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Allen Lewis Papers


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description





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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 7: SecondaryAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 1: ArticlesAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 1: "A Prospectus of the Fine Books to be Published by the Limited Editions Club in the 12th Series", Nov. 1940 - Oct. 1941"Add to your cart.
Folder 2: "Fifty Prints of the Year", The American Institute of Graphic Arts, 1932/1933Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Columns [Columbia Univ.], Feb. 1959Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Zachrisson, Bror. "Akke Kumlien: 1884-1949", Notes on Printing and Graphic Arts, Feb. 1959Add to your cart.
Folder 5: "News of Fine Prints", Dec. 1943Add to your cart.
Folder 6: "Wood-Engraving Today", 1917Add to your cart.
Folder 7: New York Public Library Bulletin, June 28, 1938Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Watson, Ernest W. "The Wood Engravings of Allen Lewis", Art Instruction, Sept. 1937Add to your cart.
Folder 9: "Chiaroscuro", American Artist, May 1954Add to your cart.
Folder 10: "Allen Lewis Illustrates the Poems of Longfellow", American Artist, 1944Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Cheever, L. O. "Allen Lewis: Collector Artist", Book Collector's PacketAdd to your cart.
Folder 12: "A Glance into Mr. Lewis' Etching Folio"Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Art Center Bulletin, March 1927Add to your cart.
Folder 14: "Recent Additions to the Print Collection", New York Public LibraryAdd to your cart.
Folder 15: Johnson, Fridolf. "The Art of the Bookplate", Revue des Beaux ArtsAdd to your cart.
Folder 16: Foster, Helen Herbert. "The Urge to Create Becomes Stronger", Brooklyn Eagle Magazine, March 19,1933Add to your cart.
Folder 17: Watson, Forbes. "The Association of American Etchers"Add to your cart.
Folder 18: The Reader, June 1903Add to your cart.
Folder 19: "The Field of Art"Add to your cart.
Folder 20: "Ex-Libris Designs"Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Kent, Norman. "Ivanhoe"Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 2: NewsclippingsAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 22: "Allen Lewis", Vogue, June 28, 1906Add to your cart.
Folder 23: "The Field of Art", Scribners, July 1911Add to your cart.
Folder 24: "Awards at the Panama-Pacific Exposition", New York Times, Aug. 1, 1915Add to your cart.
Folder 25: New York American, Nov. 1916Add to your cart.
Folder 26: "A Bookplate in Woodcut", The Sunday Herald, Boaton, Jan. 20, 1918Add to your cart.
Folder 27: Bowdoin, W. G. "Some Etchings by Allen Lewis at Milch Gallery", In the Evening World, April 27, 1918Add to your cart.
Folder 28: "An Etcher of Individuality", Herald Tribune, [?] 13, 1918Add to your cart.
Folder 29: "The Fine Arts", Boston Transcript, Jan. 7, 1918Add to your cart.
Folder 30: "The Art of the Illustrated Page", New York Times, March 4, 192?Add to your cart.
Folder 31: "Exhibit at Museum Explains Graphic Art", Cleveland Times, Aug. 22, 1924Add to your cart.
Folder 32: "Variety Keynote of Art Exhibition in Public Library", The Standard-star, Feb. 13, 1926Add to your cart.
Folder 33: "Carteret Book Club Hears Printing, Engraving Talk", Newark Evening News, March 1, 1926Add to your cart.
Folder 34: "Technical Points on Graphic Art Exhibit at Library Are Told", The Standard-Star, New Rochelle, New York, Feb. 26, 1926Add to your cart.
Folder 35: "Book Club Dines, Re-elects Raymond, Hears Print Talk", The Sunday Call, Feb. 28, 1926Add to your cart.
Folder 36: Holloway, Emory. "For Whitman Collectors", New York Herald Tribune Books, April 3, 1927Add to your cart.
Folder 37: "Pictures by Allen Lewis in Numerous Collections", Buffalo Courier Express, April 3, 1927Add to your cart.
Folder 38: "Graphic Arts Exhibit", New York Times, Sept. 11, 1927Add to your cart.
Folder 39: New York Herald Tribune, April 13, 1928Add to your cart.
Folder 40: New York Times, May 26, 1928Add to your cart.
Folder 41: "Etchers' Exhibit Opens", New York Times, Dec, 9, 1928Add to your cart.
Folder 42: "Lewis Wins Etcher's Prize", New York Tribune, Feb. 14, 1929Add to your cart.
Folder 43: New York Times, April 29, 1929Add to your cart.
Folder 44: "An Artist of the Woodcut", The American Printer, Oct. 20, 1924Add to your cart.
Folder 45: "Two Printmakers Have First One Man Shows", The Art Digest, Nov. 1, 1930Add to your cart.
Folder 46: Bowles, J. M. "The Stowaways", "Society of Illustrators", Art Center Bulletin, Dec. 1930Add to your cart.
