Britton's diaries cover a wide-range of subjects including current affairs and his thoughts about American art and artists, the art scene in New York and Connecticut, classical music, the Great Depression, Prohibition, the Catholic Church, politics, his artwork and writings, his professional associations, New York galleries and exhibitions, and his relationships with family and friends. The diaries also include lists and sketches, including sketches of paintings in his studio at the time of the diary entry. The diaries provide an intimate and descriptive perspective of the Great Depression and its effect on the American family. Hard economic times forced Britton to reuse his children's school composition notebooks as diaries, often writing in the margins or in between the original lines of writing. He describes the toll of the economy on his relationship with his family.
The diaries contain exhaustive detail about the New York art scene and his fellow artists. He writes about George Bellows, Childe Hassam, Ernest Blumenschein, among many others, and about visiting numerous galleries, museums, and exhibitions, such as Knoedler, Frank Rehn, and Kraushaar Galleries, as well as his membership in various clubs and associations, including the New Society of American Artists.
There are two numbered sets of diaries. The first set is numbered XXV-XL and the second set is numbered Miscellanous Volumes 1-32. Britton also created a two-volume index of his diaries numbered XXV-XL. Most of the index was transcribed by the processing archivist and a partial list of relevant name/subject entries is found with the link to each individual diary. A more comprehensive list of entries from Britton's index is also included as an addendum.
A Volume XXX B is referenced in Britton's index which does not appear to be in the collection. It may be missing or perhaps the number was changed by Britton at a later date.
The narrative summaries and access points included with the Miscellaneous Volumes 1-32 were created by the processing archivist and should not be considered fully comprehensive.
See Appendix for a list of names and subjects for Diaries XXV-XL from Series 4.1.
Appendix: List of Names and Subjects from Diary Volumes XXV-XL in Series 4.1.:
The James Britton papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. Copyright ownership remains with Barbara Britton and Ursula Britton, who have granted the Archives permission to digitize the collection and post on the Archives website.
James Britton papers, circa 1905-1984, bulk circa 1905-1935. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art