A letter from Calder to Claflin with sketches of several sculptures, including "The Circle" now in the Art Center collection.

Today’s post comes from Nicole M. Roylance, Coordinator of Public Education and Information.

It is tempting to add this post to the pile of lamentations about the lost art of letter writing. While we groan about the coldness and quickness of e-mail, let us also celebrate one of the wonders of the digital age: access to other people’s letters.

Agnes Claflin (center) and Sandy Calder (right) dine together.

The Archives of American Art has digitized much of its rich collection of documents from American artists and collectors. From my desk in Poughkeepsie (or more comfortably, from my armchair at home) I am able to peruse these resources in a way that would be impossible even if I were to visit the collection in Washington, DC. Yet, without an appointment, I am able to sift through the history of American art.

Of particular interest to Art Center visitors and the Vassar community, is the file of correspondence from Alexander “Sandy” Calder to Agnes Rindge Claflin, former Professor of Art and Director of the Vassar Art Gallery. The short stack of letters that are available online range in conversation; recommended driving routes in Connecticut, negotiations on Claflin’s purchase of a Calder sculpture, plans for the 1942 Calder/Miró exhibition that was presented on campus, and even a long statement from Calder about his thoughts on the role of the artist.

"From your list of colors you must be a Parcheesi hound..."

Although we only have Calder’s side of the conversation, it is interesting to read about Claflin’s purchase of The Circle from the artist. Calder jokes “You can have the one from Hartford for 100- but if you make me work in pastel shades its 125.” He also writes about their shared appreciation for the saturated color scheme of Parcheesi boards and Calder is flattered when he learns he has been included on one of Claflin’s Vassar exams. The letters reveal the connection between Calder and Claflin while also providing a deeper understanding of how the Art Center collection grew through Vassar connections to contemporary artists.

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