Brown, Jean, 1911-1994

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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 in Tyringham.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Held, Julius Samuel, 1905-. Interviews with art historians, 1991-2002. Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Solnit, Rebecca. Interviews for the book Secret exhibition [sound recording]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Interviews with art historians, 1991-2002 Getty Research Institute
Interviews with art historians, 1991-2002 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Jean Brown papers, 1916-1995 Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Held, John, 1947-. John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1973-2008. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Robert Watts papers, 1883-1989 (bulk 1940-1988), Bulk, 1940-1988 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Brown, Jean. [Jean Brown : Australian and New Zealand Art Files]. Libraries Australia
referencedIn Cándida Smith, Richard. Interviews with art historians, 1991-2002. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Christie, John, 1945-. Letters from Jean Brown, and other material, 1976-2005 (bulk 1976-1984). Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Schevill, James Erwin, 1920-. The James Schevill Papers relating to Bern Porter, 1943-1992. Brown University, John Hay Library
creatorOf Brown, Jean, 1911-. The fluxus movement : oral history transcript / Jean Brown ; interviewed by Richard Cándida Smith ; completed under the auspices of the Oral History Program, University of California, Los Angeles, and the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1993. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn John Held papers relating to Mail Art, 1973-2008 Archives of American Art
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Art History Oral Documentation Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Banana, Anna. person
associatedWith Bennett, John M. person
associatedWith Beuys, Joseph. person
associatedWith Brecht, George. person
associatedWith Cage, John. person
associatedWith Campos, Augusto de. person
associatedWith Cavellini, Guglielmo Achille, 1914- person
associatedWith Christie, John, 1945- person
associatedWith Clark, Thomas A. person
associatedWith Cobbing, Bob, 1920-2002. person
associatedWith Colby, Sas. person
associatedWith Coracle Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Corner, Philip. person
associatedWith COUM transmissions. corporateBody
associatedWith Desnos, Robert, 1900-1945. person
associatedWith D S H (Dom Sylvester Houédard), 1924- person
associatedWith Duchamp, Marcel, 1887-1968. person
associatedWith Durland, Steve. person
associatedWith Ernst, Max, 1891-1976. person
associatedWith Etlinger, Amelia. person
associatedWith Filliou, Robert. person
associatedWith Fine, Albert. person
associatedWith Finlay, Ian Hamilton. person
associatedWith Franklin Furnace (Archive) corporateBody
associatedWith Frank, Peter, 1950- person
associatedWith Friedman, Ken, 1949- person
associatedWith Furnival, Astrid, 1940- person
associatedWith Furnival, John, 1933- person
associatedWith Galántai, György. person
associatedWith Gerlovina, Rimma. person
associatedWith Gerlovin, Valeriy. person
associatedWith Getty Research Institute corporateBody
associatedWith Groh, Klaus, 1936- person
associatedWith Held, John person
associatedWith Held, John, 1947- person
associatedWith Hendricks, Geoffrey. person
associatedWith Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. person
associatedWith Higgins, E. F. person
associatedWith Hompson, Davi Det, 1939-1996. person
associatedWith Horn, Stu. person
associatedWith Huelsenbeck, Richard, 1892-1974. person
associatedWith Institute for Art and Urban Resources. corporateBody
associatedWith Johnson, Ray. person
associatedWith Kirkeby, Per. person
associatedWith Kitchen Center for Video, Music, Dance, Performance, Film, and Literature (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Knížák, Milan. person
associatedWith Knowles, Alison. person
associatedWith Leo Castelli Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Maciunas, George, 1931-1978. person
associatedWith Mac Low, Jackson. person
associatedWith Man Ray, 1890-1976. person
associatedWith Moorman, Charlotte. person
associatedWith Nannucci, Maurizio, 1939- person
associatedWith Nations, Opal L. person
associatedWith Olbrich, Jürgen O. person
associatedWith Oldenburg, Claes, 1929- person
associatedWith Ono, Yōko. person
associatedWith Paik, Nam June, 1932-2006. person
associatedWith Patterson, Benjamin. person
associatedWith Phillips, Tom, 1927- person
associatedWith Pittore, Carlo. person
associatedWith Porter, Bern, 1911-2004. person
associatedWith Random, Steve. person
associatedWith Roth, Dieter, 1930-1998. person
associatedWith Saito, Takako, 1929- person
associatedWith Schevill, James Erwin, 1920- person
associatedWith Schwitters, Kurt, 1887-1948. person
associatedWith Sharits, Paul. person
associatedWith Shiomi, Mieko. person
associatedWith Smith, Richard Cándida. person
associatedWith Solnit, Rebecca. person
associatedWith Souza, Al, 1944- person
associatedWith Spoerri, Daniel, 1930- person
associatedWith Truck, Fred. person
associatedWith Tzara, Tristan, 1896-1963. person
associatedWith Ulrichs, Timm. person
associatedWith University of California, Los Angeles. Oral History Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Valoch, Jiří. person
associatedWith Vautier, Ben, 1935- person
associatedWith Vostell, Wolf, 1932-1998. person
associatedWith Vries, Herman de, 1931- person
associatedWith Watts, Robert, 1923-1988 person
associatedWith Watts, Robert, 1923-1988. person
associatedWith Williams, Emmett. person
associatedWith Young, La Monte. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Fluxus (Group of artists)
Copy art
Dadaism
Video art
Art--Collectors and collecting
Visual poetry
Sound poetry
Small presses
Music--20th century
Surrealism
Performance art
Happening (Art)
Shaker furniture
Art, Modern--20th century
Rubber stamp printing
Concrete poetry
Mail art
Occupation
Art collectors
Function

Person

Birth 1911-12-20

Death 1994-05-01

Female

Information

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SNAC ID: 84214753