Wallace MacMahon Mitchell Papers
The collection contains the papers of Wallace Mitchell and his family during his years as a Cranbrook graduate student, instructor and an administrator of the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Some correspondence and minutes of the Cranbrook Academy of Art during Mitchell's tenure as president is included, though much of it was removed and added to the CAA Administration Records in Feb 2007.
A large bulk of the collection pertains to Joan Bence's interviews and correspondence with Mitchell's friends, colleagues and patrons in the preparation of her publication, The Art of Wallace Mitchell. Also included are catalogs and materials related to Mitchell’s commissions and exhibits.
The photographic material includes negatives, transparencies, slides and photographs.
SERIES I: Professional (1935-1984) contains biographical and professional papers including correspondence, applications, commissions and exhibitions, articles and clippings, obituaries, and materials relating to Mitchell’s Memorial exhibition in 1977. SERIES II: Research (1944-1995, n.d.) consists of Joan Bence's interviews and correspondence with Wallace Mitchell's family, friends and patrons in the preparation of a biographical manuscript. It also includes a typescript of Mrs. Bence’s completed manuscript, The Art of Wallace Mitchell, and typescripts of two additional, unpublished articles on Mitchell. SERIES III: Photographic Materials (1916-1977, n.d.) contains photographs of Wallace Mitchell and of his works. Slides in Box 7 are marked with Code Numbers, which are explained in Folder 15, Box 5. Photographs and a catalog of photographs of Mitchell’s work are in boxes 5-6A. SERIES IV: Restricted.
- 1934 - 1980
- Mitchell, Wallace, 1911-1977 (Person)
Access to Box 10 is restricted until the year 2040.
Permission to use collection materials must be requested in writing.
Wallace McMahon Mitchell was born October 9, 1911 in Detroit, Michigan to Arthur Z. and Edith McMahon Mitchell. In 1930, after attending public schools in Detroit, Mitchell enrolled in Olivet College, transferring the following year to Hamilton College, Clinton, NY. He received a BA from Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill. (1934); spent a year studying at Cranbrook under Zoltan Sepeshy (1934-1935); and toured Europe. In 1936 Mitchell completed his MFA at Columbia University in New York. Returning to Cranbrook, Mitchell was first employed as a painting instructor (1936-1954) during which time he also taught Arts and Crafts at Cranbrook School (1944-1947). In June 1941, Mitchell married Virginia "Jill" Mills. They had two children, Dinah (November 7, 1942) and Jeffrey (October 1, 1943). The Mitchells were divorced in 1955, and the following year Mitchell married Mary Stringer. They had two sons, Daniel (February 22, 1959) and Patrick (July 7, 1963). In 1946, the Guggenheim-funded Museum of Non-Objective Painting included two of Mitchell's paintings in their European Exhibition. Two additional paintings were added to the European collection in 1948. These four paintings are now part of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum collection. In 1950, Mitchell had his first New York one-man exhibition at the prestigious Bertha Schaefer Gallery. Between 1950 and 1962 Mitchell's paintings and constructions were a frequent part of Schaefer's exhibitions. At the same time Mitchell received commissions to design rugs, murals and three-dimensional constructions for private patrons, the University of Kentucky and the Fisher Body Division at the General Motors Tech Center. During these years Mitchell developed into a geometric abstractionist emphasizing color and its movement. Successful as an instructor and artist, Mitchell then became an administrator. He was registrar of the Art Academy from 1944 until 1956, when he was appointed Director of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum. In spite of his administrative duties, his creative work continued and it was during the early 1960s that he began his inventive driftwood sculpture works. He continued to experiment with different media from wood to plexiglass in his painting constructions. He was selected to be President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1970. In 1975, Mitchell announced that he would retire as President at the end of the 1976-1977 academic year, and a retrospective exhibition was planned. However, he died suddenly of a heart attack on January 13, 1977, and the retrospective exhibition became a memorial tribute.
4.3 Linear Feet (9 MS, 4 OS )
Language of Materials
Wallace McMahon Mitchell was born on October 9, 1911 in Detroit, Michigan to Arthur Z. and Edith McMahon Mitchell. He was a respected painter, textile designer, geometric abstractionist, and a Cranbrook Academy of Art (CAA) graduate student (’35). He later served at the Academy as a painting, and arts and crafts instructor; registrar; director; and then president until his death in 1977. The collection contains the papers of Mitchell and his family during his years at Cranbrook. Included are correspondence, applications, commissions and exhibitions, articles and clippings, photographs, obituaries, and materials relating to Mitchell’s Memorial exhibition in 1977. The collection also includes research materials pertaining to Joan Bence’s 1983 publication, The Art of Wallace Mitchell.
The collection is divided into four series: Professional (Boxes 1-3b), Research (Boxes 4-5), Photographic Materials and Memorabilia (Boxes 5-9), and Restricted (Box 10).
An index to the collection is available.
Transferred from the offices of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in April 1991.
Transparencies have been removed to the Archives negative collection. Audio cassette tapes were removed to the Audio Cassette collection. Three 8mm films (filmed by Joan Bence) were removed to the film collection.
Initial processing by Patricia Pykary, 1991. Final processing and finding aid updated by Mary Beth Kreiner, 2010.
- Art -- Study and teaching
- Baldwin, Benjamin, 1913-1993
- Bertoia, Harry
- Booth, George G. (George Gough), 1864-1949
- Cranbrook (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)
- Cranbrook Academy of Art
- Detroit Institute of Arts
- Eames, Charles
- Eames, Ray
- Girard, Alexander
- Hammarstrom, Olav
- Hatt, Robert T. (Robert Torrens), 1902-
- Kimball, Margueritte Eleanor, 1906-1995
- Knodel, Gerhardt
- Michaels, Glen, 1927-
- Milles, Carl, 1875-1955
- Mural painting and decoration -- 20th century
- Oral history
- Roche, Kevin, 1922-2019
- Saarinen, Eero, 1910-1961
- Saarinen, Lillian Swann, 1912-
- Sepeshy, Zoltan, 1898-1974
- Slade, Roy
- Strengell, Marianne, 1909-
- Strengell, Marianne, 1909-
- Thomas, Richard
- Weese, Harry, 1915-1998
- Guide to the Wallace McMahon Mitchell Papers
- Original finding aid written by Patricia Pykary.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- 2010: Collection reprocessed and finding aid revised by Mary Beth Kreiner.
Part of the Cranbrook Archives, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research Repository