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Allen Lewis Papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description





Published Works



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Allen Lewis Papers, 1873-1985 | Special Collections, Buswell Library

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Collection Overview

Title: Allen Lewis Papers, 1873-1985Add to your cart.View associated digital content.

Predominant Dates:1894-1947

ID: SC/060

Primary Creator: Lewis, Allen (1873-1957)

Extent: 28.0 Boxes. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged by series with folder level control.

Date Acquired: 00/00/1974

Subjects: Art, Art, American., Art, Modern - 20th century., Art - Awards - 20th century., Art in bookplates., Artists' tools., Bookplates., Dry-Point., Ecole de Paris, Engravers, Engraving, Engraving, American, Engraving, American - 20th century., Engraving - 20th century., Engraving - Printing., Engravings, Graphic arts, Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957, Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957 - Correspondence., Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957 - Manuscripts., Wood-engravers, Wood-engraving

Forms of Material: Articles, Biographies., Clippings Files, Compact discs, Correspondence, Drawings (visual works), Illustrations, Photographs, Reviews

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Allen Lewis Collection, measuring over eight feet, highlights the life and work of an American woodblock artist and engraver. The collection contains major series of biographical, correspondence, manuscripts, artwork, media, and secondary materials. The biographical material is mainly that of his professional career, coming from secondary sources, such as a "Who's Who" article. The correspondence is composed of letters sent to Lewis' mother while he was in Paris (1894-1902) and letters received asking for services (1902- ), with the latter being sparse. The manuscript material contains articles and lecture notes. The bulk of the collection lies in the prints and sketches prepared during his career for book illustrations and periodicals, along with a vast assortment of bookplates, which seem to have been Lewis' mainstay. The sketches and prints number over 1300. The media material complements the prints and sketches, in that they were often the source or means for their production. Included in the photographs and negatives are prints that were used for examples in his work. One such piece would be a young DeWitt Jayne in a tree with his cousin, this print was the grounds for Lewis' illustration for The half-breed and other short stories by Walt Whitman. Examples of woodblocks, linoleum cuts, and engraving plates, along with the tools necessary for their production, accompany the collection. Secondary material features articles, news-clippings, reviews, and other items relating to the work and career of Lewis. The collection contains each monographic work that Lewis is known to have illustrated, except for Walter White's Fire in the Flint, for which Lewis provided the illustration for the jacket, and many of the periodicals.

Biographical Note

Though little known today, Lewis was highly regarded in his own time, admired and praised by such seminal figures in modern American art as Hamilton Easter Field and Alfred Stieglitz.  Like many other American artists active in the first half of this century, scholars have only recently rediscovered Lewis.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, April 7, 1873, Allen Lewis moved at age four with his family to Buffalo, New York.  When Lewis graduated from high school, he enrolled at the Buffalo Art Students League where he studied under the Canadian painter, George Bridgman.  His work with Bridgman instilled a desire in Lewis that Buffalo, with its limited resources, could not satisfy.  So, in search of greater opportunities, he sailed for Paris in 1894, at the age of 21.  Every serious American art student in the late nineteenth century longed to study and work in Europe. Lewis quickly settled into his new life, writing his mother soon after his arrival that he had fallen in love with Paris. He soon began to take advantage of what the city offered the artist.

In October 1895, Lewis made his first etchings, some of which he proudly sent home.  His friend, illustrator Ernest Haskell encouraged him in these earliest attempts. Lewis was pleased with one of his showings, as he wrote to his parents that his etching is placed along side of Whistler's and was “not hurt very much by the comparison although he is one of the greatest modern etchers as well as the greatest painter.” His entry was a portrait of the American illustrator, cartoonist, painter, and muralist, Boardman Robinson.  Lewis had posed Robinson standing on the balcony because his studio was too small for the both of them to be in the room at the same time.

When Lewis returned to America he settled in New York and set up a studio in a warehouse owned by Hamilton Easter Field (1874-1922).  Field, whom Lewis called his guardian angel, had helped the struggling artist to sell some of his prints in Paris.  While in Paris, Lewis had designed five lithographed bookplates for Field, and then created two more following his return.  The generous Field introduced Lewis to many of his friends, who in turn offered commissions to the young artist.  Much of the demand was for Lewis's bookplates, executing more than fifty bookplates in the course of his career.  Lewis produced two bookplates for Paul Burry Haviland (1880-1950), a member of the Limoges china-making family and Field's cousin, in 1904 and 1906.

