Stanley Kunitz: A Poet’s Life

“My dismay at the clutter on my desk is offset by my zest for the hunt among my papers.  At an age when I should be putting my house in order, I keep accumulating bits of information, not for any particular reason and in spite of the absurdity, because I was born curious and don’t know how to stop.”

Stanley Kunitz, “Seedcorn and Windfall” from Next to Last Things: New Poems and Essays (1985)

Born curious, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stanley Kunitz [1905-2005] lived a long and varied life.  Beyond the critical acclaim he gained for his poetry, Kunitz and his wife, the painter and poet Elise Asher, were friends to many of the 20th century’s cultural giants: painters like Mark Rothko, Philip Guston, and Robert Motherwell; and poets like Robert “Cal” Lowell, Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop.  The couple split their time between their Greenwich Village apartment and Provincetown, MA, where Kunitz raised a seaside garden, and they traveled extensively.

A restless spirit, Kunitz helped found the Fine Arts Work Center, an artist-residency program in Provincetown, and Poets House in New York City, two organizations that would help support generations of younger poets.   By the time Princeton University’s Rare Books and Special Collections acquired Mr. Kunitz’s papers, the aging poet had indeed amassed a certain amount, as he wrote, of clutter.  Clutter – perhaps – but it was good clutter, constituting a trove of research material for literary scholars and art historians alike.  Available for research, the Stanley Kunitz Papers offers a complete finding aid, documenting the life and work of one of the United States’ most prominent poets.

In Stanley Kunitz’s own words, “it was not an auspicious beginning.” [“My Mother’s Story,” TMs, Box 147 Folder 11]   Bereft of a father and the only son of an Eastern European immigrant mother, Stanley Kunitz grew up in Worcester, MA, where he spent a good deal of time out of doors.  At an early age Kunitz became enthralled with the natural world, a theme that is recurrent in his poems, such as this one, “The Testing Tree”:

Once I owned the key
To an umbrageous trail
Thickened with mosses
Where flickering presences
Gave me right of passage […]

His fascination with comets, insects, whales, birds, raccoons, and the ways of plants and flowers informs his most enduring poems.  While Kunitz did explore political and social themes throughout his work, the notes, subject files and clippings in the Stanley Kunitz Papers confirm his abiding passion for the natural world.  Equally at home in the flower bed and at the typewriter, his last book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden (2005) examines the synthesis of these two vocations.  Manuscripts of this book and others demonstrate Kunitz’s deliberate and sustained writing practice, no doubt informed by the patience, persistence, and an eye to detail refined by a lifetime working the garden.

Beyond the manuscripts, the Papers give access to reams of correspondence between Kunitz and the literati and glitterati of the 20th century; fan letters spanning five decades; the peace-loving poet’s military discharge papers and his father’s death certificate; drawings sent to him from his poet friends; poems written by his artist friends.  Many items invite investigation, such as the Russian translations, some of which remain unpublished; Elise Asher’s recipe for Cream of Sorrel Soup;the unidentified correspondence; and fragments of possibly unpublished poems.

Among the most tantalizing materials are the photographs [Box 183].  Whether pictured with fellow poets, Jorge Luis Borges at Columbia University, or deep in conversation with Mark Rothko, the photographs testify to Kunitz’s active engagement in the world of arts and letters.  As a poet among painters, Kunitz gained entrée into some of the most legendary cultural scenes of the 20th century, like “The Club,” which Kunitz characterized as “the stormy social and debating society of the New York School” [“Giorgio Cavallon 1904-1989,” Box 146, Folder 10].  The combination of Kunitz’s own intellectual achievement and his personal friendships makes the Stanley Kunitz Papers a valuable resource for researchers across the humanistic disciplines.

Mark Rothko and Stanley Kunitz, undated. Box 183, Folder 17. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.

Front row (L to R): John Berryman, Adrienne Rich, Josephine Jacobsen and James Merrill; Back row (L to R): Kunitz, Richard Eberhart, Robert Lowell, Richard Wilbur, William Meredith (Class of 1940) and Robert Penn Warren. Box 183, Folder 7. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.

