The personal papers of Charles Lang Freer, the industrialist and art collector who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. The papers include correspondence, diaries, art inventories, scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeil Whistler and other press clippings, and photographs.
The personal papers of Charles Lang Freer, the industrialist and art collector who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. The papers include correspondence, diaries, art inventories, scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeil Whistler and other press clippings, financial material, architectural drawings, and photographs.
Correspondence, circa 1860-1921, includes Freer's correspondence, 1876-1920, with artists, dealers, collectors, museums, and public figures; letterpress books contain copies of Freer's outgoing letters, 1892-1910; correspondence collected by Freer of James McNeill Whistler, and his wife Beatrix, 186?-1909, with Lady Colin Campbell, Thomas R. Way, Alexander Reid, Whistler's mother, Mrs. George W. Whistler, and others; correspondence of Whistler collector Richard A. Canfield, 1904-1913, regarding works in Canfield's collection; and correspondence of Freer's assistant, Katharine Nash Rhoades, 1920-1921, soliciting Freer's letters from his associates, and regarding the settlement of his estate.
Also included are twenty-nine pocket diaries, 1889-1890, 1892-1898, 1900-1919, recording daily activities, people and places visited, observations, and comments; a diary kept by Freer's caretaker, Joseph Stephens Warring, recording daily activities at Freer's Detroit home, 1907-1910. Inventories, n.d. and 1901-1921, of American, European, and Asian art in Freer's collection, often including provenance information; vouchers, 1884-1919, documenting his purchases; five volumes of scrapbooks of clippings on James McNeill Whistler, 1888-1931, labeled "Various," "Peacock Room," "Death, etc.," "Paris, etc.," and "Boston...London" ; three volumes of newsclippings, 1900-1930, concerning Freer and the opening of the Freer Gallery of Art.
Correspondence regarding Freer's gift and bequest to the Smithsonian Institution, 1902-1916; and photographs, ca. 1880-1930, of Freer, including portraits by Alvin Langdon Coburn and Edward Steichen, Freer with others, Freer in Cairo, China and Japan, Freer's death mask, and his memorial service, Kyoto, 1930; photographs of artists and others, including Thomas Dewing, Ernest Fenollosa, Katharine Rhoades taken by Alfred Stieglitz, Rosalind B. Philip, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Abbott H. Thayer, Dwight Tryon, and Whistler; and photographs relating to Whistler, including art works depicting him, grave and memorial monuments, works of art, the Peacock Room, and Whistler's memorial exhibition at the Copley Society.
Organization of the Papers:
This collection is organized into twelve series.
Series 1: Genealogical and Biographical Data
Series 2: Correspondence
Series 3: Diaries
Series 4: Freer Colleague Materials
Series 5: Art Inventories
Series 6: Financial Materials
Series 7: Exhibition Loan Files
Series 8: Biblical Manuscripts and Gold Treasure Files
Series 9: American School of Archaeology in China
Series 10: Printed Material
Series 11: Outsize Material
Series 12: Photographs
1854 February 25 -- Born in Kingston, New York
1873 -- Appointed accountant and paymaster of New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad by Frank J. Hecker (1846-1927)
1876 -- Moves to Indiana to work, with Hecker, for the Detroit and Eel River and Illinois Railroad
1880 -- Moves to Detroit, participates in organization of the Peninsular Car Works with Hecker
1883 -- Becomes vice president and secretary of Peninsular Car Company when it succeeds Peninsular Car Works
1883 -- Begins collecting European prints
1884 -- Peninsular Car Company constructs plant on Ferry Avenue
1887 -- Meets Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)
1887 -- Acquires proofs of 26 etchings, Venice, Second Series(1886), by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
1887 -- Purchases a small Japanese fan attributed to Ogata Korin(1658-1715)
1887 -- Buys land on Ferry Avenue