In 1915, Lewis received his first commission for illustrations for Journeys to Bagdad, a book by Charles S. Brooks.  With this work Lewis established his characteristic approach to book illustration, carefully considering the relation of the image to the page as a whole and taking particular pains with both the type design and the lettering. To Lewis these were as important as the illustrations to the visual integrity of the book as a whole.  The editorial staff of The New Yorker must have admired Lewis's taste, for the magazine pirated for its cover masthead and paragraph headings the title page typestyle Lewis had used in Journeys to Bagdad.

Lewis exhibited his works and won honors for them throughout his career.  In 1904 the first honor came through a bronze medal at the St. Louis Exposition.  A decade later, at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, he won a gold medal for his showing.  In the following year, Lewis participated in the first annual exhibition of the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, an organization of which he served as the first president.  Finally, in 1929, he was elected an Associate of the National Academy of Design, and in 1935 made a full Academician.

Through his teaching, Lewis was able to transmit his convictions about art to a new generation of students.  He taught printmaking and illustration at the Art Students League in New York from 1924 until 1932. Between 1932 and 1934 he taught at the New School for Social Research in New York.  Lewis did not like to lecture, but preferred to work with his students individually, conveying to them that appreciation of line and form so important to him.  His students included Norman Kent (1903-72), Warren Chappell (b. 1904-), and John Howard Benson (1901-56).

Lewis was at the height of his career during the 1930s, but the 1940s proved discouraging for him.  He began to receive fewer commissions, and his health deteriorated.  Never an extrovert, he lacked a keen business sense, and his precise techniques made his work slow and difficult.

When his former student, Norman Kent, wrote about Lewis' long and quiet life, he noted that Lewis “considered himself a failure.” Lewis never did achieve the wide success of some of his contemporaries, such as Rockwell Kent (1882-1971), but shaped the work of many that followed.

Lewis died in Basking Ridge, New Jersey on March 20, 1957 at the age of 83.

Subject/Index Terms

Art, American.
Art, Modern - 20th century.
Art - Awards - 20th century.
Art in bookplates.
Artists' tools.
Ecole de Paris
Engraving, American
Engraving, American - 20th century.
Engraving - 20th century.
Engraving - Printing.
Graphic arts
Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957
Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957 - Correspondence.
Lewis, Allen, 1874-1957 - Manuscripts.

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections, Buswell Library

Alternate Extent Statement: 37 linear feet

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on this collection.

Use Restrictions: Duplication may be restricted if copying could cause damage to items.

Acquisition Source: Gift

Acquisition Method: The Allen Lewis Collection was the generous donation of DeWitt Whistler Jayne to Wheaton College in 1974, a nephew of Lewis and a distant cousin of famous artist, John McNeil Whistler.

Preferred Citation: Allen Lewis Papers (SC-60), Wheaton College Special Collections, Wheaton, Illinois.

Other Note: The Allen Lewis Collection gives examples of the life and work of a contemporary American artist. Lewis was an engraver and wood-block artist, illustrating at least 16 books and numerous periodicals, and had a distinctive style that later influenced his students, one such student was Norman Kent.

Other URL: http://library.wheaton.edu

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Biographical],
[Series 2: Correspondence],
[Series 3: Manuscripts],
[Series 4: Artwork],
[Series 5: Published Works],
[Series 6: Media],
[Series 7: Secondary],

