Franz R. and Kathryn M. Stenzel Research Files on Western American Art
Scope and Contents
The Research Files are housed in 66 boxes and are organized into eight series: James Madison Alden, James G. Swan, E. S. Paxson, Cleveland Rockwell, Research Files for an Unpublished Book on Western Art, Other Research & Writings Files, Correspondence, and Personal Papers. Boxes 57-60 contain Oversize material; boxes 61-66 contain Restricted Fragile Papers. The organization of the papers reflects the organization of the Franz R. and Kathryn M. Stenzel Collection of Western American Art (WA MSS S-2368), to which it is closely related. Artwork for each of the subjects of the first four series, as well as for many artists in Series V, may be found there.
The Stenzels' correspondence files have been preserved as Dr. Stenzel organized them. Consequently, correspondence appears in Series I (Alden), Series II (Swan), Series IV (Rockwell), and Series V (Research Files) as well as in the principal files in Series VII. These separate files, maintained by Dr. Stenzel, are not always a complete set of his exchanges with a particular correspondent. For example, Series VII may contain Dr. Stenzel's response to an incoming letter found in Series I. Any correspondent with three or more letters is listed individually. In addition, a correspondent who is listed individually for this reason in any of the correspondence files has also been listed individually in the others, to make searching for all instances of a person's correspondence easier. Smaller groups of letters from individuals not also represented in the main correspondence file are listed alphabetically by the first letter of the surname in the "letter" general files.
Series I, James Madison Alden (1834-1922), 1877-1978, boxes 1-6, consists of files created by Franz and Kathryn Stenzel as they researched and Franz wrote James Madison Alden, Yankee Artist of the Pacific Coast, 1854-1860 (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 1975). This book accompanied an exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art featuring many Alden watercolors from the Stenzels' collection. The exhibition traveled to museums in Oklahoma, Oregon, Washington, Canada, and Alaska in 1975 and 1976.
The files are organized into two subseries: Research Files and Writings. Research Files are arranged by Correspondence, Printed Material, Photographs, and Other Papers. Writings are arranged by Chapter Drafts and Other Papers. The Correspondence consists of Franz Stenzel's correspondence with James Madison Alden's descendants and others. Stenzel's division of the correspondence into "Alden Family" and "Sources Contacted" has been honored here, though there is overlap between these two correspondence files, as there is between the correspondence in this series and the main correspondence file in Series VII.
Writings includes drafts of the book, a paper on Alden presented at the Western History Conference in 1973, and copy photographs for Alden artwork, which are accompanied by correspondence and documents related to copying the artwork for publication and exhibition. There are also photographs of the exhibition opening, and book reviews.
Series II, James G. Swan (1818-1900), 1870-1979, boxes 7-9, documents the life and career of an early Pacific Northwest settler, ethnographer, artist, and author of The Northwest Coast, or Three Years' Residence in Washington Territory (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1857) and The Haidah Indians of the Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1874). There is a substantial collection of Swan's artwork, and a few of his papers, in the Stenzel Collection of Western American Art. Franz Stenzel wrote a short essay on Swan in the Portland Art Museum exhibition catalog Early Days in the Northwest, which appears in Series VIII. This second series is organized into three subseries: Correspondence, Printed Material, and Other Papers. Correspondence is arranged by James G. Swan Correspondence, Franz Stenzel Correspondence, and Other Correspondence. The James G. Swan Correspondence contains copies of originals at the Smithsonian and Bureau of American Ethnology Correspondence Files. Printed Material contains pamphlets, clippings, and other printed material by or about Swan's life. There are no writings by Stenzel in this series.
Series III, E. S. Paxson (1852-1919), 1932-1964, box 10, contains material on the Montana artist of frontiersmen and Native Americans. A small collection of art (13 pieces) and papers appear in the Stenzel Collection of Western American Art, and other research material relating to Paxson appears in the Artist Information Index Files in Series V. This third series, is organized into two subseries: Research Files and Writings. The typescript for Franz Stenzel's monograph E.S. Paxson - Montana Artist (published as Montana Heritage Series No. 14, by the Montana Historical Society) may be found here.