1889 -- Meets Frederick Stuart Church (1826-1900) and Dwight William Tryon (1849-1925) in New York
1890 -- Commissions Wilson Eyre (1858-1944) to design house on Ferry Avenue, Detroit, Michigan
1890 -- On first trip to London, meets James McNeill Whistler(1834-1903)
1892 -- Moves to Ferry Avenue house
1892 -- Tryon and Thomas Wilmer Dewing (1851-1938) undertake decoration of reception rooms
1893 -- Lends American paintings to World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
1893 -- Purchases first piece of Chinese art, a small painting of white herons by an anonymous Ming dynasty (1368-1644) artist
1894 -- Begins yearlong trip around the world, which includes visit to the Whistlers in Paris and first trip to Asia, stopping in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, China, and Japan
1896 -- Meets Matsuki Bunkyo (1867-1940) in Boston
1899 -- Takes part in consolidation of railroad-car building companies then retires from active business
1900 -- Attends Exposition International Universelle in Paris
1900 -- Buys villa in Capri with Thomas S. Jerome
1901 -- Meets Siegfried Bing (1838-1905) in Paris and Ernest Fenollosa(1853-1908), who visits Freer in Detroit
1902 -- Meets Dikran Kelekian (1868-1951)
1902 -- Spends summer in Britain building Whistler collection
1902 -- Views Whistler's, Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room
1904 -- Purchases Whistler's Peacock Room
1904 -- Offers his art collections and funds to build a museum in which to house them to the Smithsonian Institution
1905 -- Smithsonian committee visits Freer in Detroit
1906 -- United States government formally accepts Freer's gift on January 24
1906 -- Freer signs Deed of Gift to Smithsonian Institution on May 5
1907 -- On second tour of Asia, meets Hara Tomitaro 1868-1939) in Yokohama, Japan
1908 -- Takes third trip to Asia, specifically to West Asia to study Rakka ware
1909 -- Tours Europe to study art museums
1909 -- On fourth trip to Asia, attends memorial ceremony for Fenollosa (d.1908 September) at Miidera, Japan, and meets Duanfang (1861-1911) in China
1910 -- On last trip to Asia, visits Longmen Buddhist caves in China
1911 -- Suffers stroke
1912 -- Lends selection of objects for exhibition at Smithsonian Institution
1913 -- Meets Eugene (1875-1957) and Agnes E. (1887-1970) Meyer
1913 -- Commissions Charles Adams Platt (1861-1933) to design museum building in Washington
1914 -- Meets Katharine Nash Rhoades (1885-1965) in Detroit
1915 -- Settles in New York City
1915 -- Site of future Freer Gallery of Art is determined
1916 -- Platt's plans for Freer Gallery are approved by Smithsonian Regents and Commission of Fine Arts and ground is broken in September
1918 -- After falling ill in Detroit, Freer travels to New York for treatment
1918 -- Work on the museum building is delayed by the war
1919 -- Freer appends codicil to will permitting acquisitions of Asian, Egyptian, and Near Eastern (West Asian) art
1919 -- Dies in New York City on 25 September and is buried in Kingston, New York
1919 -- Construction of Freer Gallery completed
1920 -- John Ellerton Lodge (1876-1942) is appointed director of the Freer Gallery
1923 -- Freer Gallery opens to the public on May 9
1930 -- Memorial ceremony for Freer is held at Koetsuji, Kyoto
Charles Lang Freer was an American industrialist who founded the Freer Gallery of Art. He was a well-known collector of Asian art, and strongly supported the synthesis of Eastern art and Western art. One of his most famous acquisitions was James McNeill Whistler's Peacock Room.
Index to cross-referenced correspondents in the series Charles Lang Freer correspondence
Beal, Junius E. -- See: -- Warring, Joseph Stephens
Black, George M. -- See: -- Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Board of Education (Kingston, New York) See: Michael, M. J.
Bonner, Campbell See: University of Michigan
Boughton, George H. See: Yardley, F. C.
British Museum See: Binyon, Laurence; Hobson, R. L.
Brown, Harold H. See: Art Association of Indianapolis
Buchner, Evelyn B. See: Knoedler, M., and Company
Buckholder, C. H. See: Art Institute of Chicago
Butler, S. B. See: Unidentified correspondents
Carnegie Institute See: Balken, Edward Duff; Harshe, Robert B.
