Sartain family papers
The Sartain Family Papers consists of manuscripts and graphics. The manuscript collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, by-laws and minutes of various organizations, biographical notes and sketches, and volumes. The collection also covers John Sartain's work with the Centennial Exhib...
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Processing Information: Many of the engravings and images in this collection are undergoing conservation treatment and may be unavailable over the course of the work. Questions about the availability of such items may be directed to HSP's library staff. Once this work is complete, all materials will be put back in the collection, and this finding aid will be updated.
Materials Separated from the Resource: 122 drawings by Thomas Birch removed to the HSP print collection (Collection V89). Swaine oil paintings, and a set of engraving tools were transferred to HSP's museum department, and subsequently to the Philadelphia History Museum.
11.0 Linear feet ; 23 boxes, 31 volumes, 6 flat files, 2 oversized items
The Sartain Family Papers consists of manuscripts and graphics. The manuscript collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, by-laws and minutes of various organizations, biographical notes and sketches, and volumes. The collection also covers John Sartain's work with the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, along with several other events Sartain helped to plan. The graphic collection contains approximately 3,000 images engraved, etched, or drawn by one of the Sartain artists: John, Henry, Samuel, Emily or William. The graphic collection also includes some family photographs. An inventory of the collection is available on paper in the library.
Together the Sartain Family Papers provide an interesting and unique insight into the lives of a family of Philadelphia artists, who were also some of the most preeminent American engravers of their time. The correspondence between family members often refers to the writer's or recipient's work and technique, and it is clear from their other activities that the lives of the Sartain family revolved around the art world. It appears that the Sartains, along with a few other prominent artists in the city, had the ability to influence and impact the directions and advancements of the community as a whole. For instance, John, Emily, and Harriet Sartain's involvement in the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now known as Moore College of Art and Design) serve to demonstrate how instrumental the Sartain's were in the opening up of the art community to women. Before Emily Sartain, there were no female mezzotint engravers in the world. Moreover, there were only a handful of female engravers at all. Emily had to do much of her studying with her father, because many art schools did not accept women. However, by the time Emily resigned her post as principal of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in 1919, the art community had truly begun to embrace female artists. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts had begun to expand their offerings for women and the presence of female engravers, both here and in Europe, had significantly increased.
The other pursuits highlighted in this collection of the Sartains, particularly John Sartain, serve to further illuminate the way in which art and life intertwined for them. Everything from their professional careers to their correspondence between friends and family members completely revolved around their art. The rich visual archive available in the graphic collection is not only valuable in its own right for including some of the earliest American mezzotint engravings, but also to further support information included in the manuscript collection. For instance, information John Sartain wrote about in one of his notebooks (Volume 9) pertains to technique and the various inks and tints he had at his disposal. That volume in conjunction with some of his engravings could prove instrumental in studying Sartain's development as an artist.
The patriarch of the Sartain Family, John Sartain, was born in London and came to the United States in 1830. He established himself as an engraver and publisher in Philadelphia. He edited Campbell's Foreign Semi Monthly Magazine from 1843 until his 1848 purchase of an interest in a New York publication, which became Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art. He served as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for 23 years, and also worked in the art departments for both the 1876 Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia and the 1887 American Exhibitions in London. This collection of papers from John Sartain and other family members includes personal and business correspondence, letterpress books, administrative records from outside organizations in which the family was involved, biographical sketches, articles from Sartain’s Magazine, and ephemera. There are also Rembrandt Peale’s unpublished “Notes of the Painting Room,” as well as a sizable compilation of prints, portraits, and other artwork.