The papers of painter Andrew Dasburg and his wife and sculptor Grace Mott Johnson date from 1833 to 1980 (bulk 1900 to 1980), and measure 8.8 linear feet. The collection documents each artist's career and personal lives, including their brief marriage and their friendships with many notable artists in the New Mexico and New York art colonies during the early twentieth century. The papers of Dasburg (6 linear feet) and Johnson (2.8 linear feet) include biographical materials; extensive correspondence with family, friends, and fellow artists, such as John F. Carlson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Marsden Hartley, Henry Lee McFee, and Ward Lockwood; writings by Dasburg, Johnson, and others; scattered legal, financial, and business records; clippings; exhibition materials; numerous photographs of Johnson and Dasburg, friends, family, and artwork; and original artwork, including two sketchbooks by Johnson.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter Andrew Dasburg and sculptor Grace Mott Johnson date from 1833 to 1980, with the bulk of the materials dating from 1900 to 1980, and measure 8.8 linear feet. The collection is divided into the papers of Andrew Dasburg (6 linear feet) and the papers of Grace Mott Johnson (2.8 linear feet), and documents each artist's career and personal lives, including their brief marriage, and friendships with many notable artists in New Mexico and New York art colonies during the early twentieth century. Found are scattered biographical, legal, and financial materials. Extensive correspondence (particularly in Dasburg's papers) is with family, friends, and fellow artists, such as John F. Carlson, Florence Ballin Cramer, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Marsden Hartley, Henry Lee McFee, Vera Spier Kuhn, and Ward Lockwood. Dasburg's papers also include letters to Johnson and his two later wives.
Johnson's correspondence is also with numerous artist friends and others, including John F. and Margaret Carlson, Florence Ballin Cramer, Jo Davidson, Florence Lucius, Walter Frankl, Lila Wheelock Howard, Henry Lee McFee, Mary Riley, Lee Simonson, Lindsey Morris Sterling, Alice Morgan Wright, Mabel Dodge Luhan, and Vera Spier Kuhn. Letters to her son Alfred are quite detailed and revealing. Writings are by Dasburg, Johnson, and others. Johnson's writings include a very brief diary and her poetry. Writings by others are about the Taos and New Mexico art communities. Printed materials about both artists include clippings and exhibition catalogs. There are numerous photographs of Dasburg and Johnson, individually and together, and with friends and family. Of note are a group photograph of Birge Harrison's art class in Woodstock, New York, which includes Johnson and Dasburg, and a photograph of Dasburg with friends Konrad Cramer and John Reed. Dasburg's papers also include snapshots of Florence Lucius, Konrad and Florence Ballin Cramer, Frieda and D. H. Lawrence, and Mabel Dodge Luhan. Original artwork by the two artists include two sketchbooks by Johnson and three prints and two drawings by Dasburg.
The collection is arranged into 2 series of each artist's papers:
Series 1: Andrew Dasburg Papers, circa 1900-1980 (Box 1-7; 6.0 linear feet)
Series 2: Grace Mott Johnson Papers, 1833-1963 (Box 7-10; 2.8 linear feet)
Andrew Michael Dasburg (1887-1979) was born in Paris, France, to German parents. After his father died and when he was five, Dasburg and his mother moved to New York City. In 1902 Dasburg started attending classes at the Art Students' League and studied with Kenyon Cox and Frank Du Mond. He also took night classes with Robert Henri. In 1907 he received a scholarship to the Art Students' League summer school in Woodstock, New York and spent three summers studying there in Birge Harrison's painting class. While in school he became friends with many young artists, including Morgan Russell and his future wife, Grace Mott Johnson.
Grace Mott Johnson (1882-1967) was born in New York City. She began drawing when she was four years old, and when the family moved to a farm in 1900 she enjoyed sketching horses and other farm animals. At the age of 22 she left home to study at the Art Students' League with sculptors Gutzon Borglum and James Earle Fraser, and also attended Birge Harrison's painting class in Woodstock. Throughout her career she would sculpt animals from memory, and would often attend circuses and farms for inspiration.
In 1909 Johnson and Dasburg went to Paris and joined the modernist circle of artists living there, including Morgan Russell, Jo Davidson, and Arthur Lee. During a trip to London that same year they were married. Johnson returned to the United States early the next year, but Dasburg stayed in Paris where he met Henri Matisse, Gertrude and Leo Stein, and became influenced by the paintings of Cezanne and Cubism. He returned to Woodstock, New York in August and he and Johnson became active members of the artist community. In 1911 their son Alfred was born. Both Dasburg and Johnson showed several works at the legendary Armory Show in 1913, and Dasburg also showed at the MacDowell Club in New York City, where he met the journalist and activist John Reed who later introduced him to Mabel Dodge (Luhan), a wealthy art patron and lifelong friend. In 1914 Dasburg met Alfred Stieglitz and became part of his avant-garde circle. Using what he had seen in Paris, Dasburg became one of the earliest American cubist artists, and also experimented with abstraction in his paintings.
Dasburg and Johnson lived apart for most of their marriage. By 1917 they had separated and Dasburg began teaching painting in Woodstock and in New York City. In 1918 he was invited to Taos, New Mexico by Mabel Dodge, and returning in 1919, Johnson joined him there for a period of time. Also in 1919, Dasburg was one of the founding members of the Woodstock Artists Association with John F. Carlson, Frank Swift Chase, Carl Eric Lindin, and Henry Lee McFee. In 1922 Dasburg and Johnson divorced, and also at that time he began living most of the year in Santa Fe with Ida Rauh, spending the rest of the year in Woodstock and New York City. Dasburg became an active member of the Santa Fe and the Taos art colonies, befriending many artists and writers living in these communities, and remaining close friends with Mabel Dodge Luhan. Here he moved away from abstraction, and used the southwestern landscape as the inspiration for his paintings.
In 1928 he married Nancy Lane. When that marriage ended in 1932, he moved permanently to Taos, and with his third wife, Marina Wister, built a home and studio there. Dasburg periodically taught art privately and at the University of New Mexico. In 1937 he was diagnosed with Addison's disease, which left him unable to paint again until 1946. In 1945 he and his wife Marina separated. Dasburg was recognized for his career as an artist in a circulating retrospective organized by the American Federation of Arts in 1959. He also had retrospectives in Taos in 1966 and 1978. His artwork influence several generations of artists, especially in the southwest, and he continued creating art until his death in 1979 at the age of 92.
Grace Mott Johnson lived in the Johnson family home in Yonkers, New York during the 1920s and later moved to Pleasantville, New York. In 1924 she went to Egypt to study ancient Egyptian sculpture. During the 1930s she became a civil rights activist. She produced very little art during the last twenty years of her life.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral history interviews with Andrew Dasburg, July 2, 1964 and March 6, 1974. Additional related collections at other repositories include the Andrew and Marina Wister Dasburg Papers at the New Mexico State Archives, the Andrew Dasburg Papers at Syracuse University Library, and the Grace Mott Johnson Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming. Reel 2803 contains photocopies of ten Morgan Russell letters to Dasburg. Reels 4276-4278 include biographical material, subject files, photographs, correspondence, writings, and exhibition material. The photocopies on reel 2803 were discarded after microfilming, and the items on 4276-4278 were returned to the lender. This material is not described in the collection container inventory.
The Andrew Dasburg and Grace Mott Johnson papers were donated by their son, Alfred Dasburg, in 1980. Syracuse Univresity lent materials for microfilming in 1978 and 1989.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
The Andrew Dasburg and Grace Mott Johnson papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.