Carpenter, Newton H. See: Art Institute of Chicago
Caulkins, Horace James See: Pewabic Pottery
Chao, Shih-chin See: Gunn, Chu Su
Chicago & North Western Railway Co. See: Hughett, Marvin
Clark, Charles Upson See: Clark, Arthur B.
Cleveland Museum of Art See: Whiting, Frederic Allen
Columbia University See: Braun, W. A.; Gottheil, Richard; Hirth, Friederich
Commission of Fine Arts See: Moore, Charles
Corcoran Gallery of Art See: Minnigerode, C. Powell
Crocker, Anna B. See: Portland Art Association
Dannenberg, D. E. See: Karlbeck, Orvar
De Menoncal, Beatrice See: Lien, Hui Ch'ing Collection
De Ricci, Seymour See: Ricci, Seymour de
Defnet, William A., Mrs., See: Franke, Ida M.
DeMotte See: Vigouroux, J.
Detroit Institute of Arts See: Detroit Museum of Art
Detroit Publishing Company See: Livingstone, W. A.
Detroit School of Design See: George Hamilton; Stevens, Henry
DeVinne Press See: Peters, Samuel T.; Witherspoon, A. S.
Dyrenforth, P. C. See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Eddy, Arthur J. See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Eggers, George Williams See: Art Institute of Chicago
Farr, Daniel H. See: Robinson and Farr
Farrand School (Detroit) See: Yendall, Edith
Field Museum of Natural History (Chicago) See: Laufer, Berthold
Flagg, Frederick J. See: Allen, Horace N.
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University See: Forbes, Edward; Pope, Arthur Upham; Sachs, Paul J.
French, M. R. See: Art Institute of Chicago
Fu, Lan-ya See: Pang, Lai-ch'en
Fujii, Yoshio See: Yoshio, Fujii
Gerrity, Thomas See: Knoedler, M., and Company
Goupil Gallery See: Marchant, William
Gray, William J. See: Barr, Eva
Great Lakes Engineering Works See: Hoyt, H. W.
Grolier Club See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Heinemann, W. See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Holden, Edward S. See: West Point, U. S. Military Academy
Hudson, J. L. See: Weber, William C.
Hutchins, Harry B. See: University of Michigan
Hutchins, Charles L. See: Art Institute of Chicago
Kelekian, H. G. See: Kelekian, Dikran G.
Kent, H. W. See: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Lee, Kee Son See: Li, Chi-ch'un
Levy, John See: Schneider, A. K.
Library of Congress See: Rice, Richard A.; Wright, Helen
Louvre (Paris, France) See: Midgeon, Gaston
Matsuki, Z. See: Matsuki, Kihachiro
McKim, Mead and White See: White, Stanford
Mills, A. L., Colonel See: Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Miner, Luella See: Lien, Hui Ch'ing Collection
Minneapolis Institute of Arts See: Breck, Joseph; Van Derlip, John R.
Monif, R. Khan See: Rathbun, Richard
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston See: Lodge, John Ellerton
Naser, Katen & Nahass See: Katen, K.
Nordlinger, Marie, Miss See: Meyer-Riefstahl, Marie
Panama Pacific International Exposition See: Moore, Charles C.; Trask, John E. D.
Peabody Museum See: Morse, Edward Sylvester
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts See: Trask, John E. D.
Saint-Gaudens, Augusta H. See: Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Saint-Gaudens, Homer See: Saint-Gaudens, Augustus
Samurai Shokai See: Nomura, Yozo
San Francisco Art Association See: Laurvik, J. Nilsen
Scribner's, Charles, Sons See: Van Dyke, John C.
Shaw, Wilfred B. See: University of Michigan
Shirae, S. Z. See: Yamanaka and Company
Smith College See: Clark, Arthur B.
Smithsonian Institution See: Holmes, William Henry; Rathbun, Richard; Ravenel, Walcott, Charles D.
