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COLLECTION Identifier: SC 15

Papers of Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon Young, 1902-2000

Overview

These materials of abstract expressionist artist Alfonso Ossorio and his partner Ted Dragon contain correspondence with family and friends (including many well-known artists), photographs of Dragon and Ossorio and their circle of friends, as well as their estate in East Hampton, "The Creeks." Also included are Ossorio's materials from his time as a Harvard undergraduate and records detailing Ossorio's work with conifers.

Dates

  • 1902-2000

Conditions on Access

Access to most of the Ossorio materials is unrestricted. Access to sensitive or financial materials may be closed to research as noted in the finding aid. Ted Dragon's personal papers are closed to research until October 2, 2036.

Conditions on Use

Copyright: Copyright in materials by Alfonso Ossorio is held by his heirs or assigns. Copyright in materials by Edward Dragon Young is held by his heirs or assigns. Copyright in other papers may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright, the Ossorio Foundation, and the Harvard Art Museums Archives before publishing from any material in the collection.

Copying: Papers may be photocopied in accordance with the Harvard Art Museums Archives' procedures.

Extent

48 linear feet (98 file boxes, 3 card boxes + oversize materials)
The papers in this collection document Alfonso Ossorio's life from boyhood to death, and Edward Dragon Young's time as a ballet dancer through his life at The Creeks. The bulk of the material dates from the 1930's-1990. The papers consist of a broad range of material including but not limited to correspondence with dealers, artists, and colleagues; sketchbooks, photographs, blueprints, and financial documents.

All materials in the collection have been rehoused into acid-free folders and boxes. Folders have been arranged by the processing archivist as there was very little original order to the papers upon arrival. Folder titles written by Ossorio or the Ossorio Foundation have been retained, and any information added by the archivist (titles/dates) has been placed in square brackets [ ].

When possible, acidic documents have been isolated from neighboring materials to mitigate damage. Extremely fragile materials have been placed in Mylar sleeves. Oversized items have been separated and housed in appropriately sized containers. The location of these items is marked in the finding aid.

Biography: Alfonso Ossorio

Alfonso Angel Ossorio Y Yangco was born in 1916 on the Island of Luzon in Manila, Philippines, the fourth of six boys. His mother, Maria Paz Yangco (Pacita), was of Filipino-Spanish-Chinese descent and his father, Miguel José Ossorio, founded a large sugar refinery in the Philippines, Victorias Milling Company, in 1919 that is still in production today.

Ossorio spent much of his childhood in England with his mother and two younger brothers, Frederic (Eric), and Robert (Bobby), attending Catholic preparatory schools. He came to the United States in 1930 to attend the Portsmouth Priory, a Benedictine high school run by monks in Providence, Rhode Island from 1930-1934. Ossorio became an American citizen in 1933, after which, he began his undergraduate training at Harvard (1934-1938). Despite his father's resistance, while at Harvard, Ossorio concentrated in Fine Arts, taking classes taught by Edward Waldo Forbes and Thomas Whittemore, among others. His thesis was titled "Spiritual Influences on the Visual Image of Christ." It was during his college years that he met many mentors and peers who would be influential to him throughout his life including Eric Gill, Philip Hofer, Lincoln Kirstein, and Paul Cadmus. During his summer vacations, he would study with Eric Gill at Gill's workshop, St. Dominic's Guild, in Sussex, England. There he researched medieval art and began creating wood engravings. After his matriculation from Harvard, Ossorio spent a short time studying at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), learning egg tempera techniques.

In 1940, Ossorio married Bridget Hubrecht. As she was a divorcee, this match was unacceptable to his family, so the two eloped and moved to a cottage on a ranch owned by Frieda Lawrence, the widow of D. H. Lawrence, in Taos, New Mexico. They were married for about two years. During this time he began producing surrealist art, and it was in Taos that he met Betty Parsons, who would give him his first show. After his divorce from Hubrecht, Ossorio enlisted in the army as a medical illustrator. Prior to his service, he was hit by a taxi and fractured his leg, an injury that would plague him for many years. Once stationed at Camp Ellis in Illinois, Ossorio was tasked with drawing surgical procedures, many of which were very graphic and gruesome, the influence of which can be seen in his art. Ossorio was discharged from the army in 1947.

