Main content

James Brewton papers


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

James Edward Brewton (1930-1967) was an American painter and printmaker. He was born in Toledo, Ohio to Bryant Young Brewton and Helen Ruth Nelson and attended Scott High School. As a young man he studied drawing at the Toledo Museum of Art and painting with John Charvet. Brewton enlisted in the Marines Corps and served in the Korean War, 1951-1954, rising to the rank of Sergeant, and earned the Korean Service Medal, the United States Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.

With funding from the G.I. Bill, Brewton studied art at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at Oxford University from 1954 to 1955, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) from 1955 to 1958. His teachers at PAFA were Franklin Watkins and Hobson Pittman. While working a part-time job in Philadelphia at The Print Club, Brewton was exposed to the work of Danish painter Asger Jorn, who became a primary influence on Brewton's style. Other influences on his work were the other members of the European avant-garde art group CoBrA, as well as the surrealist writer André Breton and the symbolist writer Alfred Jarry and his imaginary metaphysical philosophy of "pataphysics."

Brewton's early works are said to be expressionist and his later works incorporate graffiti (which he called "anonymous and therefore for all mankind") and the influences of "pataphysics" (calling his works "Graffiti Pataphysic"). He painted portraits throughout his life and created prints employing drawing, painting, collage, ink-stamp, and photographic techniques. He also worked in three-dimensions, creating conceptual pieces and installations which brought together objects, graphics and print.

Brewton and his partner Barbara Murray Holland lived in Denmark for much of 1962. Together they had a daughter, Emily Brewton Schilling, who was born in Denmark that year. Brewton and Murray divorced in 1964. He married Anne Marie ("Nanie") Lafitte in February 1967. He committed suicide just three months later, dying from a gunshot wound to his head.

Brewton's works earned him several awards, including the Special Travel Award, PAFA, 1958; 154th Annual Philadelphia Water Color Prize, PAFA, 1958 (for his watercolor "The Deposition"); 155th Annual J. Henry Scheidt Memorial Prize, PAFA, 1959 (for his painting "The Suicide of Judas"); and the 45th Annual Delaware Show Water Color Prize (also for "The Suicide of Judas") and 46th Annual Delaware Show Oil and Sculpture Honorable Mention (for his painting "Une Saison En Enfer"), Delaware Art Centre, 1959. Following his death, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts established the Brewton Scholarship in his name.

His works have been exhibited at the Makler Gallery in 1964; Kenmore Galleries in 1965 and 1971; Galerie AP, Copenhagen in 1965; Socrates Perakis Gallery in 1967; Peale House of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1968; and the Woodmere Art Museum in 2012.

Today, Brewton's works may be found in collections at Friends' Central School (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Hood Museum of Art (Dartmouth College), and in private hands. The James E. Brewton Foundation was formed in 2008 by Brewton's daughter Emily Brewton Schilling and friends in order to find and save his artwork and to collaborate with educational and cultural institutions.

The collection is arranged in four series: I. Personal material; II. Artworks; III. Books and audiovisual materials; IV. Artifacts and memorabilia. The personal material includes correspondence and biographical information on James Brewton and his immediate family, including vital records such as birth and death certificates, and marriage and divorce documents. Also included are his military records from the United State Marine Corps, resumes, the contents of his wallet at the time of his death, and posthumous remarks by his Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts mentor, Hobson Pittman. Materials from several exhibitions of his works, mounted both during his lifetime and posthumously, include flyers, program booklets, price lists, loan forms, and posters. Also there are press clippings and reviews for these shows and about Brewton generally. Notebooks and ledgers owned by Brewson, only minimally used, may also be found in this series.

The second series of artworks includes a small number of Brewton's original work in the form of sketches, finger paintings, prints, and fragments which may have been used in his collage work. His major works are represented by reproductions in photographs, negatives, slides, and transparencies. These are identified by title when known, or by description from the James E. Brewton Foundation (such as "Missing Painting #3"), or by the designation "unidentified." There are also reproductions of others' works which may have influenced him.

The third series includes books and audiovisual materials which may have inspired him in his work, as well as two 16mm films and their transfers to DVD about Brewton.

The final series is artifacts and memorabilia: among the items included are the American flag from his veteran's funeral, his slide rule, shoe trees, and metal flask, as well as a roll of masking tape inscribed "Jim Brewton is a Beatnik!" and "Jim Brewton is a Cultured Beatnik."