Society of Arts and Crafts (Detroit) See: Plumb, Helen
Societe des Beaux-Arts See: Reid, Alexander
Stevens, George W. See: Toledo Museum of Art
Stratton, Mary Chase Perry See: Pewabic Pottery
Tanaka, Kichijiro See: Yamanaka and Company
Tuttle, William F. See: Art Institute of Chicago
Union Trust Company (Detroit) See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
United States Military Academy See: West Point, U. S. Military Academy
University of Chicago See: Zug, George Breed
University of Pennsylvania, Univ. Mus. See: Gordon, George Bryon
Ushikubo, D. J. R. See: Yamanaka and Company
Wallis & Son See: Barr, Eva; Thompson, C. Croal Ward, Clarence See: Oberlin College
Warren, Edward K. See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Warring, Stephen See: Warring, Joseph Stephens
Watkin, Williams R. T. See: Philip, Rosalind Birnie
Watson, Margaret, Miss See: Parker, Margaret Watson
Whistler, Anna See: Stanton, Anna Whistler
Whiting, Almon C. See: Toledo Museum of Art
Williams College See: Rice, Richard A
Wright, F. G. See: Orbach and Company
Yatsuhashi, H. See: Yamanaka and Company
Index to cross-referenced correspondence in the series Whistler correspondence
Bell, William See: Unidentified correspondents
Brown, Ernest See: Painter Etchers' Society, Committee
Cowen, John T. See subseries: Charles Lang Freer Correspondence
Ford, Sheridan See: Reid, Alexander
Haden, Francis Seymour See: Painter Etchers' Society, Committee
Haden, Francis Seymour, Lady See: Haden, Deborah Whistler
Leighton, Frederick, Baron See: Campbell, Lady Colin
Moore, Albert See: Reid, Alexander
Morley, Charles See: Pall Mall Gazette
Morris, Harrison S. See: Reid, Alexander
Pennell, Joseph See: Miscellaneous typescripts
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts See: Reid, Alexander
Prange, F. G. See: Reid, Alexander
Societe des Beaux-Arts See: Reid, Alexander
Society of Portrait Painters See: Reid, Alexander
Stevens Fine Art See: Reid, Alexander
Studd, Arthur See: Miscellaneous typescripts
[Vanderbilt?], George, Mrs. See: George, Mrs.
Whistler, William McNeill, Mrs. See: Whistler, Nellie
Whistler Memorial Committee See: Miscellaneous typescripts
The Archives of American Art microfilmed portions of the Freer papers in 1992. The microfilm is available at the Archives of American Art's Washington D.C. office, the Freer Gallery of Art Library, and through interlibrary loan.
Gift of the estate of Charles Lang Freer.
Collection is open for research.
Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository.
Wenley, A. G. (Archibald Gibson), 1898-1962 Search this
20 Linear feet
An associate curator and associate in archaeology at the Freer Gallery of Art from 1922 to 1942, the collection of Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) document his Gallery-sponsored travels to China from 1923 to 1934 and include an unpublished manuscript describing his archaeological research in China; line drawings; rubbings; maps; note cards; and nearly 4,000 glass and film negatives with corresponding original silver prints. These document his expeditions in northern and central China, illustrating archaeological sites in Henan, Shanxi, and Hebei provinces. Specific digs include the large neolithic site at Wanquan, Shanxi, and sixth century C.E. tombs near Fenyin. Additional images show Chinese cityscapes, daily life and customs, topography, temples, pagodas, caves, and sculpture.
Scope and Contents:
The professional papers and official records of Carl Whiting Bishop include his unpublished two-volume manuscript, [not before 1940]; and photographs, nearly 4,000 images, 1915-1934; and undated. These materials document over a twenty-five year period in the course of Bishop's research and archaeological activities. They were retained at the Freer Gallery of Art after Bishop's death in 1942, and were supplemented with an addition received in 1956 from his widow Daisy Furscott Bishop.