Series IV, Cleveland Rockwell (1837-1907), 1957-1975, boxes 11-12, consists of the Stenzels' research files for Franz's Cleveland Rockwell, Scientist and Artist, 1837-1907 (Portland, Or.: Oregon Historical Society, 1972). This book accompanied an exhibition at the Oregon Historical Society, which featured many Rockwell paintings owned by the Stenzels. In June 1980, the Stenzels offered 28 Rockwell paintings at a Sotheby's sale in Los Angeles. As a consequence, there is only one Rockwell painting found in the Stenzel Collection of Western American Art, "In the Rocky Mountains." As with Alden, the series is organized into two subseries: Research Files and Writings. The Research Files are arranged by Correspondence, Printed Material and Other Papers. Writings are arranged by Chapter Drafts and Other Papers, and also include book reviews and related materials.
Series V, Research Files for an Unpublished Book on Western Art , 1859-1997, boxes 13-35, are Franz and Kathryn Stenzel's working files for a projected book entitled Art of the Oregon Country, which was to focus on artists born prior to 1901 working in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, southern British Columbia, and southern Alberta. This series contains files on over 1000 artists, many of whom are represented by art in the Stenzel Collection of Western American Art. The research files contain holograph notes, printed material, correspondence, and ephemera. While most of the files represent a culling of primary and secondary sources, many also feature letters to Franz Stenzel from artists or their descendants containing information about the life and works of western artists. These letters are commonly replies to Stenzel, and many of the carbons of the original letters sent may be found in Stenzel's main correspondence run in Series VII. The presence of early printed material and ephemera, which may be of interest apart from its association with the Stenzels, has been noted.
The series is organized into two subseries: Research Files and Writings. Research Files are arranged by Artist Information Indexes (subdivided by the Stenzels' categories: Main File, Oregon Sculpture File, Alberta File, British Columbia File and "Not Northwest" File) and Other Subject Files. The "Not Northwest" File contains files for artists the Stenzels began to research and then learned were outside the scope of their book. In the main file, there is a great deal of information on E. A. Burbank, Theodore Gegoux, Joe Knowles, William Birch McMurtrie, E. S. Paxson, Lute Pease, Edward B. Quigley, Charles Russell, James Everett Stuart, and Daniel Winter. The artist files are complemented by the biographical sketches written by Stenzel, which may be found in the writings section. There are also other subject files created by the Stenzels while conducting research on the book, which have been preserved as found. The Writings are drafts of the projected book, arranged in chapter order, as far as that can be determined. Some of these drafts are accompanied by research material, including letters and holograph notes.
Series VI, Other Research & Writing Files , 1936-1983, boxes 36-38, consist of files that do not appear to be related to the writing of Art of the Oregon Country, but are more general subject files relating to western art and art organizations. The Research Files are organized into Subject Files, Writings by Others, Printed Material, Slides and Photographs and Other Papers. The Writings include miscellaneous writings by Stenzel.
Series VII, Correspondence , 1941-1986, boxes 39-52, consists primarily of typescript carbons of Franz Stenzel's outgoing correspondence. The correspondence, with institutions, scholars, descendants and relatives of artists, documents the Stenzels' search for information about art and artists, contacts with scholars to share or seek information about Northwest art, and arrangements for exhibitions and loans from their collection. There are approximately 6000 letters in the series; the folder level headings in the finding aid list over 650 individual correspondents organized alphabetically. Letters from correspondents not listed individually may be found in "letter" general folders. Principal correspondents include the Amon Carter Museum, C.M. Russell Museum, Ruth Dixon, Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Lewis Ferbraché, Albert Fragley, Michael Harrison, John Howell Books, Thomas S. McNeill, Montana Historical Society, Provincial Archives of British Columbia, Frederic G. Renner, Sam Rosenthal, and the University of Oregon Library. There is very little personal correspondence that does not also touch on information about Western American art in some way, and there is no correspondence concerning Dr. Stenzel's medical career.
The Stenzels cast a wide net in tracking down information about obscure artists, as can be seen in the many letters written to people who shared an artist's last name and lived in the city of an artist's last known residence, as well as in the two folders of letters written to "Occupant." There are many letters to the Bureaus of Vital Statistics in various states: these are filed under the Department of Health of the state to which Stenzel wrote. As noted previously, not all of the correspondence in the collection is filed in Series VII: much is contained in the individual runs of correspondence with the Alden, Swan, and Rockwell material. In addition, Dr. Stenzel generally filed incoming letters about an artist in the artist research files in Series V, or in subject files throughout the collection, particularly those concerning publications, exhibitions and loans.
