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Sylvia Carewe Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Carewe, Sylvia, 1914-
Title: Sylvia Carewe Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1941-1972
Quantity: 3 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the American painter, poet. Died 1981. Correspondence, exhibition catalogs and invitations, photonegatives, photographs, slides, and transparencies, poems, sketches, stories, a scrapbook containing memorabilia, and published material, including articles, clippings, and reviews.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Sylvia Carewe (1906-1981) was born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents, Louis and Esther Kerewsky; she changed her surname to "Carewe" in 1930. Ms. Carewe was educated at Columbia University and studied further in New York at Atelier 17 with Yaso Kuniyoshi, with Hans Hoffman in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at the New School for Social Research. In October, 1944, she married Marvin Small (formerly Smallheiser, and executive for Carter's Little Liver Pills) and bore one child, John Marvin, in June, 1947.

Prior to her marriage, during World War II, she worked as an advertising copywriter and artist for agencies in New York. Before her first one-woman show in 1947, she was a prolific abstract artist, producing tapestry designs for the Aubusson, France, weavers, making felt banners, working in traditional artistic media (watercolors, oils, lithographs and pastels) and creating collage reliefs and what she termed "blown paintings," assemblages (predominantly of children's toy components) overlaid with spray paint.

After her first one-woman show in Poughkeepsie in 1947, Ms. Carewe opened in New York City at the ACA Gallery in 1948. She had some twenty other American one- woman shows and her works hung in many group shows across the United States as well as in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Sylvia Carewe's works are represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, Musée de l'Arte Moderne, Paris, Brandeis University, the Butler Art Institute, Howard University, the Tel Aviv Museum and the National Museum in Djakarta, Indonesia. Her work has been described by French critics as "violent, colorful art, in hard contrasts, not exempt from cold lyricism." ["Les Girls," Time, 11 Nov 1957]

Ms. Carew was nearly as productive as a poet and writer, producing both poetry and short stories.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sylvia Carewe Papers is organized as follows: Biographical information, Correspondence, Legal material, Vocation (literary - advertising - art), Published material, Memorabilia, Photographs (works, work-related, family/friends and home in Milbrook, NY), Photographic negatives, Color transparencies and Slides.

As a record of a creative life and personality this collection can best be described as uneven. There is an enormous amount of visual material recording the artist's work. Photographs, transparencies and slides of hundreds of Sylvia Carewe's works give a very full picture of the breadth of her stylistic range. However, only a very few of these are titled or dated, leaving no clearly discernible idea of what path the artist followed in her experiences and development. There is much written material, but almost none of it gives the reader a picture of Sylvia Carewe as a personality. The correspondence is largely business or family birthday remembrances, although the collection also contains over 100 poems, some short stories and a draft of a work an divorce.

The one area in which the collection does seem to tell a personal story is in the photographs of Ms. Carewe and her husband and friends, all of the 'happy couple at party, 'Sylvia feeding birds in Rome,' 'loving family at summer home' variety. Yet Box 1 contains the draft of a book titled Women, money and divorce, which appears to be autobiographical and bitter in tone. Sylvia and Marvin Small divorced around 1958 and for Sylvia, the divorce was an excruciating experience. This remains conjecture, however, because although there is a marriage certificate, there is nothing in the way of a divorce decree, and the author of Women, money and divorce never writes in the first person.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is arranged in ten series, in the order given above. Within each series, the material appears to be in no particular order.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Carewe, Sylvia, 1914- -- Archives.


American poetry -- 20th century.
American poetry -- Women authors.
Art, American -- 20th century.
Art, American.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.
Painting, American.
Poets, American.
Women artists -- United States.
Women painters -- United States.
Women poets -- American.
Women poets -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Reviews (document genre)
Slides (photographs)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Sylvia Carewe Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Arrangements to create the Sylvia Carewe Collection were made with the artist; the material in it was sent after her death by her son.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: DH
Date: Aug 1984
Revision history: 8 Apr 2008 - converted to EAD (MRC)