The manuscript was prepared in a typescript format, over 421 pages of text, with photographic illustrations, and completed by Bishop sometime after 1939. Properly titled Archaeological Research in China 1923-1934, this unpublished manuscript constituted a field report that chronicled Bishop's Gallery-sponsored expeditions in northern and central China during the period 1923 to 1934. The reader is provided with a record of the day-to-day operations completed, of obstacles and opposition encountered, and the results obtained from their work. Key diplomatic and scientific representatives from the West and China are recorded who aided and contributed to the investigations. Moreover, there are descriptions of the academic, social and political climate in China during a period of civil war and economic strife. Against this background, Bishop also discussed their efforts in view of the history of China, with commentary on the country's geography, topography, climate, flora and fauna, mineral products, and ancient customs and legends.
The earliest still photographic prints in the Bishop Papers date from his employ at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, where he conducted archaeological reconnaissance from 1915 to 1918 in China, Korea, and Japan. All subsequent images were created or collected by Bishop and his assistant Kuang-zung Tung during the Freer Gallery-sponsored expeditions of 1923-1934. Further descriptions of these materials may be found under Series 2 and Series 3 in this finding aid.
In the transliteration into English of the names of Chinese characters, Bishop followed the Wade-Giles system, with a few exceptions to those rules for certain well known and commonly used place-names, especially those of cities, towns, territorial divisions, and bodies of water. We have retained Bishop's romanization except in certain areas where clarification was needed. The Chinese personal and place-names have been kept as they appeared in his captions.
Series 1: Manuscript/Writings 1915-1934 and undated
Series 2: Photography Prints
Series 3: Negatives
Series 4: Drawings, Rubbings, and Maps
Biographical / Historical:
Carl Whiting Bishop (1881-1942) was an archaeologist, anthropologist, and specialist in the field of East Asian studies. Born in Tokyo, Japan, on July 12, 1881, he was the son of a Methodist missionary, the Reverend Charles Bishop. Except for a twelve-month residence in the United States during 1889-90, Bishop spent the first sixteen years of his life in Japan, before returning to this country in 1898 for college preparatory work at Northwestern Academy, Evanston, Illinois. He studied at Hampden-Sydney College and in 1912 received an A.B. degree from DePauw University. In 1913 he was awarded the degree of Master of Arts by the Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, where he studied with the noted German anthropologist, Franz Boas (1858-1942). That same year he received his first scientific appointment as a member of the Peabody Museum Expedition to Central America.
From 1914-18 Bishop served as Assistant Curator in Oriental Art at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, where on an expedition for that museum he made his first trip to China. Under the auspices of the university, he conducted archaeological reconnaissance during 1915 and 1916 in China, Korea, and Japan, and again conducted archaeological surveys in 1917 and 1918, although no systematic excavations were carried out at that time. When the United States entered World War I on the side of the Allied Powers, Bishop enlisted in the United States Navy and was made assistant naval attaché, serving in China in the years 1918-20, with the rank of lieutenant, junior grade. He returned to Columbia University in 1921 to assume the position of Assistant in Anthropology, a post he held until the end of the academic season in 1922.
Effective 10 April 1922, Bishop was appointed as Associate Curator of the Freer Gallery of Art by then director John Ellerton Lodge (1878-1942). Asked to undertake important archaeological work, Bishop headed the gallery's first expedition to China, sponsored jointly by the FGA and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, lasting from 20 February 1923 to 6 August 1927. From 16 November 1929 to 11 April 1934, he headed another expedition, sent out this time by the Freer Gallery alone. When conditions in China made further efforts impractical, Bishop returned to Washington in 1934, where he remained at the gallery as Associate in Archaeology until the time of his death on 16 June 1942.
Carl Whiting Bishop was a member of a number of learned societies: the American Oriental Society, the American Archaeological Society, the Anthropological Society, the American Society for the Advancement of Science, the American Geographical Society, and he served on the advisory board of the American Council of Learned Societies until his death.
