A Finding Aid to the Clay Spohn Papers, circa 1862-1985, bulk 1890-1985, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.spohclay
Creators:
Spohn, Clay Edgar, 1898-1977
Dates:
circa 1862-1985
bulk 1890-1985
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
20.4 Linear feet
Repository:
The Clay Spohn papers measure 20.4 linear feet and date from circa 1862 to 1985 with the bulk of the material dating from 1890 to 1985. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, business records, notes and writings, art work, printed material, and photographs which reflect the life and career of painter and educator Clay Spohn.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The Clay Spohn papers measure 20.4 linear feet and date from circa 1862 to 1985 with the bulk of the material dating from 1890 to 1985. The collection consists of biographical material, correspondence, business records, notes and writings, artwork, printed material, and photographs reflecting the life and career of painter and educator Clay Spohn.
Part 1 includes sketchbooks with annotated drawings by Spohn, writings including reminiscensces by Spohn, letters, clippings, and photographs of Spohn's artwork.
Part 2 includes biographical material; correspondence between Spohn and his colleagues; business records such as Spohn's general accounting records; Spohn's notes and writings on a variety of subjects; drawings and sketchbooks; printed material such as exhibition announcements and catalogs; and photographs of subjects such as Spohn, his family and colleagues, his house, and his artwork.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into three parts. Part 1 was lent to the Archives of American Art in 1964 by Clay Spohn, and was microfilmed and returned to Spohn. Part 2 was donated to the Archives of American Art by Urban Neininger in 1978 and was partially microfilmed. Because material from part 2 was not processed until over three decades after filming Part 1, the overall organization is inconsistent. In general, material within folders is arranged chronologically.
  • Part 1: Clay Spohn Papers, 1926-1963
  • Part 2: Clay Spohn Papers, circa 1862-1985 (boxes 1-22, OV 23, 19.9 linear ft.)
  • Part 3: Addition to the Clay Spohn Papers, 1958-1977 (box 24; 0.4 linear ft.)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Clay Edgar Spohn was born November 24, 1898, in San Francisco, to Lena (Schaefer) and John Henry Spohn. From 1919 to 1921, Spohn studied at the University of California at Berkeley, and from 1922 to 1924, he studied at the Art Students League in New York under Kenneth Hayes Miller, Boardman Robinson, George Luks and Guy Pene Du Bois. He also became acquainted with Alexander Calder at the Art Students League. In 1924, Spohn was employed as an assitant designer to muralist Ezra Winter. From 1926 to 1927 he studied in Paris at the Academie Modern, a school run by Fernand Leger and Orthon Fireze.
Returning to San Francisco in 1927, Spohn became an active member in the Bay Area art scene. The Treasury Department commissioned him, in 1938, to execute a mural for the Montebello, California post office, and in 1939, he completed another mural under the sponsorship of the WPA for Los Gatos Union High School in Los Gatos, California.
In 1942, the San Francisco Museum of Art mounted Spohn's solo exhibition "Fantastic War Machines and Guerragraphs", consisting of a series of drawings inspired by dreams of World War II. From 1945 until his resignation in 1950, Spohn was employed as instructor of drawing and painting at the California School of Fine Arts, where he befriended Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko. In 1949, at the California School, he organized a group exhibition entitled "The Museum of Unknown and Little Known Objects", in which Spohn's extraordinarily-constructed objects were a focal point.
Spohn moved to Taos, New Mexico in 1952, and participated in several national exhibitions. He was Visiting Lecturer at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts, in 1958, after which he moved to New York City where he executed a series of paintings under the sponsorship of the collector J. Patrick Lannan. From 1964 to 1969, he taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
After a two year move to Taos, Spohn returned to New York in 1971. In 1974, the Oakland Museum sponsored a retrospective of Spohn's work.
Clay Spohn died in New York City on December 19, 1977.

Administration
Alternative Forms Available
Portions of the collection and materials lent for microfilming are available on 35mm microfilm reels D169, and 5461-5474 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the collection as described in this finding aid does not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm.
Processing Information
Part 2 of the collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 1998. The finding aid to Parts 1 and 2 was written by Jean Fitzgerald in 1998. A small addition was accessioned in 2008 and minimally processed in 2017.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (D169) including sketchbooks, writings, correspondence, and related material. Lent materials were returned to the lender and are described in the first series of the finding aid.
Author
Jean Fitzgerald
Provenance
The material on reel D169 was lent for filming by Clay Spohn in 1964. The material on reel 5461-5474 was donated by Spohn's friend and the executor of his estate, Urban Neininger, in 1978. An additional 0.4 linear feet of papers were donated by Spohn's biographer, David Beasley, in 2008.

Using the Collection
Restrictions on Access
The collection is open for research. Use of unfilmed material requires an appointment.
Ownership and Literary Rights
Part 1 of the Clay Spohn papers was loaned to the Archives of American Art for microfilming and is subject to all copyright laws. Part 2 is 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. Part 2 is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
Clay Spohn Papers, circa 1862-1985, bulk 1890-1985. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Account books Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ambrotypes Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painting, Abstract -- France -- Paris Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Rothko, Mark, 1903-1970 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Corbett, Rosamond Walling Tirana, 1910-1999 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fryworth, Teressa, 1906-1981 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Corbett, Edward, 1919- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Calder, Alexander, 1898-1976 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sievan, Maurice Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sihvonen, Oli, 1921- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
University of California, San Francisco. School of Fine Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
School of Visual Arts (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Reynal, Jeanne, 1903- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ribak, Louis, 1902-1979 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
McChesney, Mary Fuller Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Neininger, Urban Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Still, Clyfford, 1904- 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/