We have three new finding aids online:

The papers of Esta Nesbitt (above), pioneer in the use of Xerox machines in art

The papers of Herman Dudley Murphey, painter and frame maker

And the papers of arts administrator Mildred Baker

Esta Nesbitt at the Shadow paintings exhibit, circa 1974 / unidentified photographer. Esta Nesbitt papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

4 hours ago 19 notes

Meet Henry Ossawa Tanner: a painter who studied under Thomas Eakins, son of a minister and a former slave, chevalier of the Legion of Honor, and lifelong supporter of the pointy goatee.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1907 / Frederick Gutekunst, photographer. Henry Ossawa Tanner papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

1 day ago 45 notes

In honor of Earth Day, check out the newly digitized 1985 Archives of American Art documentary on sculptor David Barr’s “Four Corners Project.” Barr is seen above examining a model for the project, which was to inscribe a tetrahedron inside a sphere (not just any old sphere - in this case, the earth) and burying one of the actual corners at one of the four carefully mapped geographic locations. He traveled to Easter Island, Greenland, South Africa, and New Guinea to complete the project. You can watch the whole video on youtube through the link below. For more, see the smithsonianavarchivists post on this video today.

In celebration: the four corners project, 1985 / David John Barr and Archives of American Art. 16 mm : 1 film reel : sd., col. ; 16 mm. Miscellaneous sound, film, and video recordings collection. Archives of American Art.

2 days ago 99 notes

Happy Mime Monday!

Arbit Blatas and Marcel Marceau, 1958 / Alfredo Valente, photographer. Alfredo Valente papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

3 days ago 39 notes


[T]hen to the girls: From this moment on, you are Follies Girls - the cynosure of all eyes male and female - So watch your step - keep out of the newspapers headlines - I mean the unfavorable headlines - it is up to you.

Please report for rehearsals here when Bill the stage mgr. contacts you - very soon. Thanks for coming - You’re dismissed for today!



-Alberto Vargas, Alberto Vargas Diary, page 35, (c 1946).

And with that, we release you into the weekend with our first Final Lines Friday!

Here’s the tail end of a scripted encounter drafted by Alberto Vargas, whose diaries are shared by archivesofamericanart. You may have seen some of the Peruvian painter’s work in the form of WWII era Esquire Magazine pin ups and aircraft nose art, but this script recalls his time working with the lavish Zeigfeld Follies productions. 

We’re borrowing a page from classicpenguin to share the closing lines of our digitized, transcribed projects on Fridays. See you next week for more final phrases!

(via smithsoniantranscriptioncenter)

I guess “there is no such thing as bad publicity” doesn’t apply to Ziegfeld Follies Girls?

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Staff Pick:

The history of nude sculptures in America is a complex one. Victorian-era Americans clung to their deep Puritan roots well into the 1800s, essentially requiring artists to provide explicit written explanations on how to interpret nude statues in a moral and chaste way. Hiram Powers, keenly aware of the strict social mores of his audience, did just that when he introduced his famous sculpture, “The Greek Slave,” in 1844.

Here you see a bust of the original full-bodied work carved in white marble; this medium, preferred for nude sculptures at the time, disallowed for indecent thoughts and ultimately promoted two female ideas: purity and virginity. An account of Turkish slavery during warfare, the statue also communicates Powers’s powerful feminist and abolitionist ideals during a time when gender inequality still plagued American society.

Bust of ‘The Greek Slave,’ ” 1846–73, by Hiram Powers

See more of Powers’s work here.

Since we didn’t provide much background (just animation) to our Hiram Powers post this morning, thought you would appreciate this fascinating blurb on Powers from philamuseum. Incidentally, “The Greek Slave” is also featured on that page of photographs that we made our Venus GIF from.

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Friday GIFday: the many Venuses (Venusii?) of Hiram Powers.

Selections from: Page of photographs of various works by Hiram Powers and two images of the artist, 186-? / Longworth Powers, photographer. Hiram Powers papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

6 days ago 232 notes

Vintage cocktail recipes in rhyme? Yes, please! This unique unpublished book by Charles Green Shaw is only one of many rare printed materials that will be featured in our upcoming Journal.

Pages 42 and 43 from: Charles Green Shaw’s Rhymed recipes, 193-?. Charles Green Shaw papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

1 week ago 195 notes


Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan perform their collaborative poem “Memorial Day” as part of a reading series at 98 Greene Street Loft curated by the poet Ted Greenwald around 1973.

The video was shot by Sandy Hirsch on the only portable video format that existed at the time, 1/2 inch open reel video, often referred to as Portapak. Like any video shot in this format from the late 1960s to early 1970s, it is now a very fragile historical document. Digital preservation of this video allowed us to view it and share it with the public after decades of inaccessibility. 

The Archives thanks the Berrigan estate, Waldman, and Hirsch for their generous permission to share the video. Happy Poetry Month!

From the Holly Solomon Gallery Records at the Archives of American Art.

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Brilliant design for a bookmobile, especially if you need to throw off predators with a dizzying array of stripes.

Miami-Dade Public Library bookmobile, ca. 1976 / Lowell Nesbitt, photographer. Lowell Nesbitt papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Reblogging for National Bookmobile Day, the crown jewel (at least as far as I’m concerned) of National Library Week.

1 week ago 74 notes