George Cruikshank’s Pop-gun

George Cruikshank (1792–1878) was one of the most inventive and talented graphic satirists of his time. As a boy in London, he learned printmaking from his father, Isaac Cruikshank; after Isaac died in 1811, the family was supported entirely by George’s drawings. His political and social caricatures entertained and piqued the British public, and when he died, he was one of England’s best known and most prolific artists, having designed as many as twelve thousand prints.

The Princeton University Library’s George Cruikshank Collection consists of 35 boxes of Cruikshank’s personal papers, correspondence, and original drawings, including some two dozen bound sketch books. The most recent addition to the collection is a manuscript in Cruikshank’s hand, heavily corrected and signed by him in six places. The manuscript is a draft of a pamphlet Cruikshank would publish in 1860 titled A Pop-gun Fired Off by George Cruikshank: In Defence of the British Volunteers of 1803, expressing support for civilian volunteers in the face of a French invasion of Great Britain. The manuscript includes nineteen colored and pen-and-ink sketches, which differ from those published in A Pop-gun.

In A Pop-gun, Cruikshank recalls his first participation in a volunteer militia at age 11. When Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) declared war on Britain in 1803, George Cruikshank’s father Isaac joined a volunteer troop while George and his brother drilled with toy weapons. The manuscript draft offers further details: “In our Bloomsbury corp,” he writes, “we had to find our own uniforms with the help of the mamas—and our own arms and accoutrements—my Brother made himself a pasteboard cocked hat and a youth who was apprenticed to a coach builder made him a saber of wood…and I had a pasteboard cap and the Regiment having punched some small gun stocks, we had moss sticks—or Broom handles—fixed in these, and Black leaded to imitate the polished steel.” His training as a boy, he argued in A Pop-gun, prepared him well to bear arms as an adult in defense of his country. At the bottom of this manuscript page, Cruikshank has included a colored sketch of soldiers in uniform.

The manuscript is accompanied by a scrap of paper in Cruikshank’s hand containing military maneuvers and diagrams, tipped into a booklet titled Our Rifle Volunteers, Sketched by “Quiz.” The booklet is an illustrated verse satire on the volunteer militia that also focuses on the volunteers’ attire, but to very different effect. On one page, the verse “Now don’t make a fool of yourself, strutting there,/With the limbs of an ape, and the head of a bear” is illustrated with a drawing of an artillery volunteer wearing a large, furry hat and a comical expression. If the author of this work was not Cruikshank, it may have been Edward Caswall (1814–1878), a Roman Catholic priest who also wrote humorous and satirical poetry under the pseudonym Scriblerus Redivivus. Cruikshank may have owned this booklet and used it for reference.

In 1859, British volunteer troops were formed again under the threat of another French invasion. Cruikshank joined the 48th Middlesex corps, eventually becoming its commanding officer; the George Cruikshank Collection contains other materials related to his career in the Middlesex corps. The collection complements the Graphic Arts Division’s holdings of over six hundred Cruikshank prints.

Additionally, scattered throughout the Manuscripts Department’s holdings is a wealth of works of art on paper by many British artists and illustrators, most of whom have a literary association: for example, George Du Maurier, Thomas Rowlandson, and J.M. Barrie. Worthy of special mention is the renowned Gallatin-Beardsley Collection, which includes 130 drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, collected by the American artist A.E. Gallatin, along with a rich archive of manuscripts, correspondence, posters, illustrated books, and other materials by or related to the 1890s English artist. The Department also holds artwork by other members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, Simeon Solomon, Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Max Beerbohm, and Gwen John, whose watercolors were recently discovered in the Arthur Symons Papers.

George Cruikshank, undated manuscript draft of A Pop-gun. Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.
















Our Rifle Volunteers, sketched by "Quiz." Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.


Douglas Kent Hall Papers

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce that the Douglas Kent Hall Papers, a generous gift from Dawn Hall in 2010, have been arranged and described in a detailed finding aid and are now open and available to researchers. The papers comprise more than 100 boxes of correspondence, manuscripts, notes, research files, and audio and visual materials, documenting approximately fifty years of Douglas Kent Hall’s work as a writer and photographer.

Douglas Kent Hall (1938–2008) was born in Vernal, Utah, a rural community approximately two hundred miles from Salt Lake City. He attended the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, coupling his interests in creative writing and photography for a lifetime of documentary and artistic photography across the world. Hall traveled through Europe in 1968 and settled in New York City in 1971, where he had his first photography exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1974. In 1977, he moved to New Mexico. The American southwest and border region would influence the next thirty years of his work, resulting in at least ten major publications and projects from the 1980s through the 2000s.

