United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Section of Fine Arts Search this
6.3 Linear feet
The papers of Olive Rush measure 6.3 linear feet and date from 1879 to 1967. They contain correspondence, artwork, photographs, writings, and other personal papers documenting Rush's education and career as an illustrator, portraitist, muralist, painter, teacher, and promoter of Native American art.
Scope and Contents note:
The records of Olive Rush measure 6.3 linear feet and date from 1879 to 1967. They contain correspondence, artwork, photographs, writings, and other records that document her education and career as an illustrator, portraitist, muralist, painter, and promoter of Native American art.
Biographical materials include several narratives written by Rush and others, as well as a few items related to Delaware artist Ethel Pennewill Brown Leach, Rush's close friend and colleague. Correspondence spans Rush's education and career, and documents her early career in illustration, purchases and exhibitions of her work, her efforts to secure exhibitions for Native American artists, and her dealings with administrators of Federal Art Projects of the 1930s.
Writings include diaries from Rush's early years, including an especially detailed diary from her Santa Fe Indian School mural project in 1932. Also found are lectures, talks, essays, notebooks with technical experiments and aesthetic ideas, and loose notes for her FAP project at the New Mexico College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts.
Records of Rush's artwork include two record books, receipts for supplies and shipments, price lists, inventories, records of submissions, and a small number of similar records of artwork by Native American artists. Sketchbooks, loose sketches, and drawings by Rush span her entire career and include many studies and proposed designs for murals and frescoes.
Printed Materials consist of exhibition catalogs, clippings, and reproductions of artwork, especially illustration work from Rush's early career. Photographs include a class photograph from the Corcoran School of Art circa 1890 and many of Rush and her fellow artists in Wilmington, Delaware from around 1904 to 1910. Photographs of works of art document Rush's murals and frescoes in private homes, businesses, and public buildings.
The collection is arranged into seven series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1886-1966 (Box 1; 7 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1889-1964 (Boxes 1-2, 8; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, 1886-1962 (Box 2; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 4: Records of Artwork, 1904-1956 (Box 3; 8 folders)
Series 5: Artwork, 1896-1957 (Boxes 3-4, 7, OV 8-12; 1 linear foot)
Series 6: Printed Materials, 1879-1967 (Boxes 4-5, 7, OV 13; 1.6 linear feet)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1890-1966 (Box 6; 0.4 linear feet)
Olive Rush was born in Fairmount, Indiana in 1875 to a Quaker farm family of six children, and attended nearby Earlham College, a Quaker school with a studio art program. Encouraged by her teacher, Rush enrolled in the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1890, where she stayed for two years and achieved early recognition for her work. In 1893, Rush joined the Indiana delegation of artists to the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
In 1894, she moved to New York City and continued her studies at the Art Students League with Henry Siddons Mowbray, John Twachtman, and Augustus St. Gaudens. She secured her first job as an illustrator with Harper and Brothers and quickly started doing additional illustration work for Good Housekeeping, Scribner's, The Delineator, Woman's Home Companion, Sunday Magazine and St. Nicholas Magazine. Rush also became a staff artist at the New York Tribune and illustrated several books.
In 1904, Rush sent an inquiry with samples of her work to master illustrator Howard Pyle, who had established what was then the only school of illustration in the country in Wilmington, Delaware. There he provided free instruction to a small number hand-picked artists culled from hundreds of applicants. Although Pyle did not admit women to his studio, he encouranged her to come and join the class for lectures and criticisms. Rush moved to Delaware later that year, joining a growing number of female illustrators there including Ethel Pennewill Brown (later Leach), Blanche Chloe Grant, Sarah Katherine Smith, and Harriet Roosevelt Richards, among others. Rush and her female colleagues lived together in a boarding house known as Tusculum, which became well-known as a gathering place for women artists.
Rush traveled to Europe in 1910, embarking on a period of intense study and travel which would mark a steady transition from illustration to painting. She studied at Newlyn in Cornwall, England and then in France with the American impressionist Richard E. Miller. She returned to Wilmington in 1911, where she moved into Pyle's studio with Ethel Pennewill Brown. Rush bounced to New York, Boston, and back to France, where she lived for a time with fellow artists Alice Schille, Ethel Pennewill Brown, and Orville Houghton Peets. Her reputation grew, and she began to exhibit regularly in major national and regional juried exhibitions including the Carnegie, Pennsylvania Academy, and Corcoran annual exhibitions, as well as the Hoosier Salon.
In 1914, Rush made her first trip to Arizona and New Mexico. Passing through Santa Fe on her return trip, Rush made contact with the artists community at the Museum of New Mexico, where she secured an impromptu solo exhibition after showing her new work, inspired by the landscape of the Southwest. She made Santa Fe her permanent home in 1920 in an adobe cottage on Canyon Road, which became a main thoroughfare of the Santa Fe artists' community.
Rush began to experiment with fresco painting, and developed her own techniques suitable to the local climate. She became a sought-after muralist and was asked to create frescoes for many private homes and businesses. In her painting, she often depicted the Native American dances and ceremonies she attended. She exhibited these paintings around the country, including with the Society of Independent Artists in New York, and in the Corcoran Annual Juried exhibition, where Mrs. Herbert Hoover and Duncan Phillips both purchased her work.
In 1932, Rush was hired to teach at the Santa Fe Indian School. Rush's enthusiastic work in the 1930s with the young pueblo artists is credited with helping to bring about a flourishing of Native American visual art in New Mexico. Rush continued to work with native artists throughout her life, and many of her associates went on to gain national reputations, including Harrison Begay, Awa-Tsireh, Pop Chalee, Pablita Valerde, and Ha-So-De (Narciso Abeyta).
From 1934 to 1939, Rush executed murals for the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) and the Federal Art Project (FAP) of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Rush's federal art projects included murals for the Santa Fe Public Library (1934), the Biology Building of the New Mexico Agricultural College (1935), the Pawhuska, Oklahoma Post Office (1938), and the Florence, Colorado Post Office (1939). Rush was also asked to join the Advisory Committee on Indian Art created by the PWAP in 1934, to help administer a segment of the program aimed at employing Native American artists.
In her later years, Rush's artwork became increasingly experimental, incorporating the ideas of Chinese painting, Native American art, and her contemporaries, the modernists, especially Wassily Kandinsky. She continued painting and exhibiting until 1964, when illness prohibited her from working. She died in 1966, leaving her home and studio to the Santa Fe Society of Friends.
Sources consulted for this biography include Olive Rush: A Hoosier Artist in New Mexico (1992) by Stanley L. Cuba, and Almost Forgotten: Delaware Women Artists and Arts Patrons 1900-1950 (2002) by Janice Haynes Gilmore.
Related Archival Materials note:
The Archives of American Art holds a brief oral history interview with Olive Rush concerning her involvement with Federal Art Projects.
Separated Materials note:
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel SW4) including scrapbooks, photographs, clippings, and exhibition catalogs. Most of this material was later donated, but some items remain with the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Olive Rush donated the bulk of her papers to the Archives of American Art in 1963 and 1964. Additional exhibition catalogs and photographs were added to the collection upon her death in 1966. An anonymous donation of diaries, sketchbooks, and a photograph was received by the Archives in 1970. Also in 1970, the Olive Rush Memorial Studio lent papers for microfilming. Many, but not all, of the loaned materials were later donated.
The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not digitized requires an appointment.