The papers of San Francisco metal-worker, jeweler, and painter Merry Renk measure 0.9 linear feet and date from 1952 to 2000. The collection comprises business records that include sales invoices, inventories, exhibition price lists, correspondence, and other material related to Renk's business activities. Also found are printed materials, a few sketches of utensils, writings, and a video recording of the documentary "Merry Renk: Jeweler" by Alan Leveton.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of San Francisco jeweler, painter, and metal-worker Merry Renk measure 0.9 linear feet and date from 1952 to 2000. The collection comprises business records that include sales invoices, inventories, exhibition price lists, and correspondence. Correspondents include Greta Daniel, Mrs. Vanderbilt Webb, Conrad Brown, Rose Slivka, Paul Soldner, Paul J. Smith, Alice W. Nichols, Roger Armstrong, and Francis S. Merritt. Also found is other material related to Renk's business activities; printed materials including clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs; a few sketches of utensils; writings including an unpublished typescript with illustrations and a draft of Renk's biographical statement; and a video recording containing the documentary "Merry Renk: Jeweler" by Alan Leveton.
Due to the small size of this collection, the papers are arranged as one series.
Series 1: Merry Renk Papers, 1952-2000 (1.1 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, OV 3)
Biographical / Historical:
Merry Renk (1921-2012) was a jeweler, painter, and metal-worker in San Francisco, California.
Renk was born in Trenton, New Jersey as Mary Ruth Gibbs. She studied painting at the Trenton School of Industrial Arts before moving to Chicago in 1946 to study at Illinois Institute of Technology. In Chicago, Renk founded the 750 Studio, an art gallery, with Olive Oliver and Mary Jo Slick. After taking some time to travel, she settled in San Francisco in 1948 where she became a prominent member of the arts and crafts community. Renk was instrumental in the founding of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild and served as president in 1954. She also became an honorary fellow at the American Craft Council.
Renk is primarily known for her jewelry work but after suffering an eye injury in a car accident she began focusing on creating large scale sculptures using jewelry techniques sometime in the 1960s to 1970s.
Renk married Stanley Edwin Renk in 1941. After his death in World War II, she married fellow artist Earle Watt Curtis in 1958.
Also in the Archives of American Art is an interview of Merry Renk conducted on January 18-19, 2001 by Arline M. Fisch for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America in Renk's home and studio in San Francisco, California.
The Merry Renk papers were donated in 2003 and 2004 by Merry Renk as a part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Researchers interested in accessing audiovisual recordings in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
The donor has retained all intellectual property rights, including copyright, that she may own in the following material: Unpublished typescript, "Memories for My Children's Children's Children's Children's Children's Children."
An interview of Merry Renk conducted 2001 January 18-19, by Arline M. Fisch, for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, in Renk's home and studio, San Francisco, California.
Renk speaks of her family background; growing up during the Depression; her father's creativity and encouragement; early inspiration from "the structure of nature"; attending the School of Industrial Arts in Trenton, N.J., and later the Institute of Design in Chicago; student life at the Institute of Design; establishing a studio and gallery, 750 Studio, at 750 North Dearborn, in Chicago, in 1947, with two other students, Mary Jo Slick [Godfrey] and Olive [Bunny] Oliver; managing 750 Studio and organizing exhibitions of Harry Callahan, Henry Miller, Lazlo Maholy-Nagy, Warren and Ethel MacKenzie, Doris Hall, and others; working with enamels; early "primitive" spirals; decision to be a jeweler; the importance of the "wearability" of jewelry; moving to San Francisco in 1948; living in Paris, 1950-1951; relationship with Shinkichi Tajiri; visiting Constantin Brancusi; traveling with Lenore Tawney through Spain and Morocco; settling in San Francisco; friendship with sculptor and neighbor Ruth Asawa; learning about Josef Albers from Asawa, resulting in experiments with folded metal; meeting her second husband, potter Earle Curtis on Halloween 1954; purchasing and remodeling their home; teaching part-time at the University of California, Berkeley and in workshops; her children, Baunnie and Sandra; managing motherhood and jewelry making in a two-artist household; drawing as a form of inventory; the influence of Lee Nordness; learning the plique-à-jour technique of enameling through trial and error; early influence of Doris Hall's work; working with wire; use of natural forms and interlocking forms; the process of making Wedding Crown (1968) for the exhibition Objects USA; making wedding crowns for her daughters; her shift from non-objective art to portraiture and symbolic imagery in the early 1970s; making large-scale sculpture in 1974, then "drifting back" to jewelry; importance of working independently; her "memory paintings" in the 1980s; evolution of her name from Mary Ruth Gibbs to Merry Renk Curtis (married Stanley Renk in 1941); her involvement with local guilds such as the Metal Arts Guild of San Francisco and national organizations such as the American Craft Council (ACC); lack of critical writing about her work; the value of exhibitions; various pieces in museum collections; early ACC conferences; her long friendship with photographer Imogen Cunningham; posing for Cunningham; becoming an ACC fellow; her jewelry tools; the process of painting compared to jewelry making. She also mentions Kenneth Bates, Trude Guermonprez, Irena Brynner, the Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and her mentor Margaret de Patta.
Biographical / Historical:
Merry Renk (1921-2012) was a jeweler, painter, and sculptor from San Francisco, California. Arline M. Fisch (1931-) is a metalsmith from San Diego, California.
