Nell Blaine papers
Diaries and correspondence of the American artist, Nell Blaine.
Language of Materials
Collection materials are in English.
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.
This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.
Extent2.5 linear feet (8 boxes)
The diaries series includes blank notebooks and appointment books that served as diaries, scrapbooks, datebooks, and sketchbooks. Content includes notes on her health; books she read, sometimes with detailed reactions; addresses; appointments; lists of Christmas cards sent; accounting; notes on wildlife and weather; and in detail, lists of her paintings and drawings--oils and watercolors, with note of the date and place created, size and sometimes marked favorites and items sold or exhibited. Many volumes contain pasted-in material, including clippings, leaves, pictures, stickers, ticket stubs, etc. Some volumes are titled, and some have tabs to mark named sections; these are noted where present.
The correspondence series is primarily letters to Blaine from friends, much of it dating from 1959 when she was stricken with polio in Greece. Some printed material is included as well as a few letters between others.
Biographical / Historical
Nell Blaine was born in Richmond (Va.) July 10, 1922. She attended the Richmond School of Art; studied with the artist Hans Hofmann in New York (N.Y.) from 1942-1944; studied etching and engraving at Atelier 17 with Stanley William Hayter in 1945; and attended the New School for Social Research from 1952-1953. She maintained a studio in Gloucester (Mass.) but also traveled and painted extensively in Austria, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal, St. Lucia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and West Indies.
Blaine married Robert Bass, a musician, in 1943; they divorced in 1949. She contracted polio on Mykonos Island (Greece) in the fall of 1959, spending months in a hospital in New York and in an iron lung, but proving the medical opinion wrong that she would not paint again, laboriously retraining her hands. She used a wheelchair the rest of her life and suffered from post-polio syndrome from which she ultimately died November 14, 1996. She was survived by her companion of 30 years, Carolyn Harris, also a painter.
Blaine's painting began in realism, but at age 21 she was the youngest member of the group American Abstract Artists. She was a founding member of the Jane Street Gallery, an early artists' cooperative, and had her first solo show there in 1945. During a trip to Paris with Larry Rivers in 1950, she immersed herself in 19th-century European painting and from that point developed a vivid and colorful representational style for which she is best known. Her New York circle of artist and writer friends in the 1950's included John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, Kenneth Koch, Larry Rivers, Jane Freilicher, Leland Bell, Robert De Niro Sr. and Rudy Burckhardt. She exhibited solo at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1953 and was represented by the Poindexter Gallery and the Fischbach Gallery.
Arranged in two series:
- I. Diaries
- II. Correspondence
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2002M-3. Purchased from John LeBow; received: 2002 August 5.
2020M-46. Gift of the Geoffrey Bayliss Trust, 2019.
This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.
Processed by: Melanie Wisner
- Blaine, Nell, 1922-1996. Nell Blaine papers, circa 1947-2002 (MS Am 2658): Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
- Description rules
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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