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Brenda Putnam Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: 1992-10-21

Biographical History

Brenda Putnam was an American sculptor and author (1890-1975). The daughter of Herbert Putnam, a former Librarian of Congress, Brenda Putnam underscored the significance of her collection by providing not only brief annotations for various items, but often detailed reminiscences of her personal and professional life, thus establishing a context in which to view both her Papers as well as her artistic career.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arranged chronologically from 1930 through 1959, the Correspondence includes incoming letters with holograph and typescript carbon copies of some of Brenda Putnam's outgoing responses. While illuminating her relationships with fellow artists (Robert A. Baillie, John Flanagan, James Earle Fraser, Gaetano Cecere, Walker Hancock, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Gertrude K. Lathrop, Lee Lawrie, Carl Miles, Ruth Nickerson, Henry J. Peck, Marion Sanford, Joan Smit, Carl Walters, Sidney Waugh), the Correspondence also reveals Brenda Putnam's associations with galleries and museums (Birmingham Museum of Art, Grand Central Art Galleries, New York University's Hall of Fame, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts); patrons and sponsors of sculpture competitions (the Architect of the Capitol, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Archer M. Huntington, Eli Lilly and Company, the Liturgical Arts Society, Inc., the Medallic Art Company, R. H. Norton, the United States Director of the Mint); and professional organizations (American Academy of Arts and Letters, the National Academy of Design, the National Sculpture Society); as well as some of the subjects of her work (Harold Bauer, William Adams Delano, Ossip Gabrilowitsch). A selected index to the Correspondence follows the box list.

Artwork encompasses original drawings, reproductions of Brenda Putnam's sculpture, and sketches. In designating her work, the terminology provided by the artist has been used in the arrangement of the collection. Drawings (1918-1950) include a series of mechanical draughting exercises for a class Putnam attended prior to a taking a job with Sperry Gyroscope Company, as well as four bone-shadow drawings executed from 1947 to 1948. Arranged by title, Sculpture includes photographs and printed reproductions of Brenda Putnam's two-and three-dimensional work. Putnam's subjects range from musicians (Harold Bauer, Pablo Casals, Wanda Landowska) to law-givers (Solon, Maimonides), admirals (Ernest J. King) to feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart). Much of this material is also accompanied by letters, printed material, and/or Brenda Putnam's reminiscences concerning the circumstances surrounding the execution of a particular work. Architectural pencil Sketches document Putnam's sojourn in Europe during the 1920s.

Writings include reminiscences, speeches, and miscellaneous articles, reviews, and the text for a Samuel F. B. Morse exhibition catalog. Written in 1964 and 1965, Putnam's reminiscences provide insight into her early fascination with music and musicians ("TheBeethoven Association," "A Portrait Bust of Ossip Gabrilowitsch," "Sculptor at the Piano"), while highlighting her opinions concerning her work ("Bone Shadow Drawings," "A Competition," "The Lighting of Sculpture"), often with a touch of self-deprecating humor ("The Gorilla," "Dayton, Ohio").

Memorabilia features artwork by Edgar Davies, Paul Manship, and Wheeler Williams, awards, personal photographs, printed material, and the transcript of a 1932 radio broadcast delivered shortly after the installation of Brenda Putnam's "Puck" at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Printed material includes articles and newspaper clippings (1919-1957) about Brenda Putnam, an assortment of her exhibition catalogs and invitations (1931-1947), and publicity for and reviews of her books, A Sculptor's Way and Animal X-Rays.

Arrangement of the Collection

The Brenda Putnam Papers begins with Correspondence (box 1) and is ordered by date. Artwork (boxes 1-2) follows and is grouped into the categories of drawings, sculpture and sketches. Writings (box 2) consists of reminiscences, speeches, and miscellaneous articles and reviews, all organized by date. Memorabilia starts in box 3 and is arranged alphabetically by category. A final oversized package contains some additional artwork and memorabilia (a scrapbook).


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


Baillie, Robert A. (Robert Alexander), 1880-1961.
Cret, Paul Philippe, 1876-1945.
Delano, William Adams, 1874-1960.
Flanagan, John F., 1865-1952.
Gabrilowitsch, Ossip, 1878-1936.
Gilman, Lawrence, 1878-1939.
Hancock, Walker Kirtland, 1901-1998.
Huntington, Anna Hyatt, 1876-1973.
Huntington, Archer M. (Archer Milton), 1870-1955.
Lathrop, Gertrude Katherine, 1896-
McCartan, Edward, 1878-1947.
McCracken, Harold, 1894-1983.
Nickerson, Ruth.
Norton, R. H.
Putnam, Brenda, 1890-1975.
Smit, Joan.
Trowbridge, Alexander Buell, 1868-1950.
Waugh, Sidney, 1904-1963.
Wright, Louis B. (Louis Booker), 1899-1984.

Corporate Bodies

American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Eli Lilly and Company.
Folger Shakespeare Library.
Grand Central Art Galleries.
Liturgical Arts Society.
Medallic Art Company.
National Academy of Design (U.S.)
National Sculpture Society (U.S.)
New York University. -- Hall of Fame.
United States Mint.
United States. -- Work Projects Administration.


Art, American -- 20th century.
Art, American.
Medalists -- United States.
Sculptors -- United States.
Sculpture, American -- 20th century.
Sculpture, American.
Women artists -- United States.
Women sculptors -- United States.

Genres and Forms

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



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Brenda Putnam Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Brenda Putnam, 1964, 1968.

Table of Contents

Biographical material





Selected index to correspondence


Selected index to correspondence