Gift, Emily Brewton Schilling, 2014.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
John Anderies
Finding Aid Date
26 August 2015
Access Restrictions

The bulk of this collection is open for research use; however, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services ( for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Anne Marie ("Nanie") Lafitte materials, 1962-1980, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Biographical information: Remarks about James Brewton by Hobson Pittman, ca. 1968.
Box 1 Folder 2
Biographical information: Resumes, undated.
Box 1 Folder 3
Biographical information: United States Marine Corps service records, 1951-1967.
Box 1 Folder 4
Biographical information: Vital records, 1930-1967.
Box 1 Folder 5
Book jackets, undated.
Box 1 Folder 6
Brewton Scholarship, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1973.
Box 1 Folder 7
Correspondence, 1957-1975, undated.
Box 1 Folder 8
Exhibitions: Delaware Art Center, Annual Delaware Show programs, 1959.
Box 1 Folder 9
Exhibitions: Galerie AP, The American Dream-Girl, Graffiti Pataphysic exhibition flyer (incribed by Erik Nyholm), undated.
Box 1 Folder 10
Exhibitions: Kenmore Galleries, Graffiti Pataphysic exhibition material, 1965.
Box 1 Folder 11
Exhibitions: Kenmore Galleries, Graffiti Pataphysic exhibition material (oversized), 1965.
Drawer 49 Folder 2
Exhibitions: Kenmore Galleries, Art Is the Way I Live: James Brewton exhibition flyer, 1971.
Box 1 Folder 12
Exhibitions: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Peale House, James E. Brewton Memorial Exhibition materials, 1968.
Box 1 Folder 13
Exhibitions: Socrates Perakis Gallery, The Society for the Commemoration of Festivals and Fetishes exhibit price list, 1967.
Box 1 Folder 14
Exhibitions: Woodmere Art Museum, Haunting Narratives: Detours from Philadelphia Realism, 1935 to the Present catalog, 2012.
Box 1 Folder 15
Exhibitions: Non-Brewton material (includes exhibitions at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Peale House (Rauschenberg), Philadelphia Museum of Art (Guggenheim Museum loans), Galerie St. Etienne (Egon Schiele), Jysk Kunst Galerie (Per Arnoldi), Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture (various), The Germantown Art Association (announcement), The Print Club (entry forms), Nationalmuseum Bøgen (book jacket)), 1957-1968.
Box 1 Folder 16
Exhibitions: Posters from Silkeborg Museum (1962, 1963-1964) and Socrates Perakis Gallery (1967), 1962-1967.
Drawer 49 Folder 5
Lists of artworks, undated.
Box 1 Folder 17
Notebooks: Blank composition book with clippings on cover, undated.
Box 1 Folder 18
Notebooks: Blank "Kollegiebogen", undated.
Box 1 Folder 19
Notebooks: "Bowindn [Bowdoin?] College" composition book, undated.
Box 1 Folder 20
Notebooks: Ledger with clippings, undated.
Box 1 Folder 21
Press clippings and reviews, 1959-2014.
Box 2 Folder 1
Press clippings and reviews (oversized), 2014.
Drawer 49 Folder 2
Wallet contents, undated.
Box 2 Folder 2
Miscellaneous publications, undated.
Box 2 Folder 3
Miscellaneous publications (oversized), undated.
Drawer 49 Folder 2

Negatives and slides of artworks: Black and white negatives of artworks, undated.
Box 2 Folder 4-8
Negatives and slides of artworks: Color slides of artworks, undated.
Box 2 Folder 9
Negatives and slides of artworks: Transparencies of artworks, undated.
Box 2 Folder 10
Negatives and slides of artworks: "Unexpected relationships," transparency masked for printing, undated.
Box 2 Folder 11
Original artworks: "Art fragments by Jim", undated.
Box 2 Folder 12
Original artworks: "Clips possibly used in collages...", undated.
Box 2 Folder 13
Original artworks: Cut-up and re-assembled profile of Asger Jorn, photograph on board, undated.
Drawer 49 Folder 2
Original artworks: "Little arty things", undated.
Box 2 Folder 14
Original artworks: Miscellaneous photos used in works (including Sands of the Kalahari, Rudolf Serkin photos, etc.), undated.
Box 2 Folder 15
Original artworks: Originals for "Sunrise" and "Lulu", undated.
Box 2 Folder 16
Original artworks: Pencil sketches on legal pad sheet of paper, undated.
Box 2 Folder 17
Original artworks: Purple finger painting with scribble, undated.
Box 2 Folder 2
Original artworks: Two dimensional design assignment mounted on board, undated.
Box 2 Folder 18
Original artworks: Watercolor on board ("could be by a young Jim"), undated.
Box 2 Folder 19
Original artworks: Sketchbook (11 x 14 in.), "notebook for Kobenhavn masterpiece," pen, pencil, and marker, undated.
Drawer 49 Folder 1
Original artworks: Sketchbook (18 x 24 in.), pencil, ink, marker, acrylic, and spray paint, undated.
Drawer 49 Folder 4
Photographs of artworks: Black and white photos of works in Kenmore Show, 1971.
Box 2 Folder 20
Photographs of artworks: Color photographs of artworks, undated.
Box 2 Folder 21
Photographs of artworks: "Exhaust Steam", undated.
Box 2 Folder 22
Photographs of artworks: "Game for Children", undated.
Box 2 Folder 23
Photographs of artworks: "Game for Children," halftone with overlay, marked up for printing, undated.
Box 2 Folder 24
Photographs of artworks: "Graffiti (Trine #1, 1965)", undated.
Box 2 Folder 25
Photographs of artworks: "Kobenhavn", undated.
Box 2 Folder 26
Photographs of artworks: Missing construction (May 1967), undated.
Box 2 Folder 27
Photographs of artworks: Missing painting #3, undated.
Box 2 Folder 28
Photographs of artworks: Missing painting #13, undated.
Box 2 Folder 29
Photographs of artworks: "Number Painting", undated.
Box 2 Folder 30
Photographs of artworks: "Patatarget", undated.
Box 3 Folder 1
Photographs of artworks: "Portrait of Asger Jorn", undated.
Box 3 Folder 2
Photographs of artworks: "SAGA Lulu", undated.
Box 3 Folder 3
Photographs of artworks: "Sunrise" (14/25), undated.
Box 3 Folder 4
Photographs of artworks: "Ubu Becomes King", undated.
Box 3 Folder 5
Photographs of artworks: "Unexpected Relationships", undated.
Box 3 Folder 6
Photographs of artworks: Unidentified paintings, undated.
Box 3 Folder 7-13
Posters: Prints and collage by Brewton, 1966.
Drawer 49 Folder 5
Reproductions of artworks of others, 1902-1955.
Box 3 Folder 14

Guy Atkins, Asger Jorn, London: Methuen, 1964.
Box 3 Folder 15
Ove Brusendorff and Poul Henningsen, Love's Picture Book: The History of Pleasure and Moral Indignation from the French Revolution to the Present Time, translated by Elsa Gress, Copenhagen: Veta Publisher, 1961.
Box 3 Folder 15
"Commentaire pour servir à la construction pratique de la Machine à explorer le Temps," Cahiers du College de 'Pataphysique 2, 1950.
Box 3 Folder 16
"Le goûter des générau par Boris Vian," Dossiers du College de 'Pataphysique 18-19, 1962.
Box 3 Folder 16
Martin Gardner, The Annotated Snark, New York: Bramhall House, 1962.
Box 3 Folder 17
William Mulvihill, Sands of the Kalahari, Greenwich, CT: Fawcett Publications, 1960.
Box 3 Folder 18
Silkeborg Museum, Asger Jorn: Malerier, Silkeborg: Silkeborg Museum, 1964.
Box 3 Folder 18
Louis Untermeyer, Pour toi: un poème, New York: French & European Publications (annotated "pour J. de la part de Nanie"), 1966.
Box 3 Folder 19
David M. Wilson and Ole Klindt-Jensen, Viking Art, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press (Additional Penn Copy), 1966.
Box 3 Folder 19
Alban Berg, Lulu: Opera in 3 Acts, Vienna State Opera, Columbia Masterworks SL-121; Two 12 in. sound discs (annotations and paint splatter on liner notes) [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 1
Three Favorite Ballets: Stravinsky Conducts Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks M3L 305; Three 12 in. sound discs [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 2
Leonard Bernstein conducts Carl Nielsen Symphony No. 3 (Op. 27), The Royal Danish Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks ML 6169; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 3
Gunther Schuller, Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee; Paul Felter, Contrasts for Orchestra, Minneapolis Symphony, Mercury Records SR90282; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 4
Serkin [plays] Beethoven Fourth Piano Concerto, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Columbia Masterworks ML 6145; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 5
Franz Schubert, Moments Musicaux, Op. 94 (Complete); Sonata in C Major (Unfinished), Rudolf Serkin, piano, Columbia Masterworks ML 5153; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 6
Igor Stravinsky, Agon; Gunther Schuller, Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee, Boston Symphony Orchestra, RCA Victor Red Seal LSC-2879; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], 1966.
Box 4 Item 7
Shirley Temple, On the Good Ship Lollipop, Movietone Records MTM 1001 Monaural; 12 in. sound disc [RESTRICTED], 1965.
Box 4 Item 8
["Emily Shilling: Film to DVD Transfer"] film reel : color : 5 in., 16 mm [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 4 Item 9
"Emily Shilling: Film to DVD Transfer" videodisc (DVD) : digital ; 4 3/4 in. (2 copies: Master and accessible use copy), undated.
Box 3 Folder 20
[James Edward Brewton, 1930-1967 (WHYY-TV)] film reel: color : 14 in., 16 mm [RESTRICTED], undated.
Box 5
James Edward Brewton, 1930-1967 (WHYY-TV) videodisc (DVD) : digital ; 4 3/4 in., undated.
Box 3 Folder 20

Memorabilia, undated.
Box 6
Flag of the United States of America, folded into a triangle, from Brewton's funeral, 1967.
Box 7

Print, Suggest