In 1948, Ossorio met Edward Dragon Young, a ballet dancer known as Ted Dragon, who would be Ossorio's partner for over 50 years. In the late 1940's and early 1950's, Ossorio met Jackson Pollock, his wife, Lee Krasner, and Jean and Lili Dubuffet. He and Dragon became incredibly close with both couples, and Ossorio purchased his new home, The Creeks, in East Hampton near the Pollocks. He also traveled to Paris to meet with the Dubuffets, later working to transport and exhibit Dubuffet's L'Art Brut collection at The Creeks.

In 1950, Ossorio traveled, for the first time since his childhood, to Victorias in the Philippines to create a mural for the Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker, titled "The Angry Christ." Ossorio's family built the chapel for the residents of Victorias after World War II, and Ossorio worked with Ade de Bethune on the decoration. In the late 1950's Ossorio founded Signa Gallery in East Hampton with John Little and Elizabeth Parker. Throughout the 1960's, Ossorio continued to exhibit his own work, the Art Brut collection, and other pieces of art he had been collecting. The Creeks was filled with continually rotating pieces of art.

Ossorio worked in many different media during his artistic career. He was best known for his assemblages, which he called "congregations," but he also created wood engravings, sketches, watercolors, and painting. Struggles with religion, science, life and death, and sexuality were common themes, and some of his work could be quite gruesome. Later in life, at The Creeks, Ossorio began creating sculpture and gardens, focused mainly on his strategic planting of conifers. At one point, he maintained one of the most diverse conifer collections in North America. In addition to creating and collecting art, Ossorio was also an important financial supporter of other artists, including Jackson Pollock.

Ossorio died of a ruptured aneurysm on December 5th, 1990, at the age of 74.
Biography: Edward Dragon Young Edward Dragon Young (Ted Dragon) was born on April 24, 1921 in Northampton, Massachusetts to Raymond Louis Young and Carena Dragon Young. Dragon was interested in the arts from an early age, aspiring at first to become a pianist, but later turning towards ballet. He performed on Broadway as a chorus boy in the 1941 production of Agnes de Mille's "One Touch of Venus" and went on to work with the Paris Ballet and the New York City Ballet. It was de Mille who told him at an audition to drop his last name.

Dragon halted his ballet career once he met Ossorio in 1948. After Ossorio purchased The Creeks in 1952, Dragon took control of decorating and entertaining. He arranged furniture, and planned elaborate dinner parties, paying special attention to the menu and wine.

In the late 1950's Dragon ran afoul of the law when he was arrested for stealing valuable antique furniture from homes in the neighborhood. When asked why he would do such a thing, Dragon remarked, "…sometimes I was appalled at how badly the furniture was being kept." After he stole pieces, he refurbished and restored them to their former glory. A number of people whose furniture he had taken even wrote thank-you notes once their furniture was returned in better condition.

Upon the death of Ossorio, Dragon was willed The Creeks and $100,000. Mr. Dragon sold The Creeks to Ron Perelman in 1993, and moved into a small cottage in East Hampton, attending church regularly and delivering Meals-on-Wheels to those in need. He established the Ossorio Foundation in the mid 1990's to keep the public informed about the life and art of Alfonso Ossorio.

Dragon died at his cottage in East Hampton on October 2, 2011 at the age of 90.