The creative bulk of the papers consists of at least 96,000 unique photographic images in the form of black-and-white negatives, contact sheets, color transparencies, and prints spanning Hall’s forty years of work as a photographer. Major subjects include rock and roll stars from the 1960s and early 1970s (including Jimi Hendrix and The Who), the American southwest (including rodeos, mission churches, border residents, and Native dances), poets and artists (including Mark Strand, Allen Ginsberg, and W. S. Merwin), and photographic studies of subcultures including bodybuilding (with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno), prison life, drag racing, dance, and cowboy lifestyles. Locations photographed include the U.S.-Mexico border, the American West, New Mexico, New York City, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Russia. The photographs are accompanied by manuscripts, notes, research files, and correspondence related to their production.

Hall also wrote an Academy Award-winning documentary about rodeo (his longtime interest), and published four novels and over fifteen photography books on subjects ranging from body building (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) to the Native American weaving traditions of New Mexico. His novels were often autobiographical, centering around his rural Mormon-influenced childhood, while his photography books explored subcultures he discovered as an adult, such as rock and roll, bodybuilding, and prison life. The papers include drafts of major publications, including his first novel On the Way to the Sky (1972) and Let ‘Er Buck (1973), as well as the interviews and research behind the documentary The Great American Cowboy and extensive unpublished drafts and related materials. Other writings include books, plays, autobiographical short stories, essays, freelance articles and reviews, unpublished poetry, teleplays, and unproduced screenplays from his time as a student up until his death.

The Douglas Kent Hall Papers are a valued addition to Princeton’s extensive holdings of Western Americana, including manuscripts, archives, historical photographs, printed books, maps, and other materials. These include Daniel Gano’s Gold Rush Scrapbook and other overland travel narratives, the Western Americana Photograph Collection, photographs of Native American Indians from the Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) and others, and the Sheldon Jackson Collection of Indian Photographs.

The Seeley G. Mudd Library, part of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, has 11 boxes of photographs in the Association on American Indian Affairs Records and a series of private papers concerning the crusade to return Blue Lake to Taos Pueblo. For printed books, including those in the Philip Ashton Rollins Collection and J. Monroe Thorington Collection, please contact the Rare Books Division. For maps, please contact John Delaney, Curator of Historic Maps, at

Douglas Kent Hall, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Wyeth, undated. Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.


Douglas Kent Hall, Black Mesa, undated. Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.



Sir Frank Kermode Papers

The Princeton University Library has recently acquired 19 boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, audiovisual materials, and ephemera of Sir Frank Kermode (1919–2010), one of the most distinguished literary critics of the 20th century. These materials constitute Kermode’s remaining papers and have been added to the Sir Frank Kermode Papers, which the Library began acquiring in 2007 with support from the Friends of the Princeton University Library. For a summary of and highlights from the original acquisition in 2007, click here.

Kermode is well known for his seminal book of literary criticism, Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction (1967), as well as his writings on William Shakespeare and D. H. Lawrence. Extensive drafts of these works, with autograph corrections, are represented in this latest addition, which includes early drafts of Sense of an Ending, a typed manuscript draft of D. H. Lawrence (1973), and correspondence, handwritten notes, sheet music, and galley proofs for his Arden Shakespeare edition of The Tempest (1954). The addition also contains a bound carbon typescript of Aaron Hill and his Plays (1940), which Kermode called his first book, as well as several boxes of unpublished lectures and research notes and over two dozen unpublished notebooks.

The acquisition enhances the Library’s holdings of literary critics’ papers and publishers’ archives. Several dozen letters from Kermode appear in the papers of poet and literary critic Allen Tate (1899–1979), who also corresponded at length with Cleanth Brooks (1906–1994), Malcolm Cowley (1898–1989), and Robert Penn Warren (1905–1989). The Library has the papers of (and copyright to) R. P. Blackmur (1904-1965), another prominent literary critic who was a professor of English and Creative Writing at Princeton from 1940 to 1965. His papers include drafts of his creative work and critical essays, lecture notes, correspondence with other American literary figures, notebooks, and photographs.

