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F. Shirley Prouty Research Collection on Johannes Kirchmayer

Identifier: 2018-04

Collection Scope

The Biographical (1888-2015) series comprises correspondence with archives and record offices; birth, death, and naturalization certificates; printed articles; news clippings; Christmas cards; and photographic materials relating to Kirchmayer and his family. While Christmas cards are usually arranged as a form of correspondence, they are included in the biographical materials as they were not sent or received by the creator of this research collection, but were collected as a documentary record of Kirchmayer’s life and work. Writings are also included in this series, including those by Kirchmayer himself as it documents his thoughts about his profession and artistic philosophy, as well as materials relating to lectures that Prouty gave about Kirchmayer, which similarly documents the blending of his personal and professional life.

Correspondence (1979-2009) is a small series that documents administrative aspects of Prouty’s work, including permission to publish photographs, book publication and orders, and correspondence with other researchers of Kirchmayer’s work.

Series III, Research Files contains the bulk of the collection. The Artworks (1891-2015) Subseries comprises research into Kirchmayer’s artworks. The folders may contain correspondence and notes, photographs and smaller printed materials, such as brochures, leaflets and pamphlets.

The subseries General (1914-2011) comprises research into architects and other carvers, and background information into church building, Oberammergau, and the medieval influence upon contemporary arts and crafts both in aesthetic style and practical handcraftsmanship. These background materials highlight references to Kirchmayer’s spirit and artwork, and his relationship to other artists. This subseries includes isolated copies of articles and excerpts from books, as well as archival resources. The Printed Materials (1908-1929) is a small series that comprises the resources that Prouty collected to understand the context of Kirchmayer’s work. It includes news clippings, periodicals, and book chapters. The news clippings and some periodicals are surrogates due to the fragility of the originals, which are housed separately for optimal preservation.

The Oversize series contains books regarding Johannes Kirchmayer, other artists, and the churches that hold his work. It also contains original newspapers, news clippings, and periodicals which are restricted to limit handling.

The Realia series contains mounted copper plates and a wax candle with the image of John Kirchmayer.


  • 1873 - 2015
  • Majority of material found within 1994 - 2015



Access to the collection is unrestricted, except Box 13, which is restricted due to fragility.


Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.


Shirley Prouty is the great great-niece of the woodcarver, Johannes (John) Kirchmayer. Having promised her grandmother that she would write a book about her great great-uncle, she spent many years researching his life, family history, and artworks. Upon reviewing the news clippings that her grandmother had collected, she realized that the scope of the project would be broad. Her research really started in 1994 when her son visited Detroit and was directed to the Cranbrook Educational Community by the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Kirchmayer’s artworks are predominantly ecclesiastical wood carvings, though he also worked with stone and ivory. His work can be seen in many churches and cathedrals in the United States, with some further afield. Prouty’s research is published in her book, Johannes Kirchmayer, 1860-1930: master carver from Germany’s passion play village to America’s finest sanctuaries, which includes a biography of Kirchmayer and a detailed catalog of his work.

Johannes Baptist Kirchmayr was born in Oberammergau, Bavaria (now Germany), on March 31, 1860, to John Ev. Lang and Theresia Kirchmayr. Born out of wedlock, Lang acknowledged Johannes as his son, though he grew up in the household of his grandfather and thus assumed the Kirchmayr name. He adapted his name to John Kirchmayer upon his immigration into the United States, but retained Johannes for his artwork, which is identifiable by the inscription “IK” using the Latin spelling Iohannes. It was a common practice for Bavarian woodcarvers to leave their signature on their work. Kirchmayer had half-siblings from both lines of his parentage. In 1872, Theresia married Tobias Zwink and they had three children, one of which also became a wood carver, Adelbert Zwink. Kirchmayer’s father, John Lang, who later became the mayor of Oberammergau, also had subsequent children and his sons, Alois Lang and Anton (Andreas) Lang, became wood carvers.

Johannes’ early experiences in the village of Oberammergau were fundamental to the development of his artistic style and technique. Being famous for the Passion Play, in which many members of the Lang family participated, Oberammergau was the setting in which Kirchmayer learned the biblical stories and, through playing out the scenes of the play, he became familiar with the essential character and countenance of the saints that much inspired his work. He learned modeling in the Lang pottery shop and later excelled in drawing, but it was with his uncle, Georg Lang, that he learned his craft.

