderns. Business records consist of loan forms, documentation of exhibitions at Carlen Galleries, inventories, a scrapbook and clippings concerning the gallery, conservation reports, appraisals (not microfilmed), and financial records.
Part 2: Additional records documenting the activities of Carlen Galleries and its founder, 1937-1986, were loaned by Robert Carlen for microfilming in 1988. Included are letters about Horace Pippin and rare letters from the artist. Other correspondence concerns Carlen's search for paintings by Edward Hicks, and there is also a small selection of letters regarding more routine gallery business. Among the business records are and account book and receipts. Printed matter consists of exhibition catalogs, announcements, and clippings; a scrapbook contains printed matter about Horace Pippin. Photographs are of Allan Freelon and works of art.
Part 3: Received in 2002 as a gift from Robert Carlen's daughter Nancy Carlen, this portion of the Carlen Galleries, Inc., Records consists of two letters, business records, photographs, and selections from the galleries' library. Letters are from Joan Baez, circa 1960 and Charles M. Mount, 1968. Previously sealed letters from Charles M. Mount, undated, and 1962-1975, relating to John Singer Sargent have been integrated into this portion.
Part 4: Additional records borrowed for microfilming from Nancy Carlen in 2002 include documents dated 1775-1997 (bulk 1940s-1990). Correspondence concerns gallery business, but a small amount of personal correspondence is also included. Business records consist of appraisal reports, receipts for sales and purchases, and the contract and program for the 1964 University [of Pennsylvania] Hospital Antiques Show in which Carlen Galleries exhibited. Subject files document Edward Hicks, Anatol Jal, the Captain James Lawrence Goblet, Horace Pippin, and Antoine Roux. Five notebooks, containing material similar to that in the subject files, are about Horace Pippin (vols. 1-3), Edward Hicks (vol. 4), and chronicle the career of Robert Carlen (vol. 5).
Printed matter consists of clippings and other items concerning art and antiques, Robert Carlen and Carlen Galleries, Inc., and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department where two Hicks paintings owned by Carlen were on extended loan. Among the miscellaneous records are biographical documents, personal financial records, business and research notes (including original documents and photocopies of archival materials), and four prints. Photographs are mostly of antiques and art work; also included are a few pictures of people, places, and miscellaneous subjects.
The collection is arranged into four parts, representing gift and loan accessions received and microfilmed at various times. The two loans for microfilming (Parts 2 and 4) overlap and partially duplicate one another-particularly records relating to Horace Pippin and Edward Hicks-but are far from identical. Some of the Pippin and Hicks material was significantly rearranged in the interim between the first loan (1988) and the second (2002).
Part 1: Gift (1986), 1906-1986 (Boxes 1-7; 7.0 linear feet; Reels 4166-4175)
Part 2: Loan (1988), 1937-1986 (Reel 4175)
Part 3: Gift (2002), 1835-1992 (Boxes 8-12; 3.4 linear feet; Reel 5745)
Part 4: Loan (2002), 1775-1997 (Reels 5746-5748)
Robert Carlen (1906-1990) worked as a secretary and attended evening classes at the Graphic Sketch Club in Philadelphia right after graduating from high school. He studied painting full-time at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts during the academic year 1928/29, and from 1929-1936 he continued to study painting in the evenings while employed at a brokerage firm.
Since he wanted to be associated with the art world and needed to earn a living, Carlen decided to establish an art gallery that would show the works of young artists. In 1937, he opened in Carlen Galleries in his home at 323 South 16th Street, Philadelphia; the galleries operated in the same location for the remainder of Carlen's life. In its earliest years, Carlen Galleries housed exhibitions of the Associated American Artists' Group and featured prints by Wanda Gag, Käthe Kollwitz, Louis Lozowick, Lynd Ward, and other print makers.
In 1941, paintings by Horace Pippin were exhibited at Carlen Galleries. Carlen soon befriended the artist and began providing him with art supplies. He remained Pippin's agent for many years following the artist's death in 1946, and was a sought-after authority on the artist's work and life.
By the mid-1940s, Carlen had discovered a painting by Edward Hicks in Bucks County, Pa. He began researching the then-obscure Quaker artist. Through contacting descendants of Hicks's patrons, Carlen was able to acquire many of Hicks's paintings and Carlen Galleries became known for handling important early American folk paintings and antiques. Among his clients were Edward W. and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, Del., Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, Williamsburg, Va., and the Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vt.
During the course of his long career, Robert Carlen served as an advisor to many Philadelphia collectors and developed an extensive knowledge of the genealogies and heirlooms of the city's prominent families. Because of his extensive experience and expertise, Carlen's opinion was widely valued and his services as an appraiser of art and antiques were in great demand.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reels 4175 and 5746-5748) including material relating to Horace Pippin. Loaned material was returned to the lender and is described in the collection container inventory.
The collection was acquired in various accessions of gifts and loans. Part 1: gift of Robert Carlen, 1986; Part 2: loaned by Robert Carlen for microfilming, 1988; Part 3: gift of Nancy Carlen, 2002 (previously sealed letters and appraisals received with Part 1 are housed with Part 3 and integrated for microfilming); Part 4: loaned by Nancy Carlen for microfilming, 2002.
Patrons must use microfilm copy.
Parts 1 and 3 of the Carlen Galleries, Inc. records are owned by the Archives of American Art. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. Parts 2 and 4 were loaned for microfilming and the originals returned to the donor. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.