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Biographical information
Box 1, Folder 1 Miscellaneous
Marriage License (copy)
Marriage license affidavit (copy)
Marriage Certificate (copy)
Chronology with biographical information supplied by Ms. Carewe
2 pages, biographical entries, Dictionary of International Biography and Who's Who of American Women, undated
1 photo copy of biographical entry in Who's Who in the World, undated
Box 1, Folder 2 1944-1949 (7 items)
Box 1, Folder 3 1950-1972 (23 items)
Box 1, Folder 4 Undated (11 items)
Legal material
Box 1, Folder 5 [Miscellaneous]
Two copies of an inventory of the Sylvia Carewe Small- Marvin Small art collection (collected 1945-1958) giving the following information about each item: Artist, title or discription, date created, approximate cost, additional data about the piece and sometimes an estimate of value.
Box 1, Folder 6 [Miscellaneous]
A third copy of the above inventory
An analysis of the Sylvia and Marvin Small Collection of Paintings listed in "schedule A" dated December 17, 1958 (compiled by Ms. Carewe, apparently as part of a separation and/or divorce process.)
Box 1, Folder 7 Literary
A. Draft of a work titled Women, money and divorce
B. Drafts of short stories: "Omen at Midnight," "The Hook" (2 copies), 3 untitled
C. The Enjoyment of Poetry Club (2 items)
D. Correspondence and notes relating to poetry (4 items)
Box 1, Folder 8 Literary - Poetry
116 poems, in alphabetical order by title or first word, in 21 folders. In some cases there are multiple copies; this is because there is some change to the text, title or punctuation in each, or because a copy is signed by the author. There are internal cross references where poems have multiple titles.
Box 2, Folder 1 Advertising
A. Dated memoranda sent or received by Ms. Carewe, just preceeding and during the U. S. involvement in World War II, concerning a client, Ivory Soap, and advertising strategies directed mostly toward women. The strategies all involve coping with wartime material shortages in clothing, especially women's hosiery.
B. One undated example of the above
C. Four blue report folders containing dated reports written by Ms. Carewe while an employee of Compton Advertising, Inc.; dates are: Sept. 27, 1940, Nov. 18, 1941 and June 12, 1942
D. Leaflets: Snow White "push-button" toothpaste promotional circular; Federal Commentator (January, 1944) (published by Federal Advertising Agency for "our clients and a few of our other friends.")
Box 2, Folder 2 Advertising - Printer's Ink (3 issues)
Ms. Carewe wrote 3 articles that were published in Printer's Ink, one in each issue. The Dec. 31, 1943 issue also contains a draft of the article in that issue and some pertinent correspondence.
Box 2, Folder 3 Art
A. One unsigned pencil sketch and five unsigned watercolor sketches
B. Paperwork outlining a proposed series of 12 "Epic of America" Aubusson tapestries
C. A design and copyright search results for an for an original dress designed by Ms. Carewe, the "Once-Over Dress."
Box 2, Folder 4 Art
A. 13 invitations to gallery and exhibit openings, both Sylvia Carewe's and others
B. 29 Sylvia Carewe exhibition catalogs and posters advertising same (some in duplicate).
Oversize 1 Original art work (pastel) for Ivory Flakes advertisement - encapsulated in mylar
Published material
Box 2, Folder 5 [Miscellaneous]
Photocopied newspaper clippings - some reviews, some paid advertisements, 3 are undated (30 items)
Clippings from magazines - exhibit announcements and paid advertisements (12 items)
Reviews (14 items)
Articles containing more substantial information about the artist and her work (some in duplicate)
Box 3, Folder 1 Book: 31 Contemporary Artists (NY: ACA Gallery, 1959)
Box 3, Folder 2 [Miscellaneous]
A. Scrapbook: Contains both family/friends and professional mementos
B. "Week-at-a-glance" type datebook for 1947 - very few entries.
Box 3, Folder 3 [Miscellaneous]
General memorabilia: Birth announcement, greeting cards, Women in the Arts meeting agenda, Brooklyn Society of Artists' Presidents's Report (2 issues), more
One award "in recognition of service to the War Food Administration" (undated) and one notice of election as a "Daughter of Mark Twain" (30 Oct. 1970)
Oversize 1 Photograph of Artist's Equity testimonial dinner to Yasuo Kuniyoshi - Cafe Montparnasse March 25, 1948
Box 3, Folder 4 [Miscellaneous] - no clear relationship to Ms. Carewe (4 items)
Box 4 Works (2 folders, 434 items)
Black and white, 8x10, professional photographs of Sylvia Carewe's works. Only a few are captioned on back by Ms. Carewe; some have a photographer's indexing number.
Box 4 Work-related (8 items)
Black and white, larger, professional photographs of gallery exteriors (7) and 1 shot of a model (?) in the artist's studio in Millbrook, NY.
Box 5 Family and friends (224 items)
Black and white photographs, some professionally taken; some in a small package in folder.
Box 5 Home in Millbrook, NY ( 60 items)
60 photographs, 1 in color, of a home owned by Sylvia Carewe and Marvin Small. Ms. Carewe had a studio in a barn on the property and some of her poetry ("Farewell") expresses her sadness at parting with the home.
Oversize 1 Miscellaneous (6 items)
5 large black and white photographs of Ms. Carewe
1 large black and white photograph of the interior of the Community Church of NY showing 3 Sylvia Carewe Aubusson tapestries on exhibit there
Photographic negatives
Box 5 [Untitled, unlabelled] (10 packages)
Color transparencies
Box 5 Works (118 items)
Color transparencies of Ms. Carewe's works, in all media. Here again, all but a very few are unlabelled.
Box 6 Color slides, mounted (ca. 400 items, 2"x2")
Of the nearly 400 slides, 276 show works of Ms. Carewe either in full or in detail. Because only some are titled by the artist, they have been loosely organized by style into 10 groups: 1) Beach paintings (believed to have been done at Provincetown, MA), 2) portraits, 3) more realistic paintings, 4) more abstract paintings, 5) "Mother Scenes", 6) "white" paintings, 7) "blown" paintings, 8) lights and night paintings, 9) miscellaneous, and 10) family, friends and travel. In many cases there are 2 copies of each slide.

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