After spending time in Paris and London, Kirchmayer returned to Oberammergau; yet he found the village too small and he went in search of new experiences and opportunities. Kirchmayer emigrated to the USA in 1880, when he was twenty years old. His early employment was with furniture manufacturers, firstly, A. Kimbel and Sons, and then Herter Bros. The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a period of great church building in the United States, initiated by the architect Henry Vaughn and championed by the prolific architect Ralph Adams Cram and his colleague Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Kirchmayer went on to work with these architects and to carve many magnificent interior artworks. He worked for some time with the firm Irving and Casson, and in 1905, he became a partner with W.F. Ross and Otis.T. Lockhart in the firm W.F. Ross & Co. Together with architects and allied craftsmen—stonemasons, stained glass artists, silversmiths and painters—the American Gothic style evolved. This style blended the traditions of old European craftsmen with the inspirations of the New World. In his later years, Kirchmayer worked as an independent artist from his studio in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kirchmayer was not only a master of his craft, he was a deeply religious man whose carvings were thus inspired.

Kirchmayer was well respected and loved by his colleagues and patrons. He was commissioned by George Gough Booth to complete works for Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook House, and Brookside School, and they both shared a zeal for the Arts and Crafts Movement. Like Booth in Detroit, Kirchmayer was a founding member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts (1897). He earned two awards, the American Federation of Arts Award in Industrial Art—Special Honor in Woodcarving (1916), and the Award of the Craftsmanship Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Woodcarving (1930).

Kirchmayer married Frances LeClair in 1904. Their adopted son, Francis John Kirchmayer, died of meningitis when he was aged two in February 1906. His wife, Frances, died in 1923, and in 1929, he married Bessie Caroline Burdette. Kirchmayer died on November 29, 1930, in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Arlington, Massachusetts.

Chronology of Artworks

Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park, Woodstock, VT
St. James Church, New Bedford, MA
Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Providence, RI
Millicent Library, Fairhaven, MA
Hill House, St. Paul, MN
Church of the Advent, Boston, MA
St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH
The Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York, NY
Unity Church, North Easton, MA
The Parish Church of Our Saviour, Middleborough, MA
All Saints’ Church, Dorchester, MA
Bubbles of glory, Hiawatha, panels (location unknown)
Groton School, Groton, MA
circa 1900
Homestead, 79 Crescent Hill Avenue, Arlington, MA
St. Luke the Beloved Physician Chapel, Loomis Sanatorium, NY
All Saints’ Church, Great Neck, NY
The Memorial Church, Fairhaven, MA
St. Mary’s Church, Walkerville, ON
Calvary Episcopal Church, Pittsburgh, PA
Christ Church, New Haven, CT
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Quincy, IL
All Saints’ Church, Worcester, MA
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chicago, IL [destroyed by fire, 1950s]
Newman School, Hackensack, NJ
Second Congregational Church, West Newton, MA
circa 1908
Memorial tablet, Edward Benedict (location unknown)
Madonna, Newman School (location unverifiable, school now gone)
Prie-Dieu (location unverifiable)
Frieze mirror surrounds, arch. Clipton Sturgis (location unverifiable)
The Parish Church of St. Luke, Evanston, IL
St. Catherine’s of Siena, Norwood, MA
Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield, MA
circa 1909
Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Methuen, MA
Presentation of Mary Academy (Searles Castle), Methuen, MA
Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Rochester, NY
St. Stephen’s Church, Geneva, NY
St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN
Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Jamaica Plain, MA (now closed)
Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Walpole, MA
Church of the Sacred Heart, Taunton, MA
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Detroit, MI
Trinity Church, Columbus, OH
Aldophus Busch Hall, Cambridge, MA
circa 1912
St. Anthony and the Holy Child (private collection)
Sculptured Throne, carved for Gate of Heaven Church, South Boston, MA (location unknown)
US Military Academy, West Point NY
Cathedral Church of St. James, Chicago, IL
Diocese of Rhode Island, Providence, RI
Church of Our Saviour, Syracuse NY
circa 1913
Church of St. John the Evangelist, Newport, RI
American Church, Manila, Philippines
Head of Washington, Lincoln, and Philip Brooks (location unknown)
Childhood, sweet sixteen panel heads (location unknown)
Cover of Book of Common Prayer
St. Elizabeth’s Chapel, Sudbury, MA
House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, MN
Church of the Intercession, Harlem, NY
St. Luke’s, Evanston, IL
Larz Anderson Bridge, Cambridge to Boston, MA
Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
Crib, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Our Lady of Hope, West Barnstaple, MA
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Brookings, SD
Altar Book Cover, St. Clement’s Church, Philadelphia, PA
Our Lady of the Assumption, Osterville, MA
St. Michael’s Church, Milton, MA
Cathedral of the Madeleine, Salt Lake City, UT
circa 1917
Tryptich, Salt Lake City (location unverifiable)
Emmanuel Church, Baltimore, MD
Altarpiece, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Organ screen, Boston (location unverifiable)
Cranbrook House, Bloomfield Hills, MI
circa 1918
Madonna (location unknown)
Reredos, arch. Joseph Untersee (location unverifiable)
Cranbrook Academy of Arts, Bloomfield Hills, MI
Church of the Redeemer, Chestnut Hill, MA
St. Catherine of Genoa Church, Somerville, MA
St. Vincent Ferrer Church, New York, NY
Symphony in Heaven, oak tableau (location unknown)
circa 1924
Meeting through the Mist (location unknown)
A Madonna and Child, two adoring monks (location unknown)
St. Frances de Sales, Charlestown, MA
Christ Church Cranbrook, Bloomfield Hills, MI
St. Luke’s Cathedral, Portland, ME
circa 1925
Ralph Adams Cram, portrayed in wood (location unknown)
Figure of Saint John the Baptist, carved for the National Cathedral (location unknown)
All Saints’ Church Peterborough, NH
circa 1926
All Saints’ Episcopal Parish, Brookline MA
circa 1927
American Gothic, French Gothic saint (location unknown)
Detroit News International Trophy (location unknown)
circa 1928
Self-portrait of I. Kirchmayer (location unknown)
Motherhood (location unknown)
Ralph Adams Cram, expounding his faith (location unknown)
Sulpician Seminary, Washington, DC
Christ the King Church, Littleton, NH
St. John the Evangelist, Newport, RI
Christ the King, Bethlehem, NH (now closed)
Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul (National Cathedral), Washington, DC
Trinity Lutheran Church, Detroit
Huge illuminated chest, Christmas gift to wife (location unknown)
Behold the Lamb wood panel (location unknown)
Carving, First Church, Boston (location unverifiable)
St. Mary’s Convent, Brighton, MA (location unverifiable)
Victor Lawrence House, Chicago (location unverifiable)
Women’s Republican Club, Jordan House, Boston (location unverifiable)
Carved walnut library ceiling, interview with Andrew Dreselly (location unverifiable)
Architectural carving, Ditson Building, Douglass Shand Tucci, (1978) ‘Built in Boston’