Series and Subseries in the Collection

The collection is arranged into six series: Personal, Work, Correspondence, Financial, The Creeks, and Edward Dragon Young (Ted Dragon). Each series is further divided into subseries. Some papers are arranged in topical subgroupings within their subseries. For example, in the "Biographical" subseries, "Identification and Legal Documents" is one grouping, while "Biographical Articles and Clippings" is another.
  1. Series I. Personal
  2. ___Subseries A: Biographical
  3. ___Subseries B: Harvard
  4. ___Subseries C: Writings
  5. ___Subseries D: Family
  6. ___Subseries E: Art Collection
  7. Series II. Work
  8. ___Subseries A: Sketchbooks and Artist Materials
  9. ___Subseries B: Exhibitions
  10. ___Subseries C: Chapel of St. Joseph the Worker, Victorias City, Philippines
  11. ___Subseries D: Administrative Records
  12. ___Subseries E: Photographs of Work
  13. ___Subseries F: Research Material
  14. Series III. Correspondence
  15. Series IV. Financial
  16. Series V. The Creeks
  17. ___Subseries A: Architectural Materials
  18. ___Subseries B: General Creeks Materials
  19. ___Subseries C: The Grounds
  20. ___Subseries D: Financial
  21. ___Subseries E: Photographs
  22. ___Subseries F: Clippings
  23. Series VI. Edward (Ted) Dragon Young
  24. ___Subseries A: Personal/Biographical
  25. ___Subseries B: Correspondence
  26. ___Subseries C: Materials Collected By
  27. ___Subseries D: Photographs
  28. ___Subseries E: Financial

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to the Harvard Art Museums Archives in 2008 by the Ossorio Foundation.

