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Sylvia Carewe Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DH
Date: Aug 1984

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.

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.

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.


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.

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)



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.

Table of Contents

Biographical information


Legal material


Published material



Photographic negatives

Color transparencies