The archives of The Hudson Review, a literary magazine that has published some the most eminent writers and critics of the twentieth century, contains correspondence with Erich Auerbach (1892–1957), Harold Bloom, Northrop Frye (1912–1991), Frederic Jameson, Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980), Edward Said (1935–2003), and others, while the archives of the literary magazine Quarterly Review of Literature includes correspondence with critics such as Kenneth Burke (1897–1993), Lionel Trilling (1905–1975), and W. K. Wimsatt (1907–1975), as well as an unpublished essay by Paul de Man (1919–1983) on the Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843).

The Library also holds papers of 19th- and 20th-century British literary and art critics, including Raymond Mortimer (1895–1980), William Michael Rossetti (1829–1919), John Ruskin (1819–1900), and Arthur Symons (1865–1945).

Sir Frank Kermode, undated photograph (detail). Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

Walter Houk Collection of Ernest Hemingway

The Walter Houk Collection of Ernest Hemingway is now open and available to researchers.

The Manuscripts Division recently received a gift of five boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, stenographer’s notebooks, photographs, and nautical charts from Walter Houk. The papers document the friendship between Walter and his wife Juanita Jensen Houk and the Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway was writing his last major works, Across the River and into the Trees (1950) and The Old Man and the Sea (1952).

Juanita Jensen Houk, an employee of the American Embassy in Havana, received government clearance to work as Ernest Hemingway’s secretary from 1949 to 1952. In 1952, she married Walter Houk, a diplomatic officer at the Embassy. Their wedding reception was held at Finca Vigía, the Hemingways’ house near Havana. The couple were frequent visitors at the finca, where they used the library, swam in the pool, went fishing on Hemingway’s boat Pilar, and drank daiquiris with him at the Floridita bar.

The collection offers a multifaceted view of the author during a particularly prolific and creative period. Juanita Jensen Houk’s stenographer’s notebooks, with typed transcriptions, of over a hundred of Hemingway’s dictated letters include letters not only to his friends and family but also to publishers and agents. He reported on his book’s progress to Charles Scribner and wrote to A. E. Hotchner about serializing Across the River and into the Trees in the magazine Cosmopolitan. In letters to Malcolm Cowley, he discussed fellow authors such as Saul Bellow, Truman Capote, Gertrude Stein, and Eudora Welty. In addition, the collection contains the Houks’ own correspondence with the Hemingways, including nine letters by Ernest Hemingway and fourteen by his wife Mary, photographs of the Hemingways and Houks on the Pilar, and Walter Houk’s manuscript memoirs about Hemingway and Havana.

Walter Houk’s reminiscences of his friendship with Hemingway during the Havana years form key parts of Paul Hendrickson’s new biography, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 (Knopf, 2011). The book reassesses Hemingway’s creative life and personal relationships through his attachment to his cherished boat Pilar. According to Hendrickson, “The archive where I have spent the most time in these last seven or so years of research and writing is Firestone Library at Princeton. The university is an hour and ten minutes from my front door; the car knows the way.” He calls the Princeton University Library’s Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, which con­tains some 2,000 pieces of cor­re­spon­dence between Hem­ing­way and his edi­tors, and the Car­los Baker Col­lec­tion of Ernest Hem­ing­way “my centripetal research force. Nearly all the letters I quote from or make reference to in this book I have sat and held and read in the chapel-like Dulles Reading Room at Firestone.”

The Walter Houk Collection is a robust addition to the Library’s Hemingway materials. Other related collections include the Ernest Hemingway Collection, Hemingway/Lanham Correspondence, Patrick Hemingway Papers, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., Files of Hemingway and Pound, Ernest Hemingway Documents and Tax-related Papers, and Ernest Hemingway and Milford J. Baker Correspondence.

Walter Houk, Ernest Hemingway on the flying bridge of the Pilar, 1951. Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.

