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Russell Cheney papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1534

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, ephemera, artwork, photographs, and computer media by or relating to American painter Russell Cheney. Correspondents include Malcolm Forbes, Penelope Hyde and Louis Hyde, Helen Bayne Knapp and Farwell Knapp, F. O. Matthiessen, Phelps Putnam, and Henry Varnum Poor. Photographs feature Cheney and his family and friends, as well as scenes from Southern California, Colorado, and New Mexico and images of his paintings. Artwork includes "Christmas cat cartoons," with pen and wash drawings by Cheney and words by Matthiessen. Also included are three poems by May Sarton, two of which are signed, most likely gifted to the Hydes.


  • 1881-2018
  • Majority of material found within 1916-1939


Language of Materials

In English, with a small amount of material in French and German.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 8 (computer media): Restricted fragile material. Access copies of digital files may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Boxes 1-2: In-process material. Research use may require advance notice. For further information, consult Access Services.

Conditions Governing Use

The Russell Cheney Papers is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Carol Cheney, 2018.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence and Other Papers, 1916-2018. II. Artwork, 1930s, undated. III. Photographs, 1881-1938, undated. IV. Computer Media, undated.


5.92 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of correspondence, ephemera, artwork, photographs, and computer media by or relating to American painter Russell Cheney.

Russell Cheney (1881-1945)

Russell Cheney was an American painter known for his still lifes and landscapes. He graduated from Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, in 1904. From 1904 to 1907, he studied at the Art Students League in New York City, after which he attended the Académie Julian in Paris from 1907 to 1910. Cheney returned to New York and briefly served as president of the Art Students League from 1910 to 1911. In 1912, he established a studio in Manchester, Connecticut. Cheney traveled to Maine, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and California to paint. His work was exhibited at the Babcock Gallery in New York, the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut, the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, the Montross Gallery in New York, the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and the Grace Horne Gallery in Boston. Early in his career, Cheney was diagnosed with tuberculosis and received treatment from 1916 to 1918 at the Colorado Springs sanatorium where his Yale friend, poet Phelps Putnam, was also a patient. In 1924, he met historian and literary critic F. O. Matthiessen (Yale 1923), and they began a relationship that lasted over 20 years.

Cheney died in his home in Kittery, Maine, on July 12, 1945. After his death, Matthiessen organized several exhibitions of Cheney’s work at institutions in New England and New York and in 1947, he published the biography Russell Cheney 1881-1945: A Record of His Work.


After they were photocopied, original materials in Boxes 1-2 were destroyed due to preservation concerns.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

Information included in the Description of Papers note and Collection Contents section is drawn from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents. Folder titles appearing in the contents list below are often based on those provided by the creator or previous custodian. Otherwise, folder titles are supplied by staff during initial processing.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Russell Cheney Papers
by Brooke McManus
January 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.