6.84 Linear Feet (14 MS, 1 OS)

Language of Materials



F. Shirley Prouty is the great great-niece of Johannes Kirchmayer. She spent many years researching his life, family history, and artworks. Her research is published in the book Johannes Kirchmayer, 1860-1930: master carver from Germany's passion play village to America's finest sanctuaries. This collection holds the research files for this publication. Johannes Kirchmayer was born in Oberammergau, Bavaria, in 1860 and emigrated to the United States in 1880. He work is predominantly ecclesiastical woodcarvings and is contained in many churches and cathedrals in the United States. He worked with many architects, including Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. He worked with the firm Irving & Casson, before partnering with W. F. Ross and Otis T. Lockhart in the firm, W. F. Ross & Co. With these architects and other craftsmen, he contributed to the American Gothic style. He was a founding member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts in 1897 and was commissioned by George Gough Booth to complete works for Brookside School Cranbrook, Cranbrook House, and Christ Church Cranbrook. This collection was created, collected, and maintained by F. Shirley Prouty. The collection began with the original newspaper materials, as well as periodicals and Christmas cards with Kirchmayer’s signature, which she was given by her grandmother (Kirchmayer’s niece through marriage to Frances LeClair). The bulk of the collection was collected and created through her research into the family history and artwork of John Kirchmayer for the purposes of publishing a biography of his life and a detailed catalog of his work.The collection contains biographical materials related to Kirchmayer, including correspondence, archival copies of genealogical research, clippings, and writings by both Kirchmayer and Prouty. There is correspondence related to publication and permissions. The bulk of the collection comprises research files related to his works in churches and historic sites. The research materials include correspondence with Church archives, state archives, and authors, as well as smaller printed materials and photographic materials. There is also some general research into architects, church building, and medieval craftsmanship. Printed materials were collected to provide contextual knowledge of his work. An oversize series holds books, many published by the parishes in which his work is contained, as well as original newspapers inherited from Kirchmayer's sister.


This collection is arranged alphanumerically and is divided into six series reflecting the type of materials: Biographical (box 1), Correspondence (box 2), Research Files (boxes 2-10), Printed Materials (box 10), Oversize (boxes 11-13), and Realia (box 14).

Series III is divided into two subseries: Artworks and General.

The Artworks Subseries is arranged alphabetically by the sites which house his work, predominantly churches, but also other historic sites such as houses and museums. This organization by location rather than sculpture names is because there may be more than one artwork at a location, and the folders were created and maintained in this way by the creator of the collection. In cases where the materials are voluminous, materials are arranged in multiple folders and photographic materials are separated. The General Subseries is arranged alphabetically by subject.

Additional Access

A spreadsheet index of negatives is available.

Additional Access

An index to the collection is available.


Gift of Florence Shirley Prouty.

Related Materials

George Gough Booth Papers (1981-01)

Christ Church Cranbrook Records (1992-01)


Series III negatives have been removed for special storage.

Processing History

Processed by Laura MacNewman, April 2019

Guide to the F. Shirley Prouty Research Collection on Johannes Kirchmayer
Laura MacNewman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Edition statement
Resource record created by Laura MacNewman

Repository Details

Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository