Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Jean Brown papers
Date (inclusive): 1916-1995 (bulk 1958-1985)
Brown, Jean, 1911
318.5 linear feet
(319 boxes, 8 rolls, 64 flat file folders)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
An extensive study collection of avant-garde materials amassed by librarian and art collector, Jean Brown. Her collection
documents the Dada and Surrealist art movements and their offshoots, especially Fluxus, mail art, and concrete poetry. Materials
include letters, printed matter and ephemera, clippings, nearly 500 art objects, sound recordings, motion pictures, and video
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Jean Brown was born in Brooklyn, New York, 20 December 1911. Her father, Irving Levy, was a rare book dealer. During the Depression
Brown worked in a library in Springfield, Massachusetts where she was trained in library cataloging.
Brown amassed a significant and rich body of materials by many of the most influential and challenging artists of the 20th
century. The initial inspiration for the collection was provided by
Dada painters and poets: an anthology, 1951, edited by Robert Motherwell. In the 1960s Brown and her husband, Leonard traveled to Europe frequently to acquire
Dada and Surrealist art works, books, pamphlets and papers, many documented in Motherwell's anthology.
When Leonard died in 1971, Brown moved into the Shaker seed house in Tyringham, Massachusetts. From this point on her collection
grew rapidly as Brown acquired materials from those movements, especially Fluxus, mail art and concrete poetry, which grew
out of Dada and Surrealism. Many of these artists worked on the fringes of the established museum and gallery system and showed
their work in alternative spaces or created alternative distribution systems.
Brown's primary goal was to assemble a study collection. She acquired comprehensively on the topics mentioned above. This
included standing orders with some small presses to acquire all of their output. Her early appreciation of books lead naturally
to an interest in artists' books. If an artist's work interested her she asked the artist to create a book for her archive.
In the early 1970s, her son Jon sent notices about the archive to every art history graduate program. Scholars and graduate
students with valid research interests were invited to use the collection.
Brown maintained close friendships with many of the artists whose work she collected, including George Maciunas, Dick Higgins,
Ken Friedman, Peter Frank, Mirella Bentivoglio, and Rimma and Valery Gerlovin, to name a few. They visited frequently and
created works for the archive in her upstairs workroom, a room designed by Maciunas. Brown became a part of the international
mail art network. Every major mail artist sent her examples of their work. Eventually, she found it impossible to keep up
with the quantity of mail she was receiving and by the mid-1980s had stopped answering their letters. Brown died May 1, 1994
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Jean Brown papers, 1916-1995 (bulk 1958-1985), Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 890164.
Acquired from Jean Brown.
A number of people processed and cataloged parts of the Jean Brown papers from 1988-2002. Eric Vos, a researcher and consultant
during periods of 1988, 1989 and 1990, processed and cataloged sections of the collection (see research file for his report
and checklist). Jon Hendricks, consultant, visited in 1989 August and helped Vos identify Fluxus materials. Intern Albert
DePetrillo organized a portion of the correspondence in 1990 February.
Some of the objects were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. This incident prompted a team of collection maintenance
personnel - Rick Zwies, John Pearson, Jessica Holada - to measure and order boxes for each object and write conservation notes.
Most of this work was done in 1995-1996, but continued until 1997. Bennington intern Mikel Wadewitz and Pearson photographed
about 70% of the objects.
From April 1996 to May 1997, Lynda Bunting reorganized Vos's series arrangements, sorted and integrated unprocessed materials
from ca. 25 boxes, and wrote the bulk of this finding aid. Much of the Dada and Surrealist ephemera had been separated from
the archive in 1985-1986. Bunting collected these materials, along with some others that had been separated, and reintegrated
them into the collection. In addition, she transferred to the library 181 sound recordings and ca. 950 books, serials, and
prints. Over 320 book sales catalogs were deaccessioned. The art objects were reorganized into a rough alphabetical order,
thus rendering Vos' numbering system obsolete.
