A Finding Aid to the Jack Lenor Larsen Papers,
1941-2003
, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.larsjack
Creators:
Larsen, Jack Lenor
Dates:
1941-2003
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
3.7 Linear feet
Repository:
The Jack Lenor Larsen papers measure 3.7 linear feet and date from 1941-2003. Larsen was a renowned weaver and designer, entrepreneur, and a scholar who wrote and lectured on modernist design. His career in the New York design world is documented by biographical materials, correspondence, writings by and about him, various printed materials and photographs.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The Jack Lenor Larsen papers measure 3.7 linear feet and date from 1941-2003. Larson was a renowned weaver and designer, entrepreneur, and a scholar who wrote and lectured on modernist design. His career in the New York design world is documented by biographical materials, correspondence, writings by and about him, various printed materials and photographs.
Found are biographical materials and artifacts including items from his early years, 4 volumes of daily planners and numerous awards. Correspondence includes letters from notables such as Isamu Noguchi, Walter F. Mondale, and various craft artists such as Helen W. Drutt English, Magdalena Abakanowicz, and Beatrice Wood, and author Hannah Tillich, widow of Paul Tillich. Business correspondence is from museums, professional societies, magazines and other organizations such as the Josef Albers Foundation. Larsen also curated textile exhibitions and there are records pertaining to these exhibitions.
There are a substantial number of writings, lectures and speeches by Larsen, and proofs of a book he co-authored with Mildred Constantin, Beyond Craft: The Art of Fabric. Also found are writings about Larsen and 3 interviews with him including a 1965 videotaped interview, 2 transcribed interviews, and an audio tape of Larsen's talk "Personal Perspective," presented at a conference of the American Craft Council.
Photographs show Larsen and his employees at work and at professional events. Photographs removed from albums retain their original order. Lastly, there are printed materials include catalogs and announcements, newspaper and magazine clippings, and press and promotional materials.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The Jack Lenor Larsen papers are organized into 7 series based primarily on record type and arranged chronologically.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1941-2001, (Box 1, 5; 0.6 linear feet)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1958-2003, (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Exhibition Records, 1986-1990, (Boxes 1-2; 0.7 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Writings, 1950-2003, (Boxes 2-3; 1.3 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Photographs, 1970-1992, (Box 3, 5; 0.5 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1972-2002, (Boxes 4-5; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Audio Recordings, 1965, (Box 4; 0.1 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Jack Lenor Larsen (b. 1927), based in New York and of international reputation, has been deeply involved in the design of hand woven fabric and its application to modernist interior design. An international entrepreneur, Larsen also has written books on design and has been a frequent lecturer.
Larsen was born in Seattle, Washington to parents of Canadian/Scandinavian descent; his father was a building contractor. Larsen studied architecture at the University of Washington and became interested in materials design, receiving his M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1951. Following graduation, he opened a studio in New York and established Jack Lenor Larsen Incorporated. Just months later, Larsen successfully competed for the commission to design draperies for the important glass walled Lever House building on Park Avenue designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.
Larsen was highly successful in marketing his ideas and innovations, which included combining metallic thread with natural polished linen and hand woven fabrics consisting of varied yarns in random and repeating patterns. This later style of fabric became known as the "Larsen Look" and was synonymous with modern design. Larsen's firm successfully adapted technological advances to fabric design but also used ancient techniques; they were first to design fabrics for jet air planes, stretch upholsestry and printed velvets.
In 1958-1960, Larsen represented the United States Department of State in Vietnam and Taiwan, studying those countries' crafts with the goal of developing industry to create jobs and products for export. Larsen then saw the opportunity for international fabric design and production. He travelled to Latin America, Africa and Asia to study local crafts and weaving with an eye towards business opportunites, focusing on hand spun and hand woven silks. By the 1990s Larsen was producing fabric in over 30 countries. In 1997, Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc. merged with the British fabric house, Cowtan and Tout and became the United States subsidiary of the British company, Colefax and Fowler.
Many museums have collected and/or exhibited Larsen fabrics. Notable among them are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Musee des Arts Decoratifs (in the Louvre Museum), Museum of Modern Art, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In addition, Larsen is the author of several books relating to fabric and fabric design including Material Wealth: Living with Luxurious Fabrics (an international survey of contemporary fabric design) and an autobiography, Jack Lenor Larsen: A Weaver's Memoir.

Administration
Processing Information
The papers were processed by Justin Brancato in June, 2008.
Author
Justin Brancato
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
The records were donated to the Archives in 2004 by Jack Lenor Larsen in connection with the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Jack Lenor Larsen papers, 1941-2003. Archives of America Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Jack Lenor Larsen 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
Audiocassettes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Weavers -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Textile design -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Modernism (Art) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Video recordings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Josef Albers Foundation Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Noguchi, Isamu, 1904-1988 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Constantine, Mildred Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drutt, Helen Williams Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tillich, Hanna Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wood, Beatrice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Mondale, Walter F., 1928- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Abakanowicz, Magdalena 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/