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Dorothy Eisner papers

 Collection — Box: 1
Call Number: GEN MSS 778

Scope and Contents

The Dorothy Eisner Papers consist of correspondence, photographs, and ephemera that document periods of her personal life and artwork. Eisner’s correspondence files contain letters from fellow painters: nearly thirty from her friend Dorothy Andrews (1918-2008), who wrote mostly from her home in Khaniá, Crete; three from William Kienbusch (1914-1980); and one each from Sarah Freedman McPherson (1894-1978) and Emil Holzhauer (1887-1986); there are also letters from her stepdaughter, the painter Joan McDonald Miller. However, the bulk of the correspondence is between Eisner and her parents, and includes letters in which she describes her interactions with Leon Trotsky during the Dewey Commission’s hearing in Mexico City. Additional items related to that experience are the nearly fifty informal snapshot photographs taken in and around the hearing, Eisner’s admissions card, and one letter from Trotsky. Other friends in the correspondence files include the writers Tess Slesinger (1905-1945) and Diana Trilling (1906-1996). Other papers include copies of the constitution of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, and an autobiographical memoir written by her grandfather Moritz Eisner, who had emigrated from Vienna to the United States. A folder of miscellaneous personal papers holds some childhood letters and drawings, a bank book from the early 1930s, and a few financial papers from the late 1970s-early 1980s. A binder of photographs and a scrapbook of clippings, photographs, and ephemera, supplemented by folders of announcements, brochures, and installation photographs, document Eisner's paintings and collages, and exhibitions of her work. The collection also includes two published books of photographs by Walker Evans.

Dates

  • 1923-2008

Creator

Language

English

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Dorothy Eisner 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 Christie McDonald and Joan McDonald Miller, 1999-2008.

Arrangement

The collection is largely grouped by material type.

Associated Materials

Correspondence between Dorothy Eisner and her husband, and between the couple and their daughters, can be found in the John McDonald Papers (GEN MSS 622).

Extent

1.25 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL

http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.eisner

Overview

The Dorothy Eisner Papers consist of correspondence, photographs, and ephemera that document periods of her personal life and artwork. Eisner's correspondence files contain letters from fellow painters: nearly thirty from her friend Dorothy Andrews (1918-2008), who wrote mostly from her home in Khania, Crete; three from William Kienbusch (1914-1980); and one each from Sarah Freedman McPherson (1894-1978) and Emil Holzhauer (1887-1986); there are also letters from her stepdaughter, the painter Joan McDonald Miller. However, the bulk of the correspondence is between Eisner and her parents William and Florine Eisner, and includes letters in which she describes her interactions with Leon Trotsky during the Dewey Commission's hearing in Mexico City. Additional items related to that experience are the nearly fifty informal snapshot photographs taken in and around the hearing, Eisner's admission card, and one letter from Trotsky. Other friends in the correspondence files include the writers Tess Slesinger (1905-1945) and Diana Trilling (1906-1996). Other papers include copies of the constitution of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, and an autobiographical memoir written by her grandfather Moritz Eisner, who had emigrated from Vienna to the United States. A folder of miscellaneous personal papers holds some childhood letters and drawings, a bank book from the early 1930s, and a few financial papers from the late 1970s-early 1980s. A binder of photographs and a scrapbook of clippings, photographs, and ephemera, supplemented by folders of announcements, brochures, and installation photographs, document Eisner's paintings and collages, and exhibitions of her work. The collection also includes two published books of photographs by Walker Evans.

Dorothy Eisner (1906-1984)

Dorothy Eisner was an American painter whose career spanned more than five decades. She was born in New York on January 17, 1906, the daughter of Florine (1883-1974) and William J. Eisner (1880-1975). Though William Eisner was a businessman and manufacturer, he and his wife were also painters active in art circles in the city and in Woodstock, New York, where they had a second home. Their two children, Dorothy and Anne (1911-1967), also became artists, studying at the Art Students League then briefly in France, and spending a summer (1931) with other artists on Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine.

Dorothy Eisner met the writer John McDonald in New York in 1935; they were married on November 7, 1936, while each was employed by the federal government, McDonald with the Federal Writers’ Project, and Eisner with the Resettlement Administration. The following spring the couple left their jobs and traveled to Mexico City with members of the American Committee for the Defense of Leon Trotsky, a group of American liberals and intellectuals who supported the Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made against Leon Trotsky in the Moscow Trials (also known as the Dewey Commission after its chairman, John Dewey). While McDonald worked on Trotsky’s administrative team, Eisner painted portraits of Trotsky and the hearing room.

With the exception of living in Croton-on-Hudson, New York, from 1942-1945, Eisner resided and had painting studios in the Greenwich Village section of New York City. She generally spent her summers painting in rural settings including Linville, North Carolina (1932-1935), Liebhardt, New York (1937-1942), Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (1947), and Livingston, Montana (1949-1958); the latter three were places to which she was introduced by her husband, an avid fisherman. From 1960 through her death, Eisner summered and painted on Cranberry Island, off the coast of Maine. She died in New York on April 28, 1984, survived by her husband, stepdaughter Joan (born 1929), and daughter Christie (born 1942).

Dorothy Eisner was a member of the Society of Independent Artists and the American Artists’ Congress, and was a founding member of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors. She also exhibited with the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

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, and competing priorities. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections as they are acquired, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

This collection received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization. Descriptive information is drawn in large part from information supplied with the collection and from an initial survey of the contents.

The collection contains correspondence, photographs, and printed matter that were culled from several accessions (2000-2008) of John McDonald and Dorothy Eisner papers, specifically Uncat MSS 76, Uncat MSS 386, Uncat MSS 997, and Uncat MS Vault File (1938), as well as material donated separately in 2008. It was formerly filed under two different call numbers: Uncat MSS 1048 and Uncat MSS 1069.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
Title
Guide to the Dorothy Eisner Papers
Author
by Sandra Markham
Date
2008
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2010-02-10: Transformed with yale.addEadidUrl.xsl. Adds @url with handle for finding aid. Overwrites @url if already present.

Repository Details

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977