A Gatsby Visit

One of the highlights of the summer of 2011 was a visit to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on June 28 by Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann and members of his production team. Their visit to Princeton was in connection with production of a new movie version of The Great Gatsby. Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts, showed Luhrmann and the others F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heavily corrected galleys of Trimalchio, an early version of The Great Gatsby. In the photograph below, Luhrmann is in the foreground. The galleys are part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, which the author’s daughter Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan donated to the Princeton University Library in 1950. Skemer explained how Fitzgerald’s creative process can be traced in his own papers and related materials preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Particularly revealing is the author’s extensive correspondence with the legendary literary editor Maxwell Perkins at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Fitzgerald’s publisher. After the visit, Luhrmann wrote to Skemer to say, “Having returned from our trip to Princeton, I just wanted to reach out and thank you once again. Seeing those materials and hearing you articulate Fitzgerald’s processes really gave us a second burst of energy.” The British actress Carey Mulligan, who will play Daisy Buchanan in the movie, also visited to view portions of the Fitzgerald Papers and in particular to discuss the author’s relationship with Ginevra King, who served as a model for Daisy, Jay Gatsby’s lost love. Ginevra King’s letters to Fitzgerald and diary are also preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Mulligan, who earned an Oscar nomination for best actress in 2010, told the Huffington Post: “I went to Princeton where they keep all [Fitzgerald’s] papers and I got to look at Zelda Fitzgerald’s medical records and . . . the most amazing stuff.” Filming has begun in Sydney, Australia, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Caraway. Luhrmann’s new movie of The Great Gatsby is scheduled for a New York premiere in December 2012.

Baz Luhrmann, right, examines F. Scott Fitzgerald's papers. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Online Cataloging and Digitization for Islamic Manuscripts

Cataloging is now available online for most of the nearly 10,000 Islamic manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. These extraordinary holdings of Islamic manuscripts constitute the premier collection of Islamic manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. About two-thirds of these were the gift of Robert Garrett, Class of 1897. The online records have been created as part of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, to improve access to these rich collections and share them worldwide through digital technology. Generous support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project has funded this ongoing effort. Researchers can now locate manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog. The Library has digitized 200 manuscripts in the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts.

Over the past two years, the Princeton University Library has created online biblio­graphic records covering its collections of Arabic manuscripts in the Garrett and New Series. These had previously been only described in three printed catalogs: Descriptive Catalog of the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (P. K. Hitti, N. A. Faris, and B. `Abd al-Malik), Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts (Yahuda Section) in the Garrett Collection (R. Mach), and Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts (New Series) in the Princeton University Library (R. Mach and E. Ormsby). Over two-thirds of the Library’s some 10,000 volumes of Islamic manuscripts are described in these catalogs. The catalogs were converted to XML format, and the resulting files were then edited for accuracy and consistency—they now have authorized names, properly romanized titles, and appropriate subject headings. The files were then imported into the Library’s online catalog. Still underway is an effort to link records that describe multi-text volumes.

The Third Series, comprising over 750 volumes in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, and Jawi, has been completely cataloged, and a finding aid has been created for the William McElwee Miller Collection of Bābī Writings and Other Iranian Texts, 1846-1923, comprised of 47 volumes of writings of the Bāb, Subḥ-i Azal, and Bahá’u’lláh, and their respective followers. The collection also includes Sufi texts and an anti-Islamic polemic writings. The Miller collection has been digitized, largely from microfilm, and is being made available online by the Library as a service to scholarship. File sizes are large (30-590 MB) and may take some time to download.

For more information about the cataloging, contact Denise L. Soufi, Islamic Manuscripts Cataloger, at; for information about the overall project, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Botanical treatise in Arabic. Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 583H. Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

Gwen John’s Watercolors on Exhibit in Firestone Library

A group of recently rediscovered watercolors by British painter Gwen John (1876–1939) are on exhibit in the Eighteenth-Century Window of Firestone Library from November 21 through December 31. Thanks to new research by Professor Anna Gruetzner Robins, University of Reading (UK), two albums containing 23 unsigned watercolors have been identified as the work of  Gwen John. The albums are in the extensive papers of the British poet and critic Arthur Symons (1865–1945), preserved in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Gwen John was the sister of British artist Augustus John (1878–1961) and the one-time lover and model of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). She is now recognized as one of the most important painters of her generation. Made during the artist’s productive years, beginning in 1917, many of the watercolors depict nuns, women parishioners, and orphaned girls in the Catholic church at Meudon, the Paris suburb where Gwen John lived for nearly 30 years. Almost all of these subjects are viewed from the back. Other watercolors in the album portray a woman in a train carriage, a woman wearing a striking boa, and a black cat in a window. A few of the watercolors have pencil sketches on the reverse. Gwen John gave the albums to Symons in June 1920. Both were natives of Pembrokeshire, in South Wales.