Box and Folder Locations

  1. Box 1: 1-17
  2. Box 2: 18-28
  3. Box 3: 29-38, 46
  4. Box 4: 47-49, 51-52
  5. Box 5: 53-56
  6. Box 6: 57-63
  7. Box 7: 64-70
  8. Box 8: 71-77
  9. Box 9: 78-79
  10. Box 10: 80
  11. Box 11: 83-92, 95-102
  12. Box 12: 103-113
  13. Box 13: 114-118
  14. Box 14: 119, 122-127,129-130
  15. Box 15: 131-133, 137-147
  16. Box 16: 148-161, 163-168
  17. Box 17: 169-183
  18. Box 18: 184-206
  19. Box 19: 207
  20. Box 20: 208-213, 218-221, 223
  21. Box 21: 224-227
  22. Box 22: 228-247
  23. Box 23: 248-251, 253-259, 261-265
  24. Box 24: 266-271
  25. Box 25: 272-278
  26. Box 26: 279, 281-284
  27. Box 27: 288-309
  28. Box 28: 310-314
  29. Box 29: 315-326
  30. Box 30: 327-338
  31. Box 31: 339-351
  32. Box 32: 352-363
  33. Box 33: 364-370
  34. Box 34: 372-374, 376-387
  35. Box 35: 388-391, 395-400
  36. Box 36: 401
  37. Box 37: 402-416
  38. Box 38: 417-430
  39. Box 39: 431-444
  40. Box 40: 445-447, 449-465
  41. Box 41: 466-473, 475-486
  42. Box 42: 487-500, 503
  43. Box 43: 504-515
  44. Box 44: 516-520, 522-542
  45. Box 45: 544
  46. Box 46: 545
  47. Box 47: 548-567
  48. Box 48: 568-586
  49. Box 49: 587-607
  50. Box 50: 608-623
  51. Box 51: 624-640
  52. Box 52: 641-653
  53. Box 53: 654-672
  54. Box 54: 673-688
  55. Box 55: 689-710
  56. Box 56: 711-733
  57. Box 57: 734-743
  58. Box 58: 744-756
  59. Box 59: 757-780
  60. Box 60: 781-801
  61. Box 61: 802-809
  62. Box 62: 810-815
  63. Box 63: 816-823
  64. Box 64: 824-831
  65. Box 65: 832-838
  66. Box 66: 839-844
  67. Box 67: 845-849
  68. Box 68: 850-853
  69. Box 69: 854
  70. Box 70: 855
  71. Box 71: 856-867
  72. Box 72: 868-882
  73. Box 73: 883-902
  74. Box 74: 903-918
  75. Box 75: 919-930
  76. Box 76: 931-941
  77. Box 77: 942-952
  78. Box 78: 953-967
  79. Box 79: 968
  80. Box 80: 969
  81. Box 81: 970-978
  82. Box 82: 979-981
  83. Box 83: 982-999
  84. Box 84: 1000-1011
  85. Boxes 85-94: Photographs
  86. Box 95: 1012-1026
  87. Box 96: 1027-1030, 1035-1043
  88. Box 97: 1044-1057
  89. Box 98: 1058-1068, 1070-1073
  90. Box 99: 1074-1080, 1082-1084
  91. Box 100: 1085-1090
  92. Box 101: 1091-1103
  93. Box 102: 1106
  94. Box 103: 1107-1112
  95. Box 104: 1113-1118
  96. Box 105: 1119-1125
  97. Box 106: 1126
  98. Box 107: 1127
  99. Box 108: 1128
  100. Box 109: 1129
  101. Box 110: 1130-1158
  102. Box 111: 1159-1176
  103. Box 112: 1177-1192
  104. Box 113: 1193-1204
  105. Box 114: Household Expense Books
  106. Box 115: Oversized Folders 120, 128, 162, 214-215
  107. Box 116: Oversized Folder 121
  108. Box 117: Oversized Folders 41, 81, 216-217, 285-287
  109. Box 118: Oversized Folders 39, 40, 42-43, 93-94
  110. Box 119: Oversized Folders 82, 252, 371, 375, 392-394
  111. Box 120: Oversized Folders 44-45, 134-136, 543, 1104
  112. Box 121: Oversized Folders 502, 546-547
  113. Box 122: Oversized Folders 50, 222, 260, 280, 448, 474, 501, 521, 1069
  114. Box 123: Oversized Folders 1031-1034, 1081, 1105
Names
  1. Aberbach, Julian
  2. Aberbach, Jean
  3. Allan, Blaise
  4. Alloway, Lawrence, 1926-1990
  5. Bethune, Ade, 1914-2002
  6. Bultman, Fritz, 1919-1985
  7. Bultman, Jeanne
  8. Carey, Graham
  9. Constable, Rosalind
  10. Dehn, Paul
  11. Dubuffet, Jean, 1901-1985
  12. Dubuffet, Lili, 1902-1988
  13. Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968
  14. Embry, Norris, 1921-
  15. Erskine, Branson
  16. Forbes, Edward W. (Edward Waldo), 1873-1969
  17. Freeman, Betty
  18. Friedman, Bernard Harper, 1926-2011
  19. Gill, Eric, 1882-1940
  20. Hagreen, Philip
  21. Hofer, Philip, 1898-1984
  22. Hubrecht, Bridget
  23. Irving, Florence
  24. Kirstein, Lincoln, 1907-1996
  25. Krasner, Lee, 1908-1984
  26. Lawrence, Frieda von Richthofen, 1879-1956
  27. Matisse, Pierre, 1900-1989
  28. Naifeh, Steven, 1952-
  29. Nevelson, Louise, 1899-1988
  30. Newman, Barnett, 1905-1970
  31. Norman, Dorothy, 1905-1997
  32. Ossorio, Robert
