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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 790

Papers of Lillian Cotton, 1902-1970


Artwork, photographs, and scrapbooks of artist Lillian Cotton Impey and her sister, Eleanor Cotton Burden.


  • Creation: 1902-1970


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. Three photograph albums are closed until digitization due to fragility.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Lillian Cotten and Eleanor Cotton Burden is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1.33 linear feet ((1 file box, 1 folio box) plus 3 photograph folders, 1 folio+ photograph folder, 1 folio photograph album, 2 folio+ photograph albums, 1 autochrome)

The collection consists of the sketchbooks, scrapbooks, and photograph albums of artist Lillian Cotton and her sister, Eleanor Cotton Burden.

Series I, ARTWORK AND SCRAPBOOKS, 1902-1963 (#1.1-1.5, 2FB.1v), includes Lillian Cotton's early sketchbooks, a scrapbook, and a museum exhibition program. This series contains Cotton's early portrait sketches, as well as clippings regarding her early exhibitions in the United States and France, her marriage to Arthur Impey, and reviews of her work. This series is arranged roughly chronologically.

Series II, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1907-1970 (#PD.1f+v-PD.8), includes photographs, prints, postcards, and an autochrome. This series contains photographs of portraits done by Lillian Cotton, including subjects such as Virginia Berresford, Anne Moffett, Alfred Lunt, and Stephen James Joyce. Photographs in this series also document the familial and social life of Eleanor Cotton Burden, Lillian Cotton's sister, and include candid and professional family photographs, photographs of her travels in Europe, her family property, and photographs and cards from family and friends. This series is arranged by owner, and then chronologically.


Lillian Cotton was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1892 to Nathaniel Hugh Cotton and Harriet Emma Clapp. Cotton spent her childhood in Boston and developed an interest in art as a young child, drawing detailed portraits in sketchbooks as early as age ten. She attended the Boston Art Museum School, and later, between 1915 and 1917, she studied at the Art Students League of New York under Robert Henri and George Bellows. Under these realist painters, Cotton developed her technique, and began exhibiting work as early as 1918.

Cotton further pursued her study of art in Paris, working under Andre Lhote, Lucien Simon, and Émile-René Ménard. In Paris, Cotton met and married Arthur Elia Impey, a British army officer (after her marriage, Cotton sometimes signed her work "LC Impey," though she is better known as an artist as Lillian Cotton). The couple spent the majority of their time in Paris, in particular Montparnasse, where Cotton had a studio, but often traveled to the United States to visit family and for Cotton to exhibit work.

Cotton was most famous for her portraits, especially those of high-society figures and well-known actors, writers, and artists of the day. Her subjects included Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake, June Walker, Marcel Marceau, Norman Trevor, Stephen James Joyce, Mrs. Thomas Carnegie, Alfred Lunt, Wheeler Williams, Louis Bromfield, and Virginia Berresford. Cotton also painted and sketched portraits of family members, children, and unidentified subjects, and remarked that she preferred to work with women. Cotton was noted for her sound construction and simple and direct style of portraiture, that nevertheless conveyed feeling and a psychological presentation of her subjects. Though less frequently, Cotton also produced landscapes and still-life compositions.

Cotton exhibited work between 1918 and 1959 in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, and in Paris, notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Salon d'Automne. She gained mention and won numerous awards for her work, including two from the National Association of Women Artists. She was a member of that organization, as well as a member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, the New York Society of Women Artists, and the Pen and Brush Club, among others.

Lillian Cotton died in New York City in 1962.


The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Series I. Artwork and Scrapbooks, 1902-1963 (#1.1-1.5, 2FB.1v)
  2. Series II. Photographs, 1907-1970 (#PD.1f+v-PD.8)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2014-M36

These papers were given to the Schlesinger Library in February 1982 by Schuyler Chapin, the nephew of Lillian Cotton and Eleanor Cotton Burden.

Schuyler Chapin, Lillian Cotton's nephew, gave these papers to the Schlesinger Library in 1982 when he also donated the material of Cornelia Chapin, his paternal aunt. A preliminary inventory for the Cornelia Chapin Papers listed the Cotton material. When the Cornelia Chapin Papers (MC 783) were processed in 2014, Cotton family material was removed to form this collection.

Processing Information

Processed: March 2014

By: Leah Edelman

Cotton, Lillian, 1892-1962. Papers of Lillian Cotton, 1902-1970: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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