In Summer 1996, Phil Curtis integrated and organized materials within Series II. and Series III. From September-December 1996,
Kirsten Hammer organized most of Series III, Series IV., and Series V. Peter Frank was hired as a consultant for four days
in February 1997 to make attributions on unidentified items.
In 2000-2002 Annette Leddy and Julio Vera provided object-level descriptions for the art objects in series VI.
Published items, including a large number of small press books and journals, were separated from the archive to the Getty
Scope and Content of Collection
The Jean Brown papers (1916-1995, bulk 1958-1995) form a significant ensemble of original works and printed matter, and document
Brown's intent to build a study collection of avant-garde materials. Dada and Surrealism provided the core inspiration for
Brown's acquisitions, as well as for the later artists whose work she collected. In-depth holdings by artists participating
in Fluxus, happenings, concrete, sound and visual poetry, new music, mail art, copy art, rubber stamp printing, and video
and performance art underscore her range of interests. The collection's broad scope presents a comprehensive account of alternative
movements, distribution networks and exhibition venues of the 1960s and 1970s.
A significant portion of the archive consists of approximately 500 objects created by Fluxus artists and other contemporaries.
Another large component documents Brown's interaction with the international network of mail artists and those distributing
their work via post. Considerable printed matter records the exhibition and performance activities of artists and the alternative
artists' spaces which sponsored them. Also included are bibliographic notes written by Brown, audio cassettes, reel-to-reel
tapes, and films. Publications received with the archive have been separated to the Getty Research Library.
The collection is arranged in 7 series:
Series I. Artists' files, 1916-1995, bulk 1958-1985
Series II. Announcements and invitations, ca. 1960-1989, bulk 1970-1985
Series III. Topical ephemera, 1917-1989, bulk 1965-1989
Series IV. Miscellaneous clippings, 1957-1987, bulk 1980-1985
Series V. Notes and personal, 1993, n.d.
Series VI. Art objects, 1958-1986, n.d.
Series VII. Audiovisual materials, 1965-1987, n.d.
Subjects - Names
Brown, Jean, 1911
Subjects - Topics
Art, Modern--20th century
Fluxus (Group of artists)
Rubber stamp printing
Subjects - Titles
Dada painters and poets : an anthology
Genres and Forms of Material
Motion pictures (information artifacts)
Bennett, John M.
Campos, Augusto de
Cavellini, Guglielmo Achille, 1914-
Clark, Thomas A.
Cobbing, Bob, 1920-2002
Coum Transmissions (Musical group)
D S H, (Dom Sylvester Houédard), 1924-
Desnos, Robert, 1900-1945
Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968
Ernst, Max, 1891-1976
Finlay, Ian Hamilton
Frank, Peter, 1950-
Franklin Furnace (Archive)
Friedman, Ken, 1949-
Furnival, Astrid, 1940-
Furnival, John, 1933-
Groh, Klaus, 1936-
Held, John, 1947-
Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998
Higgins, E. F.
Hompson, Davi Det, 1939-1996
Huelsenbeck, Richard, 1892-1974
Institute for Art and Urban Resources
Johnson, Ray, 1927-1995
Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Dance, Performance, Film, and Literature (New York, N.Y.)
Leo Castelli Gallery
Mac Low, Jackson
Maciunas, George, 1931-1978
Man Ray, 1890-1976
Nannucci, Maurizio, 1939-
Nations, Opal L.
Olbrich, Jürgen O.
Oldenburg, Claes, 1929-
Paik, Nam June, 1932-2006
Phillips, Tom, 1927-
Porter, Bern, 1911-2004
Random, S. (Steven), 1954-
Roth, Dieter, 1930-1998
Saito, Takako, 1929-
Schwitters, Kurt, 1887-1948
Souza, Al, 1944-
Spoerri, Daniel, 1930-
Tzara, Tristan, 1896-1963
Vautier, Ben, 1935-
Vostell, Wolf, 1932-1998
Vries, Herman de, 1931-
Watts, Robert, 1923-1988
Young, La Monte