1881, July 12 -- Born in Tokyo, Japan
1898 -- Attends Northwestern Academy in Evanston, Illinois for college preparatory work Attends Hampden-Sydney College
1912 -- Receives A.B. degree from DePauw University
1913 -- Receives Master of Arts from Department of Anthropology from Columbia University, where he studied with Franz Boas
1914 -- Begins serving as Assistant Curator in Oriental Art at the University of Pennsylvania Museum
1915-1918 -- Makes several archaeological survey trips to China, Korea and Japan
1918-1920 -- Enlists in the U.S. Navy, serving as assistant naval attaché in China
1921 -- Serves as Assistant Professor in Anthropology at Columbia University
1922, April 10 -- Becomes Associate Curator of the Freer Gallery of Art
1923-1927 -- Heads the Freer Gallery's first expedition to China, co-sponsored by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
1929-1934 -- Heads the second Freer-sponsored expedition to China
1934 -- Returns to US and serves as Associate in Archaeology at the Freer Gallery of Art
1942, June 16 -- Dies.
Additional Bishop material may be found in the following collections also found in the the Archives of the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery:
Li Chi Reports, 1926-1929, regarding Li's reconnaissance work at Shi-yin Ts'un, Shansi Province, and the excavation at Anyang.
Archibald Gibson Wenley Papers, 1924-1926, including field diaries, notes, and photographs documenting his participation in the FGA expedition work in China.
Charles Lang Freer Papers, including 1915 correspondence between Freer and Bishop; newspaper clippings related to Bishop, and documents dated 1912-1913, relating to Freer's support for a proposed American School of Archeology in China.
A number of objects from the FGA expeditions, including bronzes, ceramics, and stone sculpture, have been accessioned into the permanent art collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. Additionally, remnants of antiquities, potteries, and metalwork accumulated during the field work, have been placed in the Freer Gallery Study Collection. Records for these items are retained with the Galleries' Registrar's Office.
Additional Bishop material may be found in the Smithsonian Institutional Archives:
Expedition Records, including correspondence of Carl Whiting Bishop, 1914; 1923-1942, nearly 3,000 letters arranged alphabetically by correspondent name; a manuscript catalogue of expedition acquisitions, Peking, 1923-1925; financial records, 1923-1934, including expedition fund ledgers, account statements, and receipts; and newspaper clippings, 1924-1932, documenting the gallery's field work and general archaeological work being conducted around the world at that time.
Smithsonian Institutional Archives, Central Files, Bishop folders, 1923-1942, including expedition letters, field reports, and photographs sent to John E. Lodge.
Personnel and Special Events Photograph Collection, containing portrait photographs of Bishop.
Additional Bishop matieral may be found in the University of Pennsylvania Museum Archives, Philadelphia:
Documentation of University of Pennsylvania Museum-sponsored field work in East Asia may be found there that includes records of C.W. Bishop, dated 1914-1927 (measuring about .5 linear foot), much of it created during his tenure as the Museum's Assistant Curator of Oriental Art from 1914-1918. Included are Bishop's journals consisting of daily entries for two trips to China for the University of Pennsylvania Museum; letters to and from G.B. Gordon, C.W. Harrison, and Jane McHugh, written during Bishop's travel in China and subsequent to his return; and detailed financial accounts of expenditures during the China travels. Additionally, the repository houses a group of Bishop's negatives taken in China to visually record the expedition work.
Gift of Carl Whiting Bishop.
Collection is open for research.
Permission to reproduce and publish an item from the Archives is coordinated through the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery's Rights and Reproductions department. Please contact the Archives in order to initiate this process.
Papers, 1959-1987, of Elizabeth Gordon, editor of the periodical, House Beautiful from 1941-1964, mostly related to her research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; notes; drafts for articles and lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; drawings of paper and foil art; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
Scope and Contents:
The Elizabeth Gordon Papers measure 4.5 linear feet and span the years 1959-1987. The collection mainly documents Ms. Gordon's research for the August and September 1960 issues of House Beautiful regarding the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui", and the subsequent travelling "shibui exhibition" from 1961-1964. Included are correspondence, some photocopies, 1959-1963; research notes and materials; articles; lectures; printed material including magazine and newspaper clippings, 1959-1987; 2 books, and exhibition announcements; article materials; a photo album containing photos of exhibition installations; and photographs, slides, color transparencies, and lantern slides depicting people, sites, and objects reflecting the "shibui" aesthetic.