  33. Ossorio, Alfonso, 1916-1990
  34. Ossorio, Frederic
  35. Ossorio, Miguel José
  36. Ossorio, José
  37. Parsons, Betty
  38. Pepler, H.D.C. (Hilary Douglas Clarke), 1878-1951
  39. Picher, William Stanton, d. 1981
  40. Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956
  41. Pollock, Elizabeth
  42. Post, Chandler Rathfon, 1881-1959
  43. Rorem, Ned, 1923-
  44. Ruzicka, Rudolph, 1883-1978
  45. Still, Clyfford, 1904-1980
  46. Tapié, Michel
  47. Thompson, Dunstan, 1918-1975
  48. Tillich, Hannah
  49. Tillich, Paul, 1886-1965
  50. Yangco, Maria Paz
  51. Young, Edward Dragon, 1921-2011
  52. Zóbel, Fernando
  53. Archives of American Art
  54. Cordier and Ekstrom
  55. Fogg Art Museum
  56. Fondation Dubuffet
  57. Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
  58. Oscarsson Hood Gallery
  59. Ossorio Foundation
  60. Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center
  61. Pynson Printers
  62. Rose Art Museum
  63. Ross School (East Hampton, NY) [Formerly Hampton Day School]
  64. Sheed & Ward, Publishers
  65. Signa Gallery
  66. St. Dominic's Press
  67. SUNY at Stony Brook
  68. Whitney Museum of American Art
Subjects
  1. Abstract expressionism.
  2. Art brut - Exhibitions.
  3. Art brut - France.
  4. Art brut - Themes, motives.
  5. Art brut - United States - Exhibitions.
  6. Art brut - United States - History
  7. Art Brut.
  8. Art Galleries and museums.
  9. Art galleries, Commercial.
  10. Art galleries--New York (State)--New York.
  11. Art galleries--United States.
  12. Art Movements.
  13. Art supplies.
  14. Art.
  15. Art--Collectors and collecting.
  16. Art--Collectors and collecting--United States.
  17. Art--Exhibitions.
  18. Art--Exhibitions--Pictorial works.
  19. Chapel of Saint Joseph the Worker, Negros Island,Philippines
  20. Conifers.
  21. Conifers--Breeding.
  22. Conservation and restoration.
  23. Drawings - 1930-1980.
  24. Drawings.
  25. East Hampton (N.Y.)
  26. East Hampton (N.Y.) in art--Exhibitions.
  27. East Hampton (N.Y.). Guild Hall
  28. Evergreens.
  29. Exhibition catalogs.
  30. Exhibitions.
  31. Gay men.
  32. Harvard University.
  33. Harvard University--Alumni and alumnae.
  34. Harvard University. Art Museums.
  35. Harvard University. Art Museums. Fogg Art Museum
  36. Harvard University. Dept. of Fine Arts.
  37. Museum exhibits.
  38. Negros Occidental, Philippine Islands (Province).
  39. Painters - New York (State).
  40. Philippines.
  41. Poetry.
  42. Poets.
  43. Religious Art, Christian.
  44. Religious Art.
  45. Sketches - 1930-1980.
  46. Sketches.
Form/Genre Terms
  1. Blueprints
  2. Interviews
  3. Financial records.
  4. Motion pictures (visual works)
  5. Photograph albums.
  6. Photographs
  7. Photographs.
  8. Scrapbooks
  9. Sketchbooks
  10. Slides (Photography)
  11. Sound recordings
  12. Transcripts
  13. Video recordings

Processing Information

The collection was processed from 2009 to 2011 by Erin Murphy, with assistance from Amanda Ferrara and Brittany Murphy. Updates to the finding aid were made in 2015 by Megan Schwenke.
Link to catalog
Title
Papers of Alfonso Ossorio and Edward Dragon Young (SC 15), 1902-2000: A Guide
Author
Harvard Art Museums Archives
EAD ID
art00029

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard Art Museums Archives Repository

The Harvard Art Museums Archives is the official repository for institutional records and historical documents in all formats relating to the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1895 to the present. Its collections include significant papers of individuals and groups associated with the museums' history, as well as correspondence with collectors, gallery owners, museum professionals, and notables throughout the twentieth century. Its holdings also document the formation of the museums' collections and its mission as a teaching institution.

Contact:
32 Quincy Street
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
617-495-2384