In an article just published in the Princeton University Library Chronicle, Professor Robins shows the relationship of the Princeton albums to two albums once belonging to the New York attorney and art collector John Quinn (1870–1924) and to works in British institutions. Robins notes, “Symons and John belonged to interconnecting networks that brought artists, writers, actors, gallery owners, and collectors together in the increasingly international world of Paris, London, and New York….Gwen John’s oil painting has undergone a major reassessment in recent years. The discovery of the two Symons albums makes a considerable contribution to an understanding of her greatness.” The American painter and art collector A. E. Gallatin (1881–1952) acquired the papers and albums from the widow of Arthur Symons and donated them to the Princeton University Library in 1951.

For more information, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, at

Gwen John, untitled watercolor. Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

“George Segal: Sculptor as Photographer”

The exhibition “George Segal: Sculptor as Photographer” opens at the Princeton University Library on July 25. It focuses on the American artist George Segal (1924–2000), who spent most of his creative life in nearby North Brunswick, N.J. He is best known as a sculptor of distinctive plaster figures cast from life and placed, sometimes with other figures and objects, in tableaux or “environments.” But Segal worked in other mediums as well, including photography, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Photography complemented Segal’s interest in the built environments of New York and New Jersey. Often accompanied by his friend, photographer Donald Lokuta, Segal began taking day trips through the streets of New York, especially the East Village and Lower East Side, as well as Newark’s Ironbound district. He was fascinated by Coney Island and Jersey Shore towns, such as Asbury Park, Keansburg, and Seaside Heights.

Segal selected 26 of his photographs for the portfolio Sequence: New York/New Jersey, 1990–1993. But most of his nearly 7,000 surviving photographs, donated to Princeton in 2009 by the George and Helen Segal Foundation, are unknown. They are preserved as part of the George Segal Papers, comprising nearly 80 linear feet of correspondence, business files, and original art, in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. The Segal exhibition, curated by Valerie Addonizio and Don Skemer, aims to make Segal’s photography better known and to show how his sculpture and photography were related. Like his sculptures, Segal’s photographs capture ordinary people and the mundane details of life. People often seem lost in thought, alone despite being in public places. Segal also photographed mannequins in store windows and other plaster-cast figures, perhaps because his own sculpture was based on life casts. But beyond any connection with his own sculpture, Segal was interested in photography as art.

George Segal was born in New York City and came of age as an artist at a time when Avant-Garde art and Abstract Expressionism were most influential. He began his working life as a New Jersey poultry farmer in North Brunswick, yet continued to paint, sculpt, and exhibit his work through the 1950s. In 1957 his farm was the setting for the first outdoor “Happening,” organized by the American painter and performance artist Allan Kaprow. This arts event was a harbinger of the 1960s, when Segal became a full-time artist and played an important part in the Pop Art movement, along with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. In 1961, Segal pioneered his signature technique of sculpting people, sometimes family and friends, by means of applying plaster bandages.

Segal’s works are found in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum; Smithsonian Institution, and in many other American and international museums, including the Centre National d’Art Contemporain (Paris), the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montreal), and the National Museuum of Art (Osaka, Japan). His “Bread Line” (1991), vividly recalling life during the Great Depression, and two other bronze sculptures were commissioned for the FDR Memorial, in Washington, D.C. Segal donated his “Abraham and Isaac—In Memory of May 4, 1970” (1979) to Princeton University, and the Segal Foundation recently donated “Circus Acrobats” (1981) to the Princeton University Art Museum.

Exhibition in the Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library

Gallery hours: September 5–February 12, Monday–Friday, 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Saturday–Sunday, 12:00–5:00 pm

Public Program in McCormick 101

Sunday, November 6, 2011, 3:00–4:00 pm

Art historian Phyllis Tuchman will give an illustrated public lecture, “George Segal: Sculptor, Painter, Photographer.”

For more information about the George Segal exhibition or his papers, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts,  A description of Segal’s papers is available online at

George Segal, Manhattan at Night, 1986. © George and Helen Segal Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y. Not to be reproduced without permission of VAGA.