Saarinen's correspondence files document her personal life and career. Incoming letters form the bulk of the series, but are interspersed with outgoing letters, often in the form of drafts handwritten by Saarinen. Personal correspondence includes letters written between Lilian and Eero Saarinen, which provide insight into their relationship during the 1940s and early 1950s, and their decision to divorce in 1953. These letters also reference professional projects, including Eero Saarinen's involvement in the design of the Antioch College residence halls. Other letters describe Saarinen's planning meetings for the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, and enclose sketches of his preliminary ideas for the project.
Many letters from Susan Hammond, Saarinen's mother, chronicle events in the Swann and Sedgwick families. Hammond frequently enclosed letters sent to her by others about Saarinen in her letters to Saarinen. Family correspondence includes letters from Saarinen's son, Eric, her sister Lucy Livingston Schwartz, letters from other members of the Swann family, and a letter from her cousin, Edie Sedgwick.
Letters which document Saarinen's professional life include correspondence with publishers and publications such as Child Life, for which Saarinen provided illustrations; Interiors regarding the publication of an article by Saarinen about her and her work; Otava Publishing Company, including the 1956 contract for the Finnish edition of Who Am I?; Reynal & Hitchcock, Inc., relating to the original publication of Who Am I? in 1946; and Rutgers University Press regarding Saarinen's proposed jacket design for the cover of A Short Chronology of American History 1492-1950 (1952) by Irving S. and Nell M. Kull. Additional correspondence relating to Saarinen's writings can be found in Series 3: Writings and Notes.
Also found is correspondence with Caresse Crosby regarding the consignment of Saarinen's artwork to Gump's and other galleries in the 1940s, and referencing Crosby's Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly, for which Saarinen provided illustrations. Correspondence with Alan D. Gruskin of Midtown Galleries, who Saarinen contracted to represent her nationally from 1943-1948, includes Saarinen's sketches for her 1944 exhibition at G Place Gallery in Washington D. C., under the direction of Caresse Crosby.
The series includes substantial correspondence with other artists and architects, many of whom were personal friends of Saarinen, including Merle Armitage, Walter Baermann, Alexander Calder, Charles and Ray Eames, Carl Koch, Henry Kreis, Carl Milles, Laszlo and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Robert Venturi, and Harry Weese. Also found is correspondence with the design firm Knoll Associates, Cranbrook Academy of Art directors and artists Soltan Sepeshy, Maija Grotell and Marianne Strengell, six letters from Loja Saarinen, and a telegram from Eliel Saarinen.
The bulk of the correspondence relating to Saarinen's sculpture commissions can be found in Series 5: Project Files, but related correspondence is scattered throughout this series.
Correspondence is arranged alphabetically. Correspondents who are represented by four or more items are housed in named files; all others are housed in general files for the corresponding letter of the alphabet.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Lilian Swann Saarinen papers, circa 1909-1977. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation; and John R. & Barbara Robinson and Deborah Schmidt Robinson & Dr. R. Perry Robinson, The Widgeon Point Charitable Foundation.