This collection is organized into eight series. 1. Biographical data, 2. Shibui research, 3. Shibui issues of, House Beautiful, 4. Correspondence, 5. Shibui promotion, 6. Exhibition files, 7. Printed materials, and 8. Photographs.
Born in Logansport, Indiana in 1906, Elizabeth Gordon served as editor of House Beautiful magazine 1941 to 1964. Ms. Gordon first became interested in Japanese aesthetics during the mid-1950s. As a result she began to read and study Japanese art, history and culture. In 1959, Gordon travelled to Japan with three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize. In August and September, 1960, House Beautiful, under the editorial control of Ms. Gordon, published two extremely popular issues devoted to the subject of "shibui". Due to the popularity of the issues, museum exhibits devoted to the concept of "shibui" travelled around the United States. Ms. Gordon died in Adamstown, Maryland in 2000.
1906 -- Born in Logansport, Indiana
1920s -- Attended the University of Chicago
1930s -- Moved to New York to work as a promotional copywriter for several newspapers
1930s -- Syndicated columnist on home maintenance for The New York Herald Tribune
1930s -- Editor at Good Housekeeping (here for 8 years)
1937 -- More House for your Money by Elizabeth Gordon and Dorothy Ducas published by W. Morrow and Company: New York.
1937 -- Married Carl Hafey Norcross
1939 -- Appointed editor of House Beautiful
1964 -- Left the magazine world
1972 -- Published a special issue on Scandinavian design and awarded the insignia of a knight, first class, in the Finnish Order of the Lion
1987 -- American Institute of Architects made her an honorary member
1988 -- Carl Hafey Norcross died
September 3, 2000 -- Died in Adamstown, MD
(The following biography of Elizabeth Gordon comes courtesy of curator Louise Cort. Written in consultation with Elizabeth Gordon, October 23, 1987)
The research papers, memoranda, magazines, books, photographs and color transparencies and other materials in this archives are related to the publication by Elizabeth Gordon (Mrs. Carl Norcross), editor of House Beautiful from 1941 to 1964 and creator of the August, 1960 issue of the magazine on the special theme of the Japanese aesthetic concept of "shibui". The "shibui issue" was followed by the September, 1960, issue of the same publication on the theme, "How to be shibui with American things." As a by-product of the issues, a "Shibui Exhibition" travelled to eleven museums in the United States during 1961-1964. Each exhibition was opened with a slide lecture by Elizabeth Gordon.
Miss Gordon first became curious about Japanese aesthetics in the mid-1950s when she began to see Japanese objects being displayed and used in the homes of Americans who had spent time in Japan during the Occupation and Japanese influence began to appear in wholesale showrooms of home furnishings manufacturers. It was clear that the time had come: she HAD to go to Japan!
She read for five years before going to Japan - history, social mores, art history. (Many of the books on Japan that she collected during this time have been presented to the library at the University of Maryland, College Park.)
An important bit of advice came from Alice Spaulding Bowen, owner of Pacifica, the highest quality shop of Asian antiquities in Honolulu, who told her, "Be sure to read, The Tale of Genji - then you'll understand everything."
She made her first trip to Japan in April, 1959, accompanied by three staff people from, House Beautiful. In Kyoto she met Eiko Yuasa, a young woman then employed by the City of Kyoto to handle foreign V.I.P.s, who was assigned to assist Miss Gordon during her stay there. It was Ms. Yuasa who, in the course of discussions of Japanese aesthetics, introduced the term "shibui." Around that term and its related concepts ("iki", "jimi", "hade") the theme for the issue began to crystallize.
Miss Gordon came home, planning to spend the summer researching "shibui" with the aid of the Japan Society. But she found virtually nothing written in English on the concept. So she returned to Japan in December, 1959 together with staff member Marion Gough, to dig deeper and to work out details and get better educated with Eiko Yuasa. One of their devices was to walk through department stores and discuss with sales personnel whether objects for sale were "shibui", or were "jimi" or "hade", and why. Between themselves, they did the same for the costumes of women they saw on the streets.
