Beinecke Library Acquires Important O’Keeffe Manuscripts to Add to Collections

March 5, 2020

By Michael Morand

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library has acquired a group of important Georgia O’Keeffe manuscripts and photographs from the collection of Juan Hamilton, in a private sale with Sotheby’s through the offices of the William Reese Company in advance of the auction of Hamilton’s collection on March 5. 

These materials will join the library’s extensive Alfred Stieglitz/Georgia O’Keeffe Archive, which features photographs, paintings and drawings, letters, and ephemera which document their lives and careers. There are few couples more prominent in universe of twentieth-century American culture than the photographer, publisher, and gallery owner Stieglitz (1864-1946) and the painter O’Keeffe (1886-1986), who married in 1924.

The acquisition includes: O’Keeffe’s personal recipe card file, featuring approximately 300 recipes in O’Keeffe’s hand and in other hands assembled from the 1950s – 1970s; an address book, begun about 1926, which O’Keeffe and Stieglitz shared; and an archive of published and unpublished manuscript writings by O’Keeffe spanning decades, subjects and locations, and ranging in topics from “My Eyes and Paintings” to “My First Trip to New York” and “Abstract Paintings”.

“The Beinecke Library is delighted that these important materials will join the extensive Stieglitz/O’Keeffe archive, one of our most frequently consulted collections,” said Edwin C. Schroeder, the library’s director. “We look forward to the new scholarship that will result from their accessibility alongside an archive first begun thanks to Georgia O’Keeffe’s vision and generosity more than 70 years ago.”

O’Keeffe visited in Yale in April 1949, at the suggestion of her friend Carl Van Vechten, who knew of her interest in collecting and placing the archive of Alfred Stieglitz. Van Vechten had suggested the Yale Collection of American Literature (YCAL) as an appropriate home for the archive, as it would join the papers of other important Modernist artists and writers. The many Modernist archives in YCAL include the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, the Katherine S. Dreier Papers / Société Anonyme Archive, and the Florine and Ettie Stettheimer Papers.

The Stieglitz Papers were transferred to Yale between 1949 and 1953, and were supplemented through gifts and purchases from various parties from 1953 to 1980. O’Keeffe’s Papers were a bequest from the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation in 1992, following several earlier gifts of material directly from O’Keeffe. The Stieglitz Family Papers were the gift of Flora Stieglitz Straus and Sue Davidson Lowe.

“We are delighted to acquire this extraordinary group of Georgia O’Keeffe manuscripts and to make them accessible to scholars and students here at the Beinecke Library, where the materials will find a rich context alongside O’Keeffe’s and Stieglitz’s extensive personal archives,” said Nancy Kuhl, co-curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature. 

“The Beinecke Library has long had a commitment to developing our O’Keeffe and Stieglitz holdings and we have been especially successful in building collections that offer insights into the public and private life of Georgia O’Keeffe,” Kuhl noted. “Recently acquired collections of correspondence, manuscripts, and photographs document O’Keeffe’s public face and the business of showing and selling her art, and also her private friendships, casual observations, and unguarded moments. This further acquisition of a large and diverse collection of O’Keeffe’s writings and other archival documents will provide scholars with new ways of understanding her creative practice as well as her creative community  and relationships with other artists and collectors.”

(Image above: detail of photograph of Georgia O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, 1925.)

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