The papers of painter Agnes Pelton measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1885-1989. Found within the papers are biographical materials; business and personal correspondence, many addressed to Jane Levington Comfort; writings; printed material; 3 mixed media scrapbooks; one studio guestbook, signed by visitors to Agnes Pelton's studio; artwork, including loose sketches and 9 sketchbooks; and photographs of Pelton, her family and friends, and her work.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of painter Agnes Pelton measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1885-1989. Found within the papers are biographical materials; business and personal correspondence, many addressed to Jane Levington Comfort; writings; printed material; 3 mixed media scrapbooks; one studio guestbook signed by visitors to Agnes Pelton's studio; artwork, including loose sketches and 9 sketchbooks; and photographs of Pelton, her family and friends, and her work.
The collection is arranged as 7 series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1898-1989 (2 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1930-1980 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, 1913-1956 (8 folders; Box 1)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1913-1955 (6 folders; Box 1)
Series 5: Scrapbooks and Guestbook, 1911-1955 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 1, 4)
Series 6: Artwork, 1885-1957 (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 2-3)
Series 7: Photographic Material, 1886-1955 (0.4 linear feet; Box 3)
Biographical / Historical:
Painter Agnes Pelton (1881-1961) lived and worked in Long Island, New York, and Cathedral City, California, and is known for her desert landscapes, portraits, and abstract paintings.
Born in Stuttgart, Germany to William and Florence Pelton, Pelton and her mother relocated to New York after her father's death in 1890. Her mother, who had studied music at the Stuttgart Conservatory, opened the Pelton School of Music in Brooklyn, which remained in operation for 30 years. Pelton began her art studies at the Pratt Institute in 1895 and continued working with one of her instructors, Arthur Dow, at his summer school in Ipswich, Massachusetts, after her graduation in 1900. She later worked with William Langson Lathrop and Hamilton Field, and traveled abroad to attend the British Academy in Rome in 1910 and 1911.
In 1912, after seeing her work in an exhibition in Hamilton Field's studio in Ogunquit, Maine, Walt Kuhn invited Pelton to participate in the 1913 Armory Show. During her early career, Pelton created works that were primarily influenced by Davies's philosophy on the effect of natural light, and which she termed "Imaginative Paintings." After a visit to New Mexico in 1919, Pelton began shifting to another style of painting, focusing on Southwestern landscapes and figurative portraits, which she continued from her studios in New York City and Long Island. In 1932, Pelton moved to Cathedral City, California and began painting abstract works in a new stylistic phase, which were visual explorations of her growing interest in spirituality and philosophy. In 1938, she became a founding member of the Transcendental Painting Group, which included Raymond Jonson and Emil Bisttram. Pelton died in Cathedral City in 1961.
The Agnes Pelton papers were assembled by Cornelia and Irving Sussman for a biography of Agnes Pelton. They were donated to the Archives by gallery director Jan Rindfleisch on behalf of the Sussmans, in 1984. In 1997, circa 162 letters from Agnes Pelton to Jane Levington Comfort, that are now part of this collection, were bequeathed to Cornelia and Irving Sussman by Jane Levington Comfort through Joan Crisci, the executor of Comfort's estate, and donated to the Archives. An additional studio guestbook was donated in 2021 by Kay Hillery, whose in-laws were neighbors and friends with Agnes Pelton. Both the letters from Agnes Pelton to Jane Levington Comfort and the studio guestbook donations were facilitated by Michael Kelley.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.