- Collection ID:
- Physical Description:
The papers of sculptors and close companions Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin measure 2.5 linear feet and date from 1929-1988. The papers include scattered materials created by and about both women, including biographical materials, one folder of correspondence for each woman, a few writings and essays, newsclippings, exhibition catalogs, other printed materials, and four scrapbooks (three about Chapin and one about Sanford). Photographs are of Chapin only and of artwork of both women. There is also one phonograph album transferred onto cassette of a radio interview with Chapin and several motion picture films of Chapin's home movies shot in upstate New York and Paris.
Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of sculptors Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin measure 2.5 linear feet and date from 1929-1988. Sanford and Chapin were close companions and shared a studio in New York City. The papers include scattered materials created by and about both women, including biographical materials, one folder of correspondence for each woman, a few writings and essays, newsclippings, exhibition catalogs, other printed materials, and four scrapbooks (three about Chapin and one about Sanford). Photographs are of Chapin only and of artwork of both women. There is also one sound recording of a radio interview with Chapin and several motion picture films of Chapin's home movies shot in upstate New York and Paris.
Biographical material consists of scattered items documenting the careers of Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin. Included are a small amount of correspondence of both women, membership certificates, an index card file of Sanford's artwork, Chapin's written description of her sculpting process, and writings by others about Chapin. The sound recording is a radio interview of Chapin after she sculpted a bear for the National Zoo. Films include several home movies of Chapin from 1932-1936, showing Chapin at a summer home in Harpursville, NY, working in her studio, and working in Paris with teacher Mateo Hernandez.
Printed material includes exhibition announcements and catalogs for many group and solo shows of both women, news clippings about Chapin and Sanford, and a few reproductions of their artwork. Source files consist of postcards and clippings of various images that were most probably used as references or inspiration for their artwork.
The collection includes four scrapbooks compiled by Sanford and Chapin documenting their careers through news clippings, a few exhibition materials, and photographs of their artwork. There are three scrapbooks about Chapin, and one about Sanford. Also found are two additional scrapbooks on the subject of bas-relief and sculpture. Photographs include several of Cornelia Chapin in her studio and with her teacher Mateo Hernandez. There are numerous photographs of artwork by Chapin and Sanford. Artwork includes drawings of animals, architectural elements, coins, and people, by either Sanford or Chapin.
The collection is arranged into 6 series:
- Series 1: Biographical Material, 1930-1986 (Box 1, 6, 8; 0.8 linear feet)
- Series 2: Printed Material, 1931-1972 (Box 1-2; 0.5 linear feet)
- Series 3: Source Files, 1940s-1960s (Box 2-3; 0.4 linear feet)
- Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1932-1949 (Box 3-7; 1.0 linear foot)
- Series 5: Photographs, circa 1930-1962 (Box 4, 7; 0.2 linear feet)
- Series 6: Artwork, 1929-circa 1960s (Box 4; 5 folders)
Marion Sanford was born in 1904 in Ontario, Canada and was raised in Warren, Pennsylvania. She studied painting at the Pratt Institute in New York, and worked for a period of time as a stage and costume designer. She developed an interest in sculpture, and studied the direct-carving method briefly at the Art Students League, but was largely self-taught. In 1937 she had her first exhibition of sculptures depicting women performing household chores and everyday tasks. She later created a series called "Women at Work" and her imagery of women would be the subject for which she would become best known, although she also completed bronze portraits and bas-reliefs. In 1941 and 1943 she worked as a Guggenheim Fellow, and became a member of the National Academy of Design, National Sculpture Society, and the National Association of Women Artists. Sanford won many awards and medals for her works and also created sculptures on commission, including a carved altar panel for the First Methodist Church in Warren, Pennsylvania. Marion Sanford died in 1987.
Cornelia Van Auken Chapin was born in 1893 in Waterford, Connecticut. After exploring other interests, including aeronautics, she decided to become a sculptor in the 1920s. She studied with Gail Corbett and in the early 1930s began exhibiting her sculptures of animals. In 1934 she moved to Paris, France and studied with Mateo Hernandez as his only student. Under Hernandez, she learned the technique of direct-carving from life in stone and wood and won the 2nd grand prize at the Paris Exposition in 1937. In 1936, Chapin was the only foreign and woman sculptor elected to the Societaire Salon d'Automne in Paris. The threat of World War II brought her back to the United States in 1939. Chapin won many awards for her sculptures and became a member of the National Academy of Design in 1945 and the National Sculpture Society. She was also one of the founding members of Artists' for Victory, Inc. and a participant in the women's artist group known as "The Philadelphia Ten," a unique and progressive group of women painters and sculptors who often exhibited together in the Philadelphia area.
In the late 1930s Chapin purchased a studio in New York City which had formally belonged to sculptor Gutzon Borglum. She shared the studio with her fellow sculptor Marion Sanford, and often modeled for Sanford's work. Sanford and Chapin remained close companions until Chapin's death in 1972.
Existence and Location of Copies
The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2015 and is available on the Archives of American Art's website. Materials which have not been scanned include blank pages, blank versos of photographs, and duplicates. In some cases, exhibition catalogs and other publications have had their covers, title pages, and relevant pages scanned. All of the sound and motion picture film recordings in this collection were digitized for research access in 2009 and 2014 and are available at the Archives of American Art offices. Researchers may view the originals for the archival notations on them, but they are not available for playback due to fragility.
Portions of the collection received a preliminary level of processing after donation. The entire collection was fully processed, arranged, and described by Erin Corley in 2007 and digitized in 2015 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund, and preserved in 2018 with funding provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Funding for the preservation of the Cornelia Chapin Home Movies was provided by the National Film Preservation Foundation.
A portion of the Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin papers were donated by Marion Sanford in 1974. Additional materials were donated by Sanford's caretaker, Brenda Brenwell-Lejeune, in 1999.
Using the Collection
Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin papers, 1929-1988. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Marion Sanford and Cornelia Chapin 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.
Harvard University Library houses the the bulk of Cornelia Van Auken Chapin's papers, 1877-1959.
Archives of American Art
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