The Ingalls Library has been creating clipping files on artists since before the museum opened in 1916. This collection, now of more than 15,000 artists’ folders, includes newspaper articles, gallery brochures, press releases, photographs, and other often rare ephemeral material. For local artists especially, these files may be the sole source of information on their life and work. To augment these resources and ensure the legacy of our region’s artistic output, the museum archives also actively collects the personal papers of artists. Generous benefactors—oftentimes the descendants of artists, sometimes friends or collectors, and even the artists themselves—allow us to preserve their legacy for future generations to research and enjoy. These collections include sketchbooks, renderings, photographs, correspondence, research files, and works of art. We actively digitize works on paper for the digital archives, and a wealth of additional information is indexed for easy access. Five collections highlight our efforts.
Born in Conneaut, Ohio, and raised in Youngstown, Mabel Amelia Hewit lived in Cleveland for the last 50 years of her life and exhibited in the museum’s May Show for 20 years. In 1933, she visited Provincetown, Massachusetts, and learned the white-line color woodcut method from its most famous practitioner, Blanche Lazzell. Hewit explored and perfected this technique during her five-decade-long career. Influenced by Precisionism, Cubism, and Art Deco, Hewit experimented with modernist ideas, producing charming color woodcuts in a contemporary style. The Mabel Hewit archival collection is comprised of two bound scrapbooks. They were compiled after 1960, each one spanning about 30 years. One documents the artist’s interaction with the May Show from 1936 to 1961. The second scrapbook documents Hewit’s regional career. Sketchbooks, color woodcuts, lithographs, textiles, and scrapbooks by Hewit were generously gifted by Mr. and Mrs. William Jurey, a nephew of Hewit, to the museum’s permanent collection and to the museum archives.
The John Paul Miller collection was donated to the museum archives by the artist’s heirs following his death in 2013. It documents the artist’s life and career through visual and textual materials, as well as ephemera. It also contains history records of the Brooks, Hershberger, and Miller families. The collection is an intimate look at the work and artistic process of one of the 20th century’s finest goldsmiths, whose works can be found in museums and private collections. Information on every piece created by Miller over his long career is included. For a researcher seeking to confirm provenance, this is crucial documentation. But some of the most endearing items from the John Paul Miller collection include his travel photographs. What could provide better insight into who he was as a person than what he documented? As an artist, his work focused on the natural world, and as a tourist, his photography did as well. In a rare moment on the other side of the camera, he appears in his red parka surrounded by penguins in Antarctica.
Aficionados of Cleveland history or readers of the society pages would be forgiven if all they knew about Russell Barnett Aitken was his connection to the Von Bülow family scandal. But Aitken was a renowned ceramic sculptor and enamelist, as well as a celebrated outdoorsman and a distinguished writer. While a student at the Cleveland School (now Institute) of Art, Aitken began sculpting figures at the Cowan Pottery Studio alongside Viktor Schreckengost. He graduated in 1931 and later undertook postgraduate study in Vienna. Aitken set up his own studio in 1931 and began exhibiting prizewinning work in the May Show. Known for his distinctive caricatures of people and animals in a style influenced by his contact with Viennese modernists, he became famous among collectors and dealers alike. He moved to New York in 1935. Aitken married his first wife, ceramicist Anne Laurie Crawford, in 1957. She died in 1984. Years later, Aitken married Irene Roosevelt. The artist’s collection was donated to the museum archives by Irene. The collection documents the artist’s life and career through visual, textual, and three-dimensional materials, including works of art, artist tools, and molds used to create his works.
The William E. Ward archival collection consists entirely of works on paper created by the artist. It spans his work as a high school student through his career as an artist. Ward was the chief designer at the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1957 to 1993. Born in Cleveland, he was educated at Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Institute of Art, and Columbia University. During World War II, he served in the US army terrain intelligence unit in India and in what was then known as Ceylon, where he developed a lifelong interest in Southeast Asian art. After his military service, Ward worked in the education and Asian art departments of the museum prior to being named head designer. He also was a professor of calligraphy and watercolor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Ward was married to internationally renowned fiber artist Evelyn Svec. Their private art collection was featured in several exhibitions at the CIA and the CMA. Ward donated 72 Kalighat watercolors to the museum in memory of his wife in 2003.
John Jackson was a 1977 graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art. His work was marked by organic and architectural forms in sculpture and drawing. He lived and worked in Philadelphia before returning to Cleveland in 1994, where he earned a living as a carpenter in addition to creating his works of art. Jackson was longtime friends with his teacher and mentor Edwin Mieczkowski, a member of the Anomina group and founder of the Op art movement. Together, they formed the New Cell group with Bea Mitchell, creating collaborative tondo drawings, one of which is now in the museum archives. Jackson was also associated with Zygote Press, where his work was featured in the posthumous exhibition John Jackson: Works and Processes in 2006. This collection of artworks, sketchbooks, study materials, journals, and slides documents the creative process of Jackson, with ancillary materials showing his involvement in the Cleveland and Philadelphia art scenes. It also includes personal papers, such as correspondence, calendars, and slides, and an oral history conducted posthumously by a museum archivist with the artist’s sisters and friend.
These collections are available to researchers Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:50 p.m. More information about artist papers can also be found on the library website at library.clevelandart.org. Our clipping files and holdings of artist papers continue to grow, and the collections of Edris Eckhardt, August Frederick Biehle Jr., and Masumi Hayashi will be available soon. We are happy to accept donations of gallery announcements, artist statements, and brochures, as well as artist papers. We invite you to contact us at archives2 [at] clevelandart.org to help preserve these vital records of our region’s shared artistic history.