Originally recorded on 3 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 6 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 9 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Use of the materials requires an appointment. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment: ACMarchives@si.edu.
The Henry P. Whitehead collection is the physical property of the Anacostia Community Museum. Literary and copyright belong to the author/creator or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with the Anacostia Community Museum. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archives.
Henry P. Whitehead collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Michael A. Watkins.
The papers of Boston area painters Esther Baldwin Williams and daughter Esther Williams measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1887 to 1984. The scattered papers of both women include biographical information, personal business records, correspondence, writings and notes, two diaries, four sketchbooks, printed materials, photographs, and one photograph album.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Boston and New York area painters Esther Baldwin Williams and daughter Esther Williams measure 2.1 linear feet and date from 1887 to 1984. The scattered papers of both women include biographical information, personal business records, correspondence, writings and notes, two diaries, four sketchbooks, printed materials, photographs, and one photograph album.
For clarity, Esther Baldwin Williams and Esther Williams are referred to by their proper names throughout this finding aid.
Biographical information includes a membership card to the Rockport Art Association for Esther Williams and a biographical sketch of Esther Baldwin Williams
Personal business records include receipts for purchases of artwork by Esther Baldwin Williams, banking documents, exhibition entry forms and sales receipts for Esther William's works.
Correspondence includes incoming letters and drafts of outgoing letters. The majority of the correspondence is that of Esther Williams, including a considerable amount of letters to her parents. There are letters to Esther Williams from her friends Louis Eilshemius, Furman J. Finck, and Leon Kroll, and both Grace Horne Galleries and Kraushaar Galleries. Esther Baldwin Williams' correspondence includes personal letters from Maurice Prendergast.
Writings and notes include two diaries kept by Esther Baldwin Williams that date from 1892 until 1902 and cover her life in Paris and later in Boston. Some of the diary pages are illustrated with sketches. The series also includes scattered notes, including Charles Prendergast's Notes on Formula of Ebonizing Technique.
There are four sketchbooks, likely by Esther Baldwin Williams, of pencil and watercolor sketches of cats, babies and children, orchestral scenes, portraits, and architecture.
Scattered printed materials include a copy of Cezanne's Studio given to Esther Baldwin Williams by Maurice Prendergast, a copy of a family history by Nadia Williams, exhibition announcements and catalogs, clippings, and miscellany.
There is one photograph of an unidentified work of art and a circa 1900 family photo album with mostly unidentified photos of babies, children, and family members.
The collection is arranged as 7 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1942-1979 (2 folders; Box 1)
Series 2: Personal Business Records, 1893-1966 (9 folders; Box 1)
Series 3: Correspondence, 1887-1961 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Series 4: Writings and Notes, 1892-1947 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 5: Sketchbooks and Sketches, circa 1900 (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 2-3)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1883-1984 (0.2 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 7: Photographs, circa 1900-circa 1920 (0.3 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
Esther Baldwin Williams (1867-1964) and her daughter Esther Williams (1907-1969) were painters active in Boston, Paris, and New York City.
Esther Baldwin Williams was born Esther Mabel Baldwin on December 11, 1867 to a prominent Boston family of artists. She began her art education under her uncle Joseph Foxcroft Cole and worked with her cousin Adelaide Chase Cole. Adelaide and Esther shared a studio in Greenwich Village in 1888. The two cousins also traveled to Paris in 1877 and 1891 to paint. Esther Baldwin concentrated on portraiture and often painted the women in her social circle.
Esther Baldwin became engaged to Oliver Williams in 1898. They married and moved to 96 Beacon Street in Boston where they raised their children, Oliver, Thomas, and Esther. Around 1900, the Williams met Maurice and Charles Prendergast. Esther became a friend and patron of Maurice and the two shared a studio for some time and exchanged letters. Esther Baldwin continued to work in portraiture, focusing her work on her children and relatives and did not pursue a professional career. In addition to painting, Esther Baldwin and Oliver Williams inspired a passion for music in their children.
Born in 1907, Esther Williams inherited her mother's interest in the arts. Unlike her mother, she desired a professional career as a painter. She first studied at the Museum of Fine Arts School, Boston in 1925 and later went to Paris to study under Andre Lhote. Upon returning to the United States, she moved to New York City and enrolled with the Art Students League. She married Roland Joseph McKinney, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum.
Esther Williams is known for her portraits, paintings of flowers, circus and orchestra scenes, and for her impressionistic style. She was represented by Grace Horne Gallery in the 1930s and switched to Kraushaar Galleries in 1940.
Esther Baldwin Williams died in 1964. Her daughter, Esther Williams died shortly thereafter in 1969.
Among the holdings of the Archives of American Art are the papers of Esther William's husband Roland Joseph McKinney.
The Esther Baldwin Williams and Esther Williams papers were donated in two installments by Peter McKinney, step-son of Esther Williams in 1974 and by Nadia Williams, Esther Baldwin William's daughter-in-law in 1985.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Access to NMAI Archive Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: email@example.com).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center. Please submit a written request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Collection Title, Box and Folder Number; National Museum of the American Indian Archive Center, Smithsonian Institution.
Bendix Air Races Collection, Acc. NASM.1988.0115, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.