Folder 47: Eaton, Anne T. "Calico Bush", New York Times Book Review, Nov. 22, 1931Add to your cart.
Folder 48: "Etchings to Be Published on Washington's Life", Evening Post, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 49: "Prints of the Year at Art Center", New York Sun, March 26, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 50: "Etchings to Depict Life of Washington", New York Times, July 4, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 51: "Etchings to Tell Story of Washington's Life", New York Herald Tribune, July 29, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 52: "Hoover Accepts 20 Etchings on First President", New York Herald Tribune, Sept. 15, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 53: Washington D.C. Star, Oct. 9, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 54: "Hepatica Hawks", New York Times Book Review, Nov. 13, 1932Add to your cart.
Folder 55: "The British Evacuate Boston", The London Studio, Feb. 1933Add to your cart.
Folder 56: "The British Evacuate Boston", New York Herald Tribune, Oct. 1933Add to your cart.
Folder 57: Jewett, Eleanor. "Spring Exhibit of Etchers is Grand Show", Chicago Tribune, [?] 2, 1935Add to your cart.
Folder 58: New York Times, March 31, 1935Add to your cart.
Folder 59: "Academy of Design to Give $4,400 Prizes", New York Times, Feb. 25, 1935Add to your cart.
Folder 60: "Once at Woodhall", New York Times Book Review, Sept. 15, 1935Add to your cart.
Folder 61: "Hobart Art Display Will Close on Feb. 8 [...]". New York Times, Jan. 29, 1937Add to your cart.
Folder 62: "Allen Lewis Records Weather Mood", Rochester Times-Union, April 25, 1947Add to your cart.
Folder 63: Berryman, Florence S. "News of Art and Artists", The Sunday Star, June 15, 1947Add to your cart.
Folder 64: Columbia Library Columns, November 1958, February 1959Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 3: ReviewsAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 65: Becker, Lamberton May. "Like a Quilting Pattern", New York Herald Tribune, Nov. 29, [?]Add to your cart.
Folder 66: Bowles, J.M. "The Old Woodcutter"Add to your cart.
Folder 67: Kent, Norman. "Chiaroscuro - The Woodcut in Tone"Add to your cart.
Folder 68: Cary, Elisabeth Luther. "A Tribute, in Etched Line, to George Washington"Add to your cart.
Folder 69: "Art Displays Crowd to Force", New York SunAdd to your cart.
Folder 70: "Allen Lewis"Add to your cart.
Folder 71: "Allen Lewis Illustrates a Book"Add to your cart.
Folder 72: Ralph, Mr. "Monotones and Etchings"Add to your cart.
Folder 73: [Photograph of Studio], New York TribuneAdd to your cart.
Folder 74: Interview with DeWitt Whistler Jayne, the nephew of Allen LewisAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 4: Collection descriptions / exhibition catalogsAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 75: Preliminary Listing (Wheaton College)Add to your cart.
Folder 76: Fifth Avenue Library FileAdd to your cart.
Folder 77: List of sold printsAdd to your cart.
Folder 78: Exhibitions, Catalogues, Publications, Art Institute of ChicagoAdd to your cart.
Folder 79: 6th Annual Exhibition of American Block Prints, Jan. 8-17, 1933Add to your cart.
Folder 80: The American Federation of Arts - Woodblock Prints in ColorAdd to your cart.
Folder 81: Allen Lewis: 1873-1957, Wheaton College Library and ArchivesAdd to your cart.
Folder 82: D. W. Jaynes' descriptions of illustrationsAdd to your cart.
Folder 83: Lecture on Allen Lewis by Norman Kent, Jan. 22, 1954Add to your cart.
Folder 84: Miscellaneous descriptions of illustrationsAdd to your cart.
Box 23Add to your cart.
Item 1: The Print Connoisseur, April 1927Add to your cart.
Item 2: Mary CassattAdd to your cart.
Item 3: The Rotarian, November 1930Add to your cart.
Copy #1
Item 4: The Rotarian, November 1930Add to your cart.
Copy #2
Item 5: The Rotarian, October 1931Add to your cart.
Item 6: American Artist, September 1946Add to your cart.
Sub-Series 5: CorrespondenceAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 85: Oct. 20, [?], Norman Kent to D. W. JayneAdd to your cart.
Folder 86: Sept. 13, 1979, Warren Chappel [?] to Betsy FahlmanAdd to your cart.
Sub-Series 6: Oral HistoriesAdd to your cart.
Box 22Add to your cart.
Folder 87: Uncorrected transcript of oral history with DeWitt Whistler Jayne, Dorothy Jayne, and the staff of Bryn Mawr College's Library, May 18, 1983.Add to your cart.
Box 27Add to your cart.
Folder 1: BinderAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: BinderAdd to your cart.
Folder 3: BinderAdd to your cart.
Box 28Add to your cart.
Folder 1: BinderAdd to your cart.
Folder 2: BinderAdd 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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