Series 6: MediaAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 1: NegativesAdd to your cart.
Box 15Add to your cart.
Folder 1: General NYC and Brooklyn from ca. 1902-1918; the nights scenes of NY across the river are probably taken from 104 Columbia Heights or from street level at the end of the blockAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: Deep South - probably from a trip home sometime after his return from Paris ca. 1902 - no recordAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: Excavating for one of the NYC subways - ca. 1912Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Navy vessels of the era of Dewey's Great White Fleet - Hudson River; turn of the centuryAdd to your cart.
Folder 5: NY City HallAdd to your cart.
Folder 6: Construction of Cathedral St. John, NYCAdd to your cart.
Folder 7: Geese probably in "Journeys to Bagdad"Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Cleopatra's NeedleAdd to your cart.
Folder 9: Union Square, NY ca. 1927; the Allen Lewis studio (and that of a number of the Ash-Can print people) was probably in the center building in this photoAdd to your cart.
Folder 10: This looks like the Haviland portrait; he is holding a copy of "Camera Work"Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Basis of a wood cut in "Hepatica Hawks"Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Boiling of the SorghumAdd to your cart.
Folder 13: MemoriesAdd to your cart.
Folder 14: Grant's TowerAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Probably the basis for the last drypoint of the horse and treeAdd to your cart.
Folder 16: "Old Mill Creek" drypointAdd to your cart.
Folder 17: Basis for the Columbia University Sundial drypointAdd to your cart.
Folder 18: Large figures draped - a couple resemble the musical jesters on Christmas CardsAdd to your cart.
Folder 19: Thorn branches - beginning for a drypointAdd to your cart.
Folder 20: Photo of an exhibition (probably at 291); Print at far left is the drypoint of the "Sick Man", and at the far right is the drypoint "Book plate of Wendall and Mary Bush"; the second print from the left may be a reworked print developed from the portrait of Mrs. HavilandAdd to your cart.
Folder 21: Allen Lewis' mother, around 1923Add to your cart.
Folder 22: Allen Lewis in the hills of Tennessee in 1923Add to your cart.
Folder 23: Allen Lewis at work in the Washington hand press - Union Square studioAdd to your cart.
Folder 24: Drypoint of the boiling of the SorghumAdd to your cart.
Folder 25: Exterior and interior of the H.E. Field warehouse in Brooklyn. The trees overhanging the roof-line are in the back yards of the houses facing the street of Columbia Heights.Add to your cart.
Folder 26: One state of this drypoint done in the H.E. Field warehouseAdd to your cart.
Folder 27: A group of snow scenes that may have been taken the same time as the Stieglitz exhibition print. (073 may show up in the backgrounds of the 1914 and 1915 two color wood cut Christmas cards)Add to your cart.
Folder 28: Horse and carriage (drypoint)Add to your cart.
Folder 29: The Penn Station DrypointAdd to your cart.
Folder 30: Young girl - could be Gracie's daughter Roma (having no children of his own, Allen Lewis was quite fond of children and related well)Add to your cart.
Folder 31: A series of unsuccessful states of a drypoint plate were made from this photo taken in Prospect Park, BrooklynAdd to your cart.
Folder 32: Wood block illustration for "Half Breed" - Margaret McKelway Snowden of Ments Park, CA and Dewitt Whistler Jayne of Carmel, CAAdd to your cart.
Folder 33: Allen Lewis' Washington Square studio; note "Boy Climbing Fence"Add to your cart.
Folder 34: Allen Lewis with sister GracieAdd to your cart.
Folder 35: This served as source material for a large drypoint with a baby in a cradle and a two color wood cut of the baby on its chairAdd to your cart.
Folder 36: Block print "Cow In Apple Time" (Blackie)Add to your cart.
Folder 37: Old Blackie - the only Holstein in the herd in ConnecticutAdd to your cart.
Folder 38: Allen Lewis in the Union Square studio not later that early 1920's - note "Cow In Apple Time"Add to your cart.
Folder 39: Wooden building - shows the way of workingAdd to your cart.
Folder 40: Basis of a large drypoint of figures on Memorial Arch; it looks as if some restoration work was going on (or maybe original installation?) which accounts for being able to get to the top of the arch for this photoAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 2: PhotographsAdd to your cart.
