Grace Mott Johnson papers
Scope and Contents
The Grace Mott Johnson Papers are comprised of correspondence, writings, photographs, and personal papers, which document the personal and professional life of the American artist Grace Mott Johnson. The papers also include material pertaining to Grace Mott Johnson's ancestors, including her father Alfred Van Cleve Johnson and grandfather Ebenezer Alfred Johnson.
Johnson’s artistic life is reflected in the Correspondence, Writings, Other Papers, and Printed Material series. The Correspondence series includes a small amount of correspondence pertaining to Johnson’s artistic career, such as correspondence with sculptors Jo Davidson and Clarence Oliver La Grone and with art galleries, societies, and art suppliers. The Writings series contains an early notebook (1895) with poems and songs as well as several unidentified manuscripts dating from 1928 to 1950. The Other Papers series includes photographs of Johnson’s artwork as well as snapshots of animals at circuses and on farms, which Johnson used as the basis of her sculptural work. Undated snapshots also capture Johnson’s experience at the New York Art Students League. Catalogues and exhibition notices of Johnson's shows can be found in the Printed Materials series.
Correspondents reflect Grace Mott Johnson’s involvement in civil rights, and include prominent N.A.A.C.P. leaders such as Charles H. Houston, Walter White, and Roy Wilkins, as well as Elmer Carter (editor of Opportunity). Further correspondence regarding Johnson’s civil rights work can be found in the Other Papers series.
The papers also shed light into the history of the Johnson and Van Cleve families. The most prominent correspondents in the papers are Johnson’s family members, such as her son Alfred Dasburg, husband Andrew Dasburg, and the Johnson and Van Cleve families. The Johnson and Van Cleve family papers contain financial records and documents regarding genealogy. Portraits of Johnson and Van Cleve family members are located in the Other Papers series. Printed Material similarly pertains to activities of the Johnson and Van Cleve families.
Conditions Governing Access
The materials are open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
The Grace Mott Johnson 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 the Estate of Alfred V. Dasburg, 1981.
Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1840-1977. II. Writings, 1895-1940. III. Other Papers, 1802-1979. IV. Printed Material, 1829-1957.
13.77 Linear Feet (35 boxes)
Language of Materials
The Grace Mott Johnson Papers are comprised of correspondence, writings, photographs, and personal papers, which document the personal and professional life of the American artist Grace Mott Johnson. The Papers reflect Grace Mott Johnson's involvement in civil rights and involvement in the N.A.A.C.P. The papers also include material pertaining to Grace Mott Johnson's ancestors, including her father Alfred Van Cleve Johnson and grandfather Ebenezer Alfred Johnson. The most prominent correspondents in the papers are Johnson's son Alfred Dasburg and husband Andrew Dasburg.
Grace Mott Johnson (1882-1967)
Grace Mott Johnson, sculptor, painter, and civil rights activist, was born to Alfred Van Cleve and Laura Mott Johnson in New York on July 28, 1882. After homeschooling, Johnson attended the New York Art Students League, where she studied with Gutzon Borglum, J.E. Fraser and Hermon MacNeil. While attending the Art Student League’s summer school in Woodstock, New York in 1907, Johnson met painter Andrew Dasburg, who she married in 1909. Johnson and Dasburg had one son, Alfred Van Cleve Dasburg, before divorcing in 1922.
Johnson developed a reputation for sculpting animals and would often visit circuses and farms for inspiration. In 1909 Johnson and Dasburg travelled together to Paris, where they befriended a circle of modernist American artists, such as Morgan Russell, Jo Davidson, and Arthur Lee. While in Paris, Johnson exhibited in the Salon des Artistes Francais (1910). Johnson returned to the U.S. and was one of few women to exhibit in the New York Armory Show of 1913. Her pieces were also exhibited at the Panama Pacific Expo, San Francisco (1915), Whitney Studio Club (1919, 1922), National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors (1917, 1927, 1935, and 1936), and Augusta Savage Studios (1939).
For the majority of her life Johnson lived in New York, including Yonkers, Woodstock, and Pleasantville, but she also spent some time in Taos, New Mexico (1920s) and Egypt (1924).
Johnson was an early civil rights activist and lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (N.A.A.C.P.). She became involved in the Playland (Rye, New York) desegregation case in 1935.
Johnson died on March 12, 1967.
This collection received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization, in 2012.
This collection includes materials previously identified by the following call numbers: Za Johnson and Uncat Za Mss Johnson.
- Civil rights -- United States
- Civil rights workers -- United States
- Dasburg, Andrew, 1887-1979
- Johnson, Alfred Van Cleve, 1847-1938
- Johnson, E. A. (Ebenezer Alfred), 1813-1891
- Johnson, Grace Mott, 1882-1967
- National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
- Sculptors -- United States -- 20th Century
- Sculptors -- United States -- Archives
- Women artists -- United States
- Women civil rights workers -- United States
- Guide to the Grace Mott Johnson Papers
- by Beinecke Staff
- 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
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
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New Haven, CT 06511
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