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Allen Tanner papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 368

Scope and Contents

The Allen Tanner Papers document the life of the pianist Allen Tanner, particularly his life in Paris in the 1920's with the artist Pavel Tchelitchew. The Papers have been arranged into four series; Correspondence, Writings, Photographs, and Additional Materials.

Series I, Correspondence , includes letters from René Crevel, Dame Myra Hess, and Virgil Thomson, and with several letters written by Tanner to John Torson. The majority of the correspondence consists of letters from Pavel Tchelitchew and from his sister, Alexandra Zaoussaïloff (nicknamed "Choura" throughout the collection), to Tanner (who is referred to as "Allousha" by both Tchelitchew and his sister). The letters from Tchelitchew date from 1928-1951, with the majority written after 1940, while Tchelitchew was living in New York. The letters discuss his life in New York, his work, the war in Europe, his travels to Arizona and Block Island, his sister Choura, and the lives of many of his friends, including Lincoln Kirstein, Edith Sitwell, Florine Stettheimer (in particular, her death), and Virgil Thomson. Included are several envelopes without corresponding letters, which have been placed with the letters according to the date of their postmark. The letters from Zaoussaïloff date from 1958-1972, after Tchelitchew's death in 1957. The letters concern her life in Paris, and her memories of Tchelitchew's life and his death. The letters also discuss the lives of many of her friends, including R. Kirk Askew, Jr. (Tchelitchew's dealer in New York), Lincoln Kirstein, Edith Sitwell, Gertrude Stein, Parker Tyler (particularly the writing of his biography of Tchelitchew, The Divine Comedy of Pavel Tchelitchew), and various Russian friends and relatives, in particular her (and Tchelitchew's) half-sisters Mania and Varia Tchelitchew.

Series II, Writings , consists primarily of memoirs and recollections by Tanner of Tchelitchew and of his life in New York and Paris in the 1920's.

Series III, Photographs , contains photographs of Tanner, Tchelitchew, and friends and relatives, taken primarily in the 1920's. Also included are several photographs of the Diaghilev Ballet production of "Ode," designed by Tchelitchew, as well as several later photographs of Margaret C. Anderson, and two most likely of Tanner taken in the 1960's.

Series IV, Additional Materials , consists of printed items and other materials chiefly relating to Tanner and Tchelitchew.


  • 1902-1986


Language of Materials

Chiefly in English. Letters from Tchelitchew and Zaoussailoff are primarily in French, with some Russian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile materials in the portfolio and in cold storage may only be consulted with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies and copy prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Conditions Governing Use

The Allen Tanner Papers are 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 John A. Torson, 1987-1988.


1.7 Linear Feet ((5 boxes) + 1 broadside folder, 1 portfolio)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


Papers include correspondence, photographs, writings and other materials by or relating to Allen Tanner, and particularly concerning his relationship with Pavel Tchelitchew. Correspondence consists of letters to Tanner, among them letters from René Crevel, Pavel Tchelitchew, Virgil Thomson, and Alexandra Zaoussailoff. Also included are several letters from Tanner to John Torson, and one letter from Lincoln Kirstein and one brief postcard from Edith Sitwell, both to Tchelitchew. Writings include holographs and typescripts by Tanner and unidentified writers, generally concerning Tchelitchew, as well as Tanner's life in the 1920's in New York and Paris. Among the photographs are pictures of Tanner and Tchelitchew. Additional materials includes printed items and other materials primarily concerning Tanner and Tchelitchew.

ALLEN TANNER, 1898-1987

Allen Tanner was born on September 29, 1898. Early in life he showed signs of significant talent at the piano, and at age fifteen he went to Chicago, where he made his first appearance with an orchestra, followed by several concert tours in the West. He then moved to New York, where he worked as a concert accompanist for various vocalists, including Marguerite D'Alvarez. His talent in demand, Tanner performed often in New York and throughout the East.

In December of 1922, Tanner went to Berlin to pursue his musical career in Europe. Almost immediately he met the artist Pavel Tchelitchew, who was working as a set designer for the Russian Romantic Theatre. The two became friends, and this friendship soon grew into a relationship that would last over a decade. In early summer of 1923, they left Berlin for Paris, where they lived with Tchelitchew's sister, Alexandra Zaoussaïloff, for several years. In Paris, Tchelitchew worked on his painting while Tanner took work as a piano instructor. Tchelitchew's work soon caught the interest of Gertrude Stein, and for a time the two men were a part of Stein's circle of literary and artistic friends, a group which also included René Crevel and Virgil Thomson, both represented in this collection.

In the autumn of 1934, Tchelitchew and Tanner moved to New York. By this time, Tchelitchew was involved with the poet Charles Henri Ford, and when Tanner and Tchelitchew visited Tanner's home town of Chicago for an exhibition of Tchelitchew's work, Tanner stayed when Tchelitchew returned to New York. In the following decades, Tanner continued his musical career, living in New York during the 1950's and 1960's, and later in Belleville, Illinois, where he died on October 3, 1987.

Guide to the Allen Tanner Papers
Under Revision
by Kathryn Rawdon
July 1998
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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