Lacking printed sources for information on "shibui", Miss Gordon sought out and interviewed experts, including Douglas Overton, head of the Japan Society in New York. In Japan in December, 1959, she met Yanagi Soetsu, founder of Japan's Folk Craft Movement and head of the Craft Museum in Tokyo (with an introduction from Tonomura Kichinosuke, head of the Craft Museum in Kurashiki). She met the chef Tsuji Kaichi, who was commissioned to write an article on "kaiseki" (that could not be used because of an inadequate English translation) and Frances Blakemore. She met several times with Bernard Leach and attended his lecture at Bonnier's while he was in New York in March, 1960. (He would later write a "fan letter" for the issue)
As the concept of "the shibui issue" began to take shape, a third trip in the spring of 1960 focused on photography - to produce the shooting script decided on the preceding December. This was executed by the noted photographer Ezra Stoller of Rye, New York, and John DeKoven Hill, House Beautiful's Editorial Director. (Mr. Hill worked with Frank Lloyd Wright except for the ten years that he was a member of the House Beautiful editorial staff)
Miss Gordon was back in Japan in Mid-August 1960 as the "shibui issue" was causing a sensation. Altogether she spent sixteen months in Japan.
As one of the experiences that influenced her strong interest in Japanese costumes and textiles, Miss Gordon remembers a spectacularly thorough exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum in Ueno on, 1200 Years of Japanese Costume. She saw it on the last day of its exhibition (possibly 1964).
The August 1960 issue sold out quickly. Copies of the magazine, which sold for fifty cents, were sold on the "black market" for ten dollars.
The publication of the August 1960 issue was followed by an unprecedented avalanche of "fan mail". Many department heads in colleges and universities, including the Harvard-Yenching Institute and the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (where Miss Gordon had worked as an undergraduate) wrote to comment on the issue. Many people in other fields of endeavor wrote: heads of firms concerned with interior design, landscape architecture, and related areas expressed their interest in the concept of "shibui" Other writers include Bernard Leach, Gertrude Natzler, Laura Gilpin, Mainbocher, the architect Yoshimura Junzo, the textile artist Marianne Strengell, Walter Kerr, Craig Claiborne, and Oliver Statler.
The "shibui issue" was followed immediately by the September issue dealing with the use of non-Japanese objects to express the concept of "shibui." (Miss Gordon convinced her advertisers, who had been skeptical about the potential success of the August issue, by promising the September issue dealing with American products.) Four American firms were involved in the production of an integrated line of paints, wallpaper, furniture and carpets expressive of the concept. Products were designed by the firms' designers following the clues offered by objects and fabrics purchased by Miss Gordon in Japan in December 1959 and spring 1960. Miss Gordon has expressed her dissatisfaction with the September issue, although public opinion was positive. She feels that some of the firms failed in the "shibui" project, though some "caught" the message: namely the paint company and the fabric/wallpaper company.
In response to strong public interest, the House Beautiful staff prepared a travelling exhibition to introduce the concept of "shibui" through a series of vignettes, mixing fabrics and objects, colors and textures. The museum installation was designed by John Hill of House Beautiful. Japan Air Lines underwrote shipping costs.
The exhibition began in Philadelphia in late 1961. Ezra Stoller was sent to photograph the installation in considerable detail at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in January, 1962, so that his photographs cold serve as guidelines for installations at the other museums, which included the San Francisco Museum of Art (April 1962), the Newark Pubic Library, and the Honolulu Academy of Art. Miss Gordon presented a lecture on "shibui" at each of the museum installations.
In appreciation of her work to introduce Americans to the concept of "shibui", the city of Kyoto presented a bolt of especially "shibui" kimono fabric executed by a Living National Treasure textile artist. Miss Gordon eventually tailored the fabric into a dress and jacket. She received the 1961 Trail Blazer Award from the New York Chapter of the National Home Fashions League, Inc. In June, 1987, Miss Gordon was named an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects, with her introduction of the concept of "shibui" and her promotion of an understanding of other culture cited as her major contributions to American architecture.
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.
Elizabeth Gordon donated her papers to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives in 1988.