Box 15Add to your cart.
Folder 41: Lewis Cabin, TennesseeAdd to your cart.
Folder 42: There are several clues that suggest that this photo was taken at a wedding picnic at Lake Compounce, Conn. in 1917 (3 miles from the Layres Southington farm by excursion, open air trolly)Add to your cart.
Folder 43: Used by Allen Lewis for the "Half Breed" illustration - the black ink smear is his; (D.W. Jayne is playing a Hahner Marine Band harmonica, his cousin Margaret seems not particularly impressed); the photo is printed in reverse positionAdd to your cart.
Folder 44: Allen and Bessie Lewis at Basking Ridge, May 1935Add to your cart.
Folder 45: Ernest RothAdd to your cart.
Folder 46: Family pictureAdd to your cart.
Folder 47: Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 48: Bessie and Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 49: Bessie and Allen Lewis in White Plains, NY; rental or "home sitting" for party, 1927 or 1928Add to your cart.
Folder 50: Vessel in the background is the one in East Indianan; barge in foreground may have influenced foreground treatment of drypoint "Gowanis Canal"Add to your cart.
Folder 51: Tennis in Prospect Park, BrooklynAdd to your cart.
Folder 52: Enlargement of a negative; was apparently in the "Old Mill Creek" drypointAdd to your cart.
Folder 53: Drypoint - East Indianan (no negative ont this)Add to your cart.
Folder 54: Beginning at left - Mr. Wood G.'s husband (?), D.W. Jayne, Roma, Joe Bennet and wife, D.W.Jayne's sister-in-lawAdd to your cart.
Folder 55: Rector of the "Little Tin Chapel", ParisAdd to your cart.
Folder 56: Arthur, Roma and GraceAdd to your cart.
Folder 57: Mother LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 58: Snow sceneAdd to your cart.
Folder 59: Grace and Mother Lewis, St. Elma, Tenn.Add to your cart.
Folder 60: These were taken for Norman Kent in 1955 when D.W. Jayne was living with the Lewises and using Allen's studio. At this time Allen Lewis was confined to the house where he studied and wrote. (Norman Kent is in the photos)Add to your cart.
Folder 61: Woodrow WilsonAdd to your cart.
Folder 62: Atelier Gerome, 1895Add to your cart.
Folder 63: Studio in Basking Ridge, N.J.Add to your cart.
Folder 64: House in Basking Ridge, N.J.Add to your cart.
Folder 65: Fields (Wheaton)Add to your cart.
Folder 66: "Ivanhoe" (?)Add to your cart.
Folder 67: "Alfred Stieglitz" (S-112)Add to your cart.
Folder 68: "Fort Erie Post Office" (S-117)Add to your cart.
Folder 69: "New Yorker", "Journeys to Bagdad" (S-38)Add to your cart.
Folder 70: "Mother Oak and Baby Acorn" (1178-769)Add to your cart.
Folder 71: "Billee Seaton", 1912 (?)Add to your cart.
Folder 72: "The Summer School, Art Students League" (?)Add to your cart.
Folder 73: "Taj Mahal" (?)Add to your cart.
Folder 74: "Southern Collection, Princeton University Library" (?)Add to your cart.
Folder 75: Allen and Bessie Lewis on a picnicAdd to your cart.
Folder 76: Croton (?) on Hudson: first home (evidently the house belonging to Max Eastman - mentioned in letter to Ches. Brooks)Add to your cart.
Folder 77: Allen Lewis washing clothes in Tennessee (verse on the back)Add to your cart.
Folder 78: Allen Lewis workingAdd to your cart.
Folder 79: A cat in front of a buildingAdd to your cart.
Folder 80: Bessie and Allen Lewis sitting on the lawnAdd to your cart.
Folder 81: Allen Lewis reclining in the living room (104 Col. Heights)Add to your cart.
Folder 82: Allen Lewis' studio under the yard at 104 Col. HeightsAdd to your cart.
Folder 83: Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 84: Apple tree in the pasture in Southington where Allen Lewis engraved the blocks for "Journeys to Bagdad"Add to your cart.
Folder 85: Allen Lewis playing tennis in Prospect ParkAdd to your cart.
Folder 86: Allen Lewis sitting under a tree in TennesseeAdd to your cart.
Folder 87: Seth F. LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 88: Mother LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 89: Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 90: House with white trimAdd to your cart.
Folder 91: Allen Lewis in the woods in TennesseeAdd to your cart.
Folder 92: Making sorghum on the mountains - Walden's RidgeAdd to your cart.
Folder 93: Allen Lewis sitting in a chair with a book - 2/12/22Add to your cart.
