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Violette de Mazia papers


Held at: Violette de Mazia Foundation [Contact Us]400 E Lancaster Ave, Wayne, PA, 19087

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Violette de Mazia Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

"Born in Paris [in 1896, although her birth date is often incorrectly attributed as 1899], Violette de Mazia studied art in the studio of Robert Christie at Hampstead Conservatory, the Camden School of Art, and London Polytechnic School in England. When she moved to the United States in the 1920s, she continued her studies by enrolling in philosophy and art appreciation classes taught by Dr. Thomas Munro at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania.

"Soon after those initial classes, Dr. Albert C. Barnes offered de Mazia a teaching position. At the Foundation, de Mazia taught, wrote, met with artists, and traveled to Europe for study, museum visits, and to assist with art purchases. She worked closely with Barnes and his colleagues, including Columbia University Professor John Dewey, philosopher George Santayana, art dealer Paul Guillaume, and the painters William Glackens and Alfred Henry Maurer.

"Over the years, de Mazia became the driving force behind the art education program, developing an original program of study that, based on awards and honors she received, was considered a significant approach to the understanding of art. Ms. de Mazia was named Director of Education at the Barnes Foundation in 1950.

"Following the death of Barnes in 1951, de Mazia was appointed trustee and Director of Education for life and taught the methodology to students of the Foundation. Under Ms. de Mazia, students learned about the aesthetic principles of paintings, but also that those same principles equally apply to music, literature, drama, architecture, fashion, gastronomy, athletics, and any other aspect of human activity.

"In addition to teaching, de Mazia co-authored four books and wrote a number of essays. Among the many public accolades, de Mazia received honorary degrees from St. Joseph's University, La Salle University, Moore College of Art and Design, and Lincoln University."

De Mazia passed away in 1988.


Quoted text from: The Violette de Mazia Foundation. "About Violette de Mazia." Accessed June 17, 2014.

The Violette de Mazia papers, 1923-1988, primarily consist of materials relating to Violette de Mazia's work at the Barnes Foundation on its campus in Merion (Montgomery County, Pennsylvania) as a teacher, the Director of Education, and a trustee. There is also a small amount of her personal papers in the collection, including letters from her former fiancè (who died before they could marry), Joe Catz. The collection is organized into series: I. Class materials, II. Letters and documents, III. Photographs, and IV. Resource materials. A very detailed inventory is available on-site. Also available on-site are various artworks, some of which were created by de Mazia, and some from her personal collection.

Series I. Class materials contains paper, audio, and visual materials related to art appreciation classes and lectures given by de Mazia, her students, and other aspects of her career at the Barnes Foundation. Materials include: student applications; class notes; slides used in classes; reel-to-reels (both published and unpublished); dictabelt recordings of de Mazia (copies also available on audiocassette tapes); class recordings on audiocassette tapes and mini DV; lecture recordings and notes of Harry Sefarbi, a former student of de Mazia's who she hired to teach at the Barnes Foundation in 1953; artwork prints used as teaching materials; and some artworks by students.

Series II. Letters and documents, primarily in the form of correspondence, relates to the Barnes Foundation as well as de Mazia's personal life. Barnes-related papers include: letters from visitors to the Barnes Foundation, artists, and others; Albert Barnes' correspondence with Jacques Lipchitz, John Dewey, William Glackens, and others; financial receipts for artworks in the Barnes Foundation collection, 1920s; extensive and detailed inventories of the Barnes Foundation collection; and long-playing (LP) records of Albert Barnes' radio broadcast, "An Epic in Art History," on WEAF in New York City with transcripts. Personal papers include de Mazia's immigration papers; diplomas and certificates awarded to de Mazia, and other documents. There are love letters, circa 1923, between de Mazia and Joe Catz. Joseph Catz, a pilot of the Royal Air Force and an early freedom fighter for the founding of a Jewish State in Palestine, was engaged to de Mazia but tragically died in a plane crash at Abu Sueir RAF base, near Cairo, Egypt in 1923, soon before their planned wedding. There are also a small amount of Bayuk family papers, 1890s-1920s. Samuel Bayuk was a Russian Jewish cigar manufacturer based in Philadelphia and a cousin of Violette de Mazia. When de Mazia first came to the United States, she stayed with the Bayuks. There are also various notes and sketches, tax information, newspaper clippings, invitations, pamphlets, programs, brochures, scrapbooks, and other documents.

Series III. Photographs contains images of events, people, artwork, and the Barnes Foundation. Documented are Violette de Mazia, Albert C. Barnes, Barnes's dog (Fidele), and Barnes's friends and associates, including well-known individuals such as John Dewey. Some photographs are oversized and framed.

Series IV. Resource materials contains clippings, most of which are images of artwork and some newspapers articles; art books; exhibition catalogs; art magazines; art calendars; and auction catalogs. The series is organized into subseries: A. Region, B. Artist, C. Museum, and D. Publications.

Violette de Mazia's papers were part of the estate transferred into the Violette de Mazia Trust. Additional materials have been added over time from various sources.

Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.

In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Violette de Mazia Foundation directly for more information.

Violette de Mazia Foundation
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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