Scope and Content Note
The papers of modernist painter Ben Benn measure 6.3 linear feet and date from 1906 through 1977, with the bulk of the papers dating from circa 1920 - circa 1970. The collection includes correspondence between Benn and his wife Velida de Benn and letters from Oscar Bluemner, Max Weber, Joseph Stella, and other artists. Also found are biographical materials, sketches, sketchbooks, diaries, scrapbooks, personal business records, clippings, photographs, exhibition catalogs, art journals, and auction catalogs. Some of the printed material is quite rare.
The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence files dating from 1906 through 1993, and includes personal, professional, and family correspondence of Ben Benn and wife Velida Benn, as well as personal correspondence between the Benn's. Much of the professional correspondence relates to exhibitions and other projects and is with museums, galleries, and art associations, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Artists' Gallery, and the College Art Association. Additional correspondence contains letters from friends and colleagues including Alfred Barr, Oscar Bluemner, Rita Benton, Holger Cahill, Juliana Force, Sidney Geist, Kaj Klitgaard, Audrey McMahon, Julio Osma, Harry Salpeter, Hugh Stix, Hudson D. Walker, and Marguerite Zorach, among others. Letters exchanged between Ben Benn and Velida Benn primarily relate to Benn's activities in Woodstock, N.Y., Gloucester, Ma., and St. Augustine, Fla., places he visited during the early part of his career. Many of Benn's letters are illustrated. Velida Benn's correspondence includes letters from her brother Bernard Lopez, William M. Fisher (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Bessie Beatty, Rita Benton, Sidney Geist, and Julio Osma. Also found are brief notes from Joseph Stella, Max Weber, and Marsden Hartley.
Diaries (1943-1977) contain entries by Velida Benn and reflect her activities and personal observations; also found are numerous references to Benn's exhibitions and projects. Three scrapbooks (1915-1972) document Benn's exhibitions and include copies of correspondence, announcements, checklists, price lists, and clippings; many of the items are annotated. Artwork (1937-1974) consists of sketchbooks and various loose sketches of portraits, figures, and still lifes; also included are fashion sketches by Velida Benn.
Printed material (1905-1991, bulk 1930s-1970s) includes exhibition announcements and catalogs, newspaper and magazine clippings, printed programs, reproductions, and monographs. Of particular interest are Artists' and Writers' Chap Books (1933-1935) that include the work of Ben and Velida Benn. Photographs (1920-1969) contain images of works of art, of Ben Benn, individually and with Velida, and exhibition installation shots.