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Guide to the Albert Edward Elsen Papers
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Collection Details
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  • Overview
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Access Terms

  • Overview

    Call Number: SC0569
    Creator: Elsen, Albert Edward, 1927-
    Title: Albert Edward Elsen papers
    Dates: 1965-1993
    Physical Description: 12.5 Linear feet
    Language(s): The materials are in English.
    Repository: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Green Library
    557 Escondido Mall
    Stanford, CA 94305-6064
    Email: specialcollections@stanford.edu
    Phone: (650) 725-1022
    URL: http://library.stanford.edu/spc

    Administrative Information


    Custodial History

    Administrative transfer from the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, 1999.

    Information about Access


    Ownership & Copyright

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.

    Cite As

    [Identification of item], Albert Edward Elsen Papers, SC 569, Stanford University Archives, Stanford, Calif.


    Albert Elsen, scholar of modern sculpture who specialized in Rodin, was professor of art at Stanford University from 1968 until his death in 1995. He was a pivotal figure in Stanford's acquisition of outdoor sculpture and served as the curator of the Rodin collection.
    Mr. Elsen was born in New York in 1927 and earned all his degrees -- bachelor's, master's and doctoral -- from Columbia University, where he wrote his dissertation, "Rodin's 'Gates of Hell,' " under the supervision of Meyer Schapiro. After teaching at Carleton College (1952-1958) and Indiana University, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1968.
    In a career that spanned more than four decades, Mr. Elsen was known as an expert on late-19th-century and early-20th-century sculpture and as an outstanding teacher and lecturer. He wrote books on Matisse, Seymour Lipton and Paul Jenkins as well as several on Rodin, and two surveys of modern sculpture. His published works include Purposes of Art; Law, Ethics, and the Visual Arts (with John Henry Merryman); Origins of Modern Sculpture: Pioneers and Premises; and Modern European Sculpture 1918-1945.
    His former graduate students include many museum professionals, among them Kirk Varnedoe, former chief curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Varnedoe said Mr. Elsen was central in restoring Rodin's reputation, and cited his 1963 Rodin exhibition at the Modern as the moment the sculptor's work "was annexed into the history of modern art."
    Mr. Elsen's activities took him far beyond the library and classroom. He contributed frequently to museum exhibitions and catalogues, and served as director of the National Gallery's enormous exhibition "Rodin Rediscovered" in 1981. He was an authority on many facets of the art world, including museum practices, artists' rights, arts legislation, art forgeries and art law.
    With John Merryman, a Stanford law professor, he established the first university course on art law in the early 1970's and also wrote "Laws, Ethics and the Visual Arts." And because of Mr. Elsen, Stanford has not only an extensive collection of outdoor sculpture, but also the second largest collection of works by Rodin in the world.
    In the late 1960's Mr. Elsen was vocal in the heated art world debate on the authenticity of sculptures made from posthumous casts. As president of the College Art Association from 1974 to 1976, he supervised the drafting of a comprehensive "Statement on Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventive Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze."
    His first marriage, to Patricia Morgan Kline, ended in divorce. He was survived by his second wife, Sharon McClenahan Elsen; a son, Matthew; two daughters, Nancy McVickar and Katherine, and four grandchildren.

    Scope and Content

    These papers consist of notes, lectures, articles, and other sources Elsen compiled for the art history courses he taught at Stanford; course readers; drafts of his published works; transcripts of interviews he did with Bruce Beaseley, Kristina Branch, John Davis, Louis Finkelstein, Leon Golub, Sue Gussow, Dimitri Hadzi, James Rosati, Miriam Schapiro, and Kenneth Snelson; subject files on individual artists; and other miscellaneous files.
    The course materials were originally kept in 3 ring binders of varying sizes, with some items folded and/or inserted loose into the divisions. The materials have been removed from the binders and foldered according to the division titles; the course title is entered on the folder as the series.

    Access Terms

    Beasley, Bruce,, 1939-
    Branch, Kristina.
    Davis, John.
    Finkelstein, Louis, 1895-
    Golub, Leon,, 1922-2004.
    Gussow, Sue.
    Hadzi, Dimitri,, 1921-2006.
    Rosati, James,, 1912-1988.
    Schapiro, Miriam,, 1923-
    Snelson, Kenneth,, 1927-
    Stanford University -- General subdivision--Curricula.;
    Stanford University. Department of Art. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
    Art--Study and teaching.
    Artists--Interviews.--United States