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Cover for Pen to Paper

Pen to Paper

Artists' Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art

Mary Savig (Editor)


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Even in this age of emails, texts, and tweets, there is an ongoing fascination with the simple act of putting pen to paper. Associations such as the International Association of Master Penmen and the Society for Italic Handwriting keep the traditions of calligraphy and penmanship alive, hand-writing typefaces continue to sell, and hand-drawn display type and packaging of all sorts enjoy a renaissance.

Pen to Paper, a collection of letters by artists from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, reveals how letter writing can be an artistic act, just as an artist puts pen to paper to craft a line in a drawing. Brief essays explore what can be learned from the handwriting of celebrated artists such as Mary Cassatt, Frederic Church, Howard Finster, Winslow Homer, Ray Johnson, Rockwell Kent, Georgia O'Keeffe, Claes Oldenburg, Maxfield Parrish, Eero Saarinen, Saul Steinberg, and many others. Each letter is accompanied by an archival image of the artist or a related artwork, with a full transcription. Pen to Paper provides a fresh way to think about artists and their creative work and is sure to inspire your next handwritten note or letter.

Praise For Pen to Paper: Artists' Handwritten Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art

"Far more than its systematized counterpart, typography, handwriting can be wildly expressive of emotion, time, and place. If you approach these letters not just as sentimental apocrypha, but also with the eye of an aspiring forensic document examiner, they yield insights into lives and work of artistic legends." -Hyperallergic

"Pen to Paper: Artists' Handwritten Letters is a book to savor and to share, and reading through it will certainly inspire the writing of letters (perhaps a great gift for college-bound students and/or their left-behind parents?)." -Huffington Post

"Engaging and unusual, Pen to Paper is a celebration of correspondence and a treasure trove for those who love both visual art and the written word." -Shelf Awareness

"Both art lovers and those simply enamored by the art of handwriting will enjoy perusing this book. For those that wish to delve deeper into the correspondence, full transcripts are printed at the back of the volume." -Fine Books and Collections magazine

"This is an unusual, intimate look inside America's archives as well as a homage to the art of the handwritten word in an age dominated by typeface." -Publishers Weekly

"Aiming to link word-strewn pages with paint-flecked canvas, and sculpted majuscule characters with sculpted metal statuary, Savig also reveals a distinctly human side to the giants of the American art world. One sees how the artistry latent within them permeated even the most seemingly banal facets of their lives."

Princeton Architectural Press, 9781616894627, 208pp.

Publication Date: June 14, 2016

About the Author

Mary Savig is curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art.