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Guide to the Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers, 1893-2014

Summary

Mary Tarleton Knollenberg (1904-1992) was an American sculptor working primarily in bronze, stone and plaster. Her artwork characteristically portrays the female form and expressions of female identity. She specialized in nudes; however, her oeuvre also contains animals, busts, and portraits. The Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers comprise photographs of her family and her sculptures, correspondence with her husband and fellow artists, journals, and ephemera related to her work and exhibitions. The collection also contains resources used in the creation of the retrospective Modern Figures, written by Tarleton's grand-niece, Ippy Patterson.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11323
Title
Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers
Date
1893-2014
Extent
4 Linear Feet, 8 boxes
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Material in English

Collection Overview

Content Description

The Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers are arranged into the following five series: Correspondence, Photographs, Writings, Publicity and Other.

These series comprise Mary Knollenberg's personal photographs of her family and sculptures; writings, diaries and sketches; as well as ephemera and publicity related to her work and exhibitions. The collection also includes correspondence between Mary and her husband Bernhard Knollenberg, friends, and other prominent artists of the time. In addition, The Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers contain the journals and poetry of her mother, writer Mary L. Tarleton, as well as letters between her parents during the early years of their relationship.

These materials were assembled by Mary Knollenberg's great-niece, the artist Ippy Patterson, who used them to research Mary's life and work. Acquired as part of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Using These Materials

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Collection is open for research.

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The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

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Contents of the Collection

Bernhard to MTK, 1952-1964
Box 1
Other correspondence to MTK
Box 1
Mina Curtiss to MTK
Box 1
John Houseman to MTK
Box 1
Rosemary Park to MTK
Box 1
Lefty Lewis to MTK
Box 1
MTK to BK, 1932-1963 and undated
Box 1
MTK to others
Box 1
Rent Money, 1944
Box 1
MTK Mother and Father letters, 1901
Box 1
Bernhard to MTK, 1934-1946 and undated
Box 2
Correspondence About Estate, 1986-1988
Box 6
Portrait of Helen Hooker, 1928
Box 3
Horse Audition, undated
Box 3
Portrait of Dora Washington, undated
Box 3
Portrait of Reginold March, 1931-32
Box 3
Girl at Cafe, 1934
Box 3
Josephine Standing, undated
Box 3
Persephone, 1946-1950
Box 3
Romance on a High Horse, 1927
Box 3
Diana, 1931
Box 3
Bather, 1928
Box 3
Headless Nude, 1932
Box 3
Dawn, 1974
Box 3
Assorted Portraits, 1933 and undated
Box 3
Photographs of Work, undated
Box 3
MTK Smithsonian Gallery
Box 3
MTK and Studio, undated
Box 3
Portrait of my Father, 1934-1940
Box 5
Portrait of Yvonne DuBois, 1936
Box 5
Portrait of an American, 1934
Box 5
Louis Bromfield, 1946
Box 5
Reclining Nude, 1933
Box 5
Assorted Photographs, undated
Box 3
Dayton, OH, 1938
Box 3
Young MTK matted, undated
Box 3
Young MTK, 1913
Box 3
Assorted Family Photographs, undated
Box 3
Mary's Father portraits, undated
Box 4
Family Photographs, 1900-1984
Box 4
Framed photograph, 1937
Box 4
Connecticut House, undated
Box 4
Photographs of BK, undated
Box 4
MTK and BK by John T. Hill, undated
Box 4
MTK- later years
Box 4
MTK- early years
Box 4
Pages from Family Scrapbook
Box 4
Large Prints of MTK
Box 6
Assorted Matted Photographs, undated
Box 6
Assorted Photographic Negatives
Box 5
Walker Evans Photographs, undated
Box 5
Small Box of Black and White Photographs
Box 7
Large Size Photo Prints
Box 8
Poems by Mary L. Tarleton
Box 5
MTK Journal Entries, 1963
Box 5
MTK Journal Entries, undated
Box 5
MTK sketches in journal, undated
Box 5
MTK Journal Entries, undated
Box 6
MTK Diary, 1934
Box 7
MTK Diary, 1942
Box 7
MTK Diary, 1946
Box 7
MTK Diary, 1949
Box 7
MTK Journal, 1978
Box 8
MTK Journal, 1979
Box 8
Mary L.Tarleton Diary, 1893
Box 8
Mary L.Tarleton Diary, 1922
Box 8
Mary L.Tarleton Diary, 1923
Box 8
Mary L.Tarleton Diary, 1928
Box 8
Copyright for Smithsonian, 1955
Box 5
MTK Interview Transcript, undated
Box 5
MTK Autobiographical Notes for Ann North, 1980
Box 5
MTK Publicity, undated
Box 5
MTK Fan Letters, undated
Box 5
MTK and BK Press Clippings
Box 5
MTK in Mahonri Young Biography, 1986-1998
Box 5
Excerpt of Mahonri Young Biography- MTK section
Box 8
MTK List of Work
Box 6
MTK Passport, 1928
Box 7
 

Historical Note

Mary Tarleton Knollenberg was a sculptor born in 1904 in New York City. She received a scholarship to study at the Solon Borglum School of American Sculpture, where she was able to commute from her parent's house and keep her own studio. While attending school, she trained with influential sculptor Mahonri Young, grandson of Mormon founder Brigham Young.

At age 21, an inheritance from her grandfather allowed Mary to study in Paris with Antoine Bourdelle and stay in the famous Hotel Venezia. Living abroad allowed MTK exposure to many prominent individuals of the time period. She befriended artists, authors and cultural leaders including: Guy Pene du Bois, Gaston Lachaise, Louis Bromfield, Charles Lindbergh, Rosemary Park and many others throughout her lifetime. These relationships are reflected in her correspondence as well as the portraits she sculpted.

After returning to the United States, MTK trained with animal sculptor Heinz Warnecke in East Haddam, Connecticut. In 1934, she married widower Bernhard Knollenberg after many years of courtship. He was a lawyer, Revolutionary War historian and head of Yale's Sterling Memorial Library. They were married for 35 years and lived for the majority of that time in Chester, CT where MTK died at the age of 88.

While in Paris, Mary developed Tuberculosis, an illness that plagued her throughout her life. She was also plagued by self-doubt and depression. Her existing oeuvre is small because she was frequently unable to complete her work to her own satisfaction, and she even allowed many of her large-scale works to disintegrate.

Mary is most well-known for her sculptures, made primarily from bronze, stone and plaster, that deal with female bodies. These nude figures are often displayed in contemplative or reclining poses. These motifs reflect MTK's struggle with female identity and what it meant to be a woman artist. These questions also undermined her efforts to complete her sculptures.

Although her body of work is small, Mary Tarleton Knollenberg's life and work stands as a testament to her role in transforming sculpture as a medium for women artists.


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Provenance

The Mary Tarleton Knollenberg papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift 2016.

Processing Information

Processed and described by Valerie Szwaya, 2016.