Series VIII, Personal Papers , 1910-1982, boxes 53-56, is organized into two subseries: Art Collection Papers and Personal Papers. Present in this series are two scrapbooks, one of them complete, of memorabilia relating to the Stenzel art collection. There is a 1959 Life magazine which featured Stenzel restoring an artwork, photographs of Franz Stenzel and Vincent Price at a museum exhibition in 1959, and a 16mm motion picture film interview of Franz Stenzel on Public Television, dated ca. 1965. There is also an unrelated group of photographs of automobiles made by the Stevens-Duryea Company of Chicopee, Mass. and Knox Automobile Company of Springfield, Mass., ca. 1910.
Oversize , boxes 57-60, contains material from Series I, II, V, VI, and VIII, and is organized in box order.
Conditions Governing Access
Boxes 61-66: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
67 and 1687 (Cold Storage): Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.
During the course of their research, the Stenzels acquired copy prints, copy negatives, and xerox copies of original manuscripts and artworks. These materials are for reference use only and are not to be reproduced.
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
30.22 Linear Feet (68 boxes + 6 broadside folders, 2 cold storage)
Language of Materials
The correspondence, with institutions, scholars, descendants and relatives of artists, documents the Stenzels' search for information about art and artists, contacts with scholars to share or seek information about Northwest art, and arrangements for exhibitions and loans from their collection. Principal correspondents include the Amon Carter Museum, C.M. Russell Museum, Eastern Washington State Historical Society, Lewis Ferbraché, Albert Fragley, Michael Harrison, John Howell Books, Thomas S. McNeill, Montana Historical Society, Provincial Archives of British Columbia, Frederic G. Renner, Sam Rosenthal, and the University of Oregon Library.
Biographical / Historical
Dr. Stenzel married Kathryn Marie Mathison in 1951 and the couple began collecting art of the American Northwest in 1955 after Dr. Stenzel was given a painting by a patient. While amassing a collection that eventually included approximately 2500 works of art, Dr. Stenzel became an authority on the early pictorial art of the Northwest, specializing in the period between 1800 and 1950. Research done while investigating sources for their collection evolved into a projected book on artists born before 1900 who worked in Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, southern British Columbia, and southern Alberta. Though this book was never published, research for this book contributed to his studies of two prominent Northwest artists: Cleveland Rockwell, Scientist and Artist, 1837-1907 (Portland, Or.: Oregon Historical Society, 1972) and James Madison Alden, Yankee Artist of the Pacific Coast, 1854-1860 (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 1975).
As an expert in his field, Dr. Stenzel was often called upon to give lectures and advice. He also wrote the text of several exhibition catalogues. Another offshoot of Dr. Stenzel's collecting was an interest in art restoration, a skill he taught himself. He constructed a conservation studio in his basement, which may be seen in an April 13, 1959 Life magazine article.
Works from the Stenzels' collection were exhibited many times, including major exhibits at the Amon Carter Museum, the Cheney Cowles Memorial Museum in Spokane, the Montana Historical Society, the Museum of Art at the University of Oregon, Eugene, and the Portland Art Museum. In 1973, four Stenzel pieces were the only privately owned art included in the first art exhibit by the United States Information Agency shown in former communist countries since World War II. Over the years, the Stenzels donated pieces of their collection to the C.M. Russell Gallery, the Montana Historical Society, the Oregon Historical Society, the Alaska State University in College, Alaska. In addition, the Stenzels offered 206 works of art for sale at a Sotheby's sale in Los Angeles June 24, 1980.
Dr. Stenzel died March 29, 1998 in Portland, Oregon at age 92, after a long illness.
- Alden, James Madison, 1834-1922
- Amon Carter Museum of Western Art
- Art -- Collectors and collecting -- United States
- Eastern Washington State Historical Society
- Ferbraché, Lewis
- Fragley, Lewis
- Harrison, Michael, 1958-
- John Howell Books (San Francisco, Calif.)
- McNeill, Thomas S.
- Montana Historical Society
- Paxson, E. S., 1852-1919
- Provincial Archives of British Columbia
- Renner, Frederic Gordon, 1897-
- Rockwell, Cleveland, 1837-1907
- Rosenthal, Sam
- Stenzel, Franz
- Stenzel, Kathryn M. (Kathryn Mathison)
- Swan, James G., 1818-1900
- University of Oregon. Library
- Guide to the Franz R. and Kathryn M. Stenzel Research Files on Western American Art
- by Diana Smith
- February 2001
- Description rules
- Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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