Folder 94: Allen Lewis kneeling in a cornfield in Southington, ConnecticutAdd to your cart.
Folder 95: Allen Lewis on Southington porchAdd to your cart.
Folder 96: Allen Lewis roasting meat over a fireAdd to your cart.
Folder 97: Arthur (14) and sister Grace (1 year and 1 day) - April 7, 1887Add to your cart.
Folder 98: Arthur A. Lewis - December 30, 1878, 5 years and 8 monthsAdd to your cart.
Folder 99: Arthur's mother Ida Clark Lewis - December 30, 1887Add to your cart.
Folder 100: Arthur Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 101: Allen Lewis - 1900Add to your cart.
Folder 102: Ida Clark Lewis - 1879Add to your cart.
Folder 103: Allen Lewis - 1873, 3 months oldAdd to your cart.
Folder 104: Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 105: Seth F. Lewis - 1878Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 3: TintypesAdd to your cart.
Box 15Add to your cart.
Folder 106: Two young menAdd to your cart.
Folder 107: Elderly gentlemanAdd to your cart.
Folder 108: Allen Lewis on his fourteenth birthdayAdd to your cart.
Folder 109: Arthur LewisAdd to your cart.
Folder 110: Allen Lewis posing in a boat as a young boyAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 4: PhotocopiesAdd to your cart.
Box 15Add to your cart.
Folder 111: Group photograph of printmakers between 1926 and 1929 (X-100)Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 5: Woodblocks and Linoleum cutsAdd to your cart.
Box 18: WoodblocksAdd to your cart.
Box 19: Woodblocks and Linoleum blocksAdd to your cart.
Box 25: Letters and symbols.Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 6: Etching PlatesAdd to your cart.
Box 20Add to your cart.
Item 1: Trees... (?).Add to your cart.
Item 2: Men stacking bricks.Add to your cart.
Item 3: Men digging to build a bridge.Add to your cart.
Item 4: A woman standing with flowers.Add to your cart.
Item 5: Men bringing a cart of crates into a large building.Add to your cart.
Item 6: A woman in front of a library.Add to your cart.
Item 7: Rocks with grass and trees growing around them.Add to your cart.
Item 8: A group of men, both resting and working.Add to your cart.
Item 9: A man with a spear sitting under a tree.Add to your cart.
Item 10: Flowers in a box.Add to your cart.
Item 11: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.Add to your cart.
Item 12: A cow and a woman reading a book under a tree.Add to your cart.
Item 13: Trees with an amusement park in the background (?).Add to your cart.
Item 14: Paris Bridge.Add to your cart.
Item 15: A dog laying on the ground.Add to your cart.
Item 16: A pigeon.Add to your cart.
Item 17: Women at work in a field.Add to your cart.
Item 18: A sick man in bed with a woman standing behind him.Add to your cart.
Item 19: Trees on a clump of ground.Add to your cart.
Item 20: An engraver at work.Add to your cart.
Item 21: Trees with a deer.Add to your cart.
Item 22: A landscape with trees and fields.Add to your cart.
Item 23: A woman on a terrace with trees behind it.Add to your cart.
Item 24: An owl on a branch.Add to your cart.
Item 25: A monk playing a cello.Add to your cart.
Item 26: An open field with large clouds in the sky.Add to your cart.
Item 27: Tall trees in a forest.Add to your cart.
Item 28: Two trees.Add to your cart.
Item 29: A landscape with large clouds in the sky.Add to your cart.
Item 30: First sketch for (?).Add to your cart.
Item 31: A horse pulling a cart.Add to your cart.
Item 32: A large tree with a fence in front.Add to your cart.
Item 33: A barn with a tree in front.Add to your cart.
Item 34: Three trees on a slope.Add to your cart.
Item 35: Photoengraving of a cow in the woods.Add to your cart.
Item 36: Man holding poles; a tree falling.Add to your cart.
Item 37: A bookplate for Paul Haviland: two men standing next to a scroll.Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 7: PaintingsAdd to your cart.
Box 17: Self-portrait (Oil)Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 8: Computer filesAdd to your cart.
Box 21: Data Compact Discs and uncut processed slide film of printsAdd to your cart.
Box 24: Film and slides used in digitizationAdd to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Biographical],
[Series 2: Correspondence],
[Series 3: Manuscripts],
[Series 4: Artwork],
[Series 5: Published Works],
[Series 6: Media],
[Series 7: Secondary],

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