A Finding Aid to the Ellen Hulda Johnson Papers, 1872-1994, bulk 1921-1992, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.johnelle
Creators:
Johnson, Ellen H.
Dates:
1872-1994
bulk 1921-1992
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
55.3 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of art historian, art critic, author, librarian and educator Ellen Hulda Johnson measure 55.3 linear feet and date from 1872-1994, with the bulk of the material dating from 1921-1992. The papers include biographical materials; personal and family files; personal, professional, and business correspondence; extensive research and writing files; teaching files; subject files; professional and curatorial files; and artists' files. Johnson's papers reflect the full range of her career, interests, and close relationships with many artists.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of art historian, art critic, author, librarian and educator Ellen Hulda Johnson measure 55.3 linear feet and date from 1872-1994, with the bulk of the material dating from 1921-1992. The papers include biographical materials; personal and family files; personal, professional, and business correspondence; extensive research and writing files; teaching files; subject files; professional and curatorial files; and artists' files. Johnson's papers reflect the full range of her career, interests, and close relationships with many artists.
Personal papers consist of biographical materials and personal and family files, including "memorabilia" files compiled by Johnson. Correspondence is a mix of personal, business, and professional correspondence. Significant correspondents include David Saunders (who painted a portrait of Johnson), Claes Oldenburg, Jack Tworkov, Robert Venturi, the American Scandinavian Foundation. A folder of correspondence compiled for the Archives includes letters from Alfred Stieglitz, Wendell Wilkie, Carl Milles, Jim Dine, and Alexander Archipenko.
Extensive and comprehensive writing and research project files include articles, lectures, presentations, manuscripts, notes and notebooks, including her class notebooks from courses she attended in Paris in 1935, and additional notes and notebooks on a wide variety of subjects. The numerous articles, lectures, papers, and drafts were written primarily by Johnson for the College Art Association, the Allen Memorial Art Museum bulletin, and numerous additional publications and presentations; but there are also writings by others included in the research files. Major writing projects and related research files cover Scandinavian art, the Ossabaw Island artist's colony, Cezanne, Eva Hesse, John Frederick Kensett, Claes Oldenburg, Picasso, David Saunders, Athena Tacha, Pop Art, and many other topics. Johnson's research files, manuscripts, correspondence, and photographs for major exhibitions, including one on Eva Hesse (1982) and for her published books including American Artists on Art from 1940-1980 (1982), Claes Oldenburg (1971), Fragments Recalled at 80: The Art Memoirs of Ellen H. Johnson (1993), and Modern Art and Object (1976) are arranged with the writing project files. Johnson's bibliographic index cards are found here as well.
The collection contains extensive teaching files for courses taught by Johnson at Oberlin and as a visiting professor at other institutions; professional and curatorial files reflecting her curatorial career at Allen Memorial Art Museum, as a consultant, jury member, and continuing education courses she later attended, including the Baldwin Lecture Series; and 18 linear feet of artist's files assembled by Johnson.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The Ellen Hulda Johnson papers are arranged into seven series:
  • Series 1: Personal Papers, 1910-1994 (2 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, 56)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1937-1992 (4.5 linear feet; Boxes 3-7)
  • Series 3: Writing and Research Projects, 1872, 1932-1994 (13.5 linear feet; Boxes 7-20, 56)
  • Series 4: Subject Files, 1930-1993 (5 linear feet; Boxes 21-25)
  • Series 5: Teaching Files, 1928-1989 (6 linear feet; Boxes 26-31)
  • Series 6: Professional and Curatorial Files, 1936-1991 (6 linear feet; Boxes 32-37, 56)
  • Series 7: Artists Files, 1935-1992 (18.3 linear feet; Boxes 37-55)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Ellen Hulda Johnson (1910-1992) was an art historian, critic, and professor who worked and taught at Oberlin College in Ohio for most of her career.
Ellen Hulda Johnson was born in 1910 in Warren, Pennsylvania. She received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in art history at Oberlin in 1933 and 1935. She worked briefly at the Toledo Museum of Art before returning to Oberlin as the art librarian. In 1940 she started Oberlin's art rental program, the first of its kind in the country. She was appointed to the faculty in 1948 and taught nineteenth and twentieth century art, American art from colonial times to the present, contemporary art, and Scandinavian art. She was a member of the Allen Memorial Art Museum's acquisition committee and appointed honorary curator of modern art in 1973. She remained at Oberlin her entire career, retiring from teaching in 1977.
Johnson was a scholar of Cézanne, Claes Oldenburg, Eva Hesse, Pablo Picasso, Edvard Munch, John F. Kensett and other modern masters, as well as Scandinavian art. In 1962 she wrote the first important article on Claes Oldenburg and, in 1970, assisted curator Athena Tacha commission his first permanent large sculpture (3-Way Plug) for the grounds of the Allen Memorial Art Museum. She was the first to show the black-striped paintings that established Frank Stella's reputation. Her efforts in promoting acquisitions of young contemporary artists helped make the Allen Memorial Art Museum a leading institution in contemporary art. Her Oberlin lectures on modern art became so popular that they had to be held in the college's largest auditorium and influenced generations of students, many of whom went on to signficant positions in the field. A new wing of the museum designed by Robert Venturi opened in 1977 and was named in honor of Johnson.
Johnson was the author of numerous articles, books, and exhibition catalogs including Cezanne (Penquin, 1967); Claes Oldenburg (Penquin, 1971); American Artists on Art from 1940-1980 (Harper and Row, 1982); and Modern Art and the Object (Thames and Hudson, 1976).
In 1968, Johnson purchased the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Weltzheimer house in Oberlin, and spent a considerable part of her time and money restoring the building where she lived the rest of her life. She bequethed the house and her significant art collection to Oberlin upon her death in 1992.

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a preliminary level and a box inventory created by Kym Wheeler in 1994. The collection was further minimally processed and preserved by Kelly Nolte in 2015 with funding provided by the Smithsonian's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing strategies when possible in order to increase information about and access to more of our holdings.
The papers were arranged to the series, subseries, and file level. Generally, items within folders were simply verified against original folder titles. The papers were re-housed in archival containers and folders, but further preservation work was not completed. The finding aid was created by Kelly Nolte and Barbara Aikens.
Separated Materials
Shortly after aquisition, the Archives transferred Ellen Hulda Johnson's vertical file (16 linear feet) of clippings, press releases, and exhibition announcements to the library of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery.
Author
Barbara Aikens and Kelly Nolte
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian's Collection Care and Preservation Fund.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Ellen Hulda Johnson papers were donated in 1994 and 1998 by the estate of Ellen Hulda Johnson via exectutor Athena Tacha.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Ellen Hulda Johnson papers, 1872-1994, bulk 1921-1992. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington D.C. Center. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
The Ellen Hulda Johnson 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
Educators -- Ohio -- Oberlin Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Librarians -- Ohio Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Authors -- Ohio Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ossabaw Island (Ga.) Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Pop art Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art historians -- Ohio -- Oberlin Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art critics -- Ohio Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Scandinavian Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern -- 19th century -- Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artist colonies -- Georgia Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hesse, Eva, 1936-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American-Scandinavian Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tworkov, Jack Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cézanne, Paul, 1839-1906 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Milles, Carl, 1875-1955 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Oberlin College -- Faculty Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wilke, Wendell Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kensett, John Frederick, 1816-1872 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saunders, David Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
College Art Association (U.S.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Oldenburg, Claes, 1929- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tacha, Athena, 1936- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Venturi, Robert Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Archipenko, Alexander, 1887-1964 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Allen Memorial Art Museum Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dine, Jim, 1935- Personal 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/