A Finding Aid to the William E. L. Bunn Papers,
1863-2009
, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.bunnwill
Creators:
Bunn, William E. L., 1910-2009
Dates:
1863-2009
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
13.4 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter, muralist, and designer William E. L. Bunn measure 13.4 linear feet and date from 1863-2009. The collection documents Bunn's career as a painter, industrial designer, and his work on Treasury Department post office mural commissions through biographical material, scattered correspondence, project files, industrial design records, diaries and journals, writings and notes, printed material, photographs, and artwork. Also found are Bunn's papers regarding Grant Wood.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of painter, muralist, and designer William E. L. Bunn measure 13.4 linear feet and date from 1863-2009. The collection documents Bunn's career as a painter, industrial designer, and his work on Treasury Department post office mural commissions through biographical material, scattered correspondence, project files, industrial design records, diaries and journals, writings and notes, printed material, photographs, and artwork. Also found are Bunn's papers regarding Grant Wood.
Biographical material consists of certificates, school records, Bunn family genealogy records, an interview transcript, and an autobiographical file maintained by Bunn containing professional summaries, lists of works, one motion picture film reel of home movies, and other records. Correspondence documents exhibitions, awards, mural projects, and other commissions. Of note is correspondence with the General Services Administration, friend and fellow artist Lee Allen, and illustrated envelopes Bunn sent to his wife Annavene.
Project files contain photographs, notes, sketches, correspondence, and news clippings. Included is Bunn's notebook "Index to Projects" which provides additional information. Industrial design records include drawings and blueprints, employment records, photographs and publications, primarily from his work at Sheaffer Pen Company and Cuckler Steele Span Company.
Bunn's papers relating to Grant Wood include documentation from the Grant Wood Art Festival, as well as printed material, notes, and correspondence about Wood. Also found are photographs, including two photographs of Wood and photographs of his residence in Iowa City. Forty-one diaries and journals date from 1929-1951 and 1969-2003. Early diaries document art projects and school activities while he was a student at University of Iowa. Later journals document his work, travel, expenditures, and goals. Writings and notes include to-do lists, documentation on people Bunn knew, his artworks, lists of personal belongings, and topics of interest, such as astrology and steamboats. Also found are five notebooks on various subjects.
Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs, magazines, news clippings, and Treasury Department bulletins. Also found are announcements of mural competitions, postcards, and published images of steamboats. Photographs depict Bunn, his family, friends, and artwork. Additional photographs depict various subjects that were of interest to Bunn, including nature scenes, steamboats, airplanes, and bridges.
Artwork includes costume and theater designs created as part of William Bunn's thesis at University of Iowa. Also included are drawings and watercolors for potential art projects, as well as preliminary drawings and studies or technical drawings from his work as an industrial designer. Additionally, there are four sketchbooks, two of which include sketches and notes for the post office murals in Minden, Nebraska, and Hamburg, Iowa.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 10 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1910-2009 (Box 1, 12, FC 33; 0.7 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1927-2006 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Project Files, circa 1925-2002 (Box 1-3, 12, OV 15-19, RD 31; 2.2 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Industrial Design Records, circa 1944-1977 (Box 3, 12, OV 20; 0.6 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Papers Relating to Grant Wood, 1935-2006 (Box 3-4, 12; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Diaries and Journals, 1929-2003 (Box 4-6; 2.2 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Writings and Notes, circa 1928-2004 (Box 6-7; 1.0 linear foot)
  • Series 8: Printed Material, 1896-2009 (Box 7-8, 12, OV 21; 1.4 linear feet)
  • Series 9: Photographs, 1863-1990s (Box 8-9, 13; 1.6 linear feet)
  • Series 10: Artwork, circa 1926-2004 (Box 9-11, 14, OVs 22-30, RD 32; 2.3 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
William E. L. Bunn (1910-2009) was a designer, muralist, and painter in Ft. Madison, Iowa and Ojai, California. Bunn was born in Muscatine, Iowa and received his B.A. in Graphic and Plastic Arts and an M.A. in Theater Design, both from the University of Iowa. In 1937 he was awarded a one-year post-graduate fellowship as an art intern for Grant Wood. From 1938 to 1942 he won four commissions from the Treasury Department to produce murals for Federal buildings. He also exhibited paintings, primarily depicting Mississippi River steamboats, at the National Academy of Design, Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and other group shows. Beginning in 1943 Bunn worked as an industrial designer at several companies including Sheaffer Pen Company (1946-1967) and Cuckler Steele Span Company (1967-1977). After his retirement, he and his wife, Annavene, moved to California, and he continued to paint. Bunn was also active in the Theosophical Society and had an interest in aviation.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
Sketchbooks 4 and 5 are available on 35 mm microfilm reel 3813 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Processing Information
The collection was processed in 2011 by Erin Kinhart. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Author
Erin Kinhart
Provenance
The collection was donated by William E. L. Bunn in 1989 and in 2010 by Bunn's daughter, Chari Petrowski. In 1986 two sketchbooks and sketches were transferred with Bunn's permssion from the General Services Administration, which had received them from Bunn.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
William E. L. Bunn papers, 1863-2009. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate copy requires advance notice.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The William E. L. Bunn papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blueprints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Transcriptions Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designers -- Iowa Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Federal aid to the arts Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Muralists -- Iowa Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mural painting and decoration -- Middle West Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
New Deal, 1933-1939 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Designs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Section of Painting and Sculpture Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. General Services Administration Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wood, Grant, 1891-1942 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Allen, Lee, 1910-2006 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
United States. Dept. of the Treasury. Section of Fine Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/