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Sylvia Carewe Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Carewe, Sylvia, 1914-
Title: Sylvia Carewe Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1941-1972
Quantity: 3 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the American painter, poet. Correspondence, exhibition catalogs and invitations, prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies, poems, sketches, stories, a scrapbook containing memorabilia, and published material, including articles, clippings, and reviews.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Sylvia Carewe (1906-1981) was an American painter and poet.

Born in New York City to Russian immigrant parents, Louis and Esther Kerewsky, she changed her surname to "Carewe" in 1930. Carewe attended Columbia University and studied further with Yaso Kuniyoshi at Atelier 17 in New York, with Hans Hoffman in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts, and at the New School for Social Research.

During World War II Carewe worked as an advertising copywriter and artist for agencies in New York. She became a prolific abstract artist in a range of media, including tapestry designs for the Aubusson carpet company in France, felt banners, collage reliefs, and what she termed "blown paintings," which were assemblages (predominantly of children's toy components) overlaid with spray paint. She also worked in traditional artistic media, including watercolors, oils, lithographs and pastels. In October 1944, she married Marvin Small (formerly Smallheiser, executive for Carter's Little Liver Pills). They had one child, John Marvin, in June 1947.

Carewe had her first one-woman show in Poughkeepsie in 1947, after which she opened in New York City at the ACA Gallery in 1948. She had some twenty other American solo shows and her works hung in many exhibits across the United States as well as in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Her works are represented in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum, Musée de l'Arte Moderne, Paris, Brandeis University, the Butler Art Institute, Howard University, the Tel Aviv Museum and the National Museum in Djakarta, Indonesia. Her work has been described by French critics as "violent, colorful art, in hard contrasts, not exempt from cold lyricism." ["Les Girls," Time, 11 Nov 1957] Carewe was nearly as productive as a writer, producing both poetry and short stories.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Sylvia Carewe Papers contains biographical information, correspondence, legal material, vocational material (professional literary, advertising, and art work), published material, memorabilia, and an enormous number of photographic reproductions (prints, photographic negatives, color transparencies, and slides) of Carewe's art.

Biographical information includes documentation pertaining to Carewe's marriage and several biographical sketches, along with a chronology provided by Carewe.

Correspondence makes up a very small portion of the collection, with only about 40 items. It is largely business or family birthday remembrances.

Legal material, also quite small, consists mostly of valuations of Carewe's and her husband's art collection.

Vocation contains material relating to Carewe's professional literary and artistic output, including short stories, advertising copy, sketches, over a hundred poems, and the draft of a book titled Women, money and divorce, which appears to be autobiographical.

Published material consists mostly of clippings from newspapers and magazines. There is also one book on contemporary artists of the time.

Memorabilia contains a scrapbook, date book, an award from the War Food Administration, and miscellaneous other items.

The bulk of the collection consists of several hundred Photographs of Carewe's works. These reproductions -- prints, negatives, color transparencies, and slides -- give a very full picture of the breadth of her stylistic range but unfortunately, very few are titled or dated. There are also a few images of Carewe and her husband and friends.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection has received minimal processing. It is arranged in ten series, in the order given above. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Material in other series is in no particular order.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Carewe, Sylvia, 1914-


American poetry.
Artists -- United States -- 20th century.
Commercial art.
Painters -- United States -- 20th century.
Painting, American.
Poets, American -- 20th century.
Tapestry -- Design.
Women artists.
Women painters.
Women poets.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Negatives (photographs)
Reviews (documents)
Slides (photographs)



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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Sylvia Carewe Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Arrangements to create the Sylvia Carewe Collection were made with the artist; the material in it was sent after her death by her son.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: DH
Date: Aug 1984
Revision history: 8 Apr 2008 - converted to EAD (MRC); 30 Sep 2020 - revised to match house style (MRC)

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Biographical information
Box 1 Miscellaneous
Marriage license (copy)
Marriage license affidavit (copy)
Marriage Certificate (copy)
Chronology with biographical information supplied by Carewe
2 pages, biographical entries, Dictionary of International Biography and Who's Who of American Women, undated
1 photocopy of biographical entry in Who's Who in the World, undated
Box 1 Miscellaneous 1944-1972, undated (3 folders)
Legal material
Box 1 Miscellaneous
Two copies of an inventory of the Sylvia Carewe Small- Marvin Small art collection (collected 1945-1958) giving the following information about each item: Artist, title or description, date created, approximate cost, additional data about the piece and sometimes an estimate of value.
Box 1 Miscellaneous
A third copy of the above inventory
An analysis of the Sylvia and Marvin Small Collection of Paintings listed in "schedule A" dated December 17, 1958 (compiled by Carewe, apparently as part of a separation and/or divorce process.)
Box 1 Literary - short stories, books, poetry
A. Draft of a work titled Women, money and divorce
B. Drafts of short stories: "Omen at Midnight," "The Hook" (2 copies), 3 untitled
C. The Enjoyment of Poetry Club (2 items)
D. Correspondence and notes relating to poetry (4 items)
Box 1 Literary - poetry
Contains 116 poems, in alphabetical order by title or first word. In some cases there are multiple copies, either because of some change to the text, title or punctuation in each, or because a copy is signed by the author. There are internal cross references where poems have multiple titles.
Box 2 Advertising
A. Dated memoranda sent or received by Carewe, just preceding and during the U. S. involvement in World War II, concerning a client, Ivory Soap, and advertising strategies directed mostly toward women. The strategies all involve coping with wartime material shortages in clothing, especially women's hosiery.
B. One undated example of the above
C. Four blue report folders containing dated reports written by Carewe while an employee of Compton Advertising, Inc.; dates are: Sept. 27, 1940, Nov. 18, 1941 and June 12, 1942
D. Leaflets: Snow White "push-button" toothpaste promotional circular; Federal Commentator (January, 1944) (published by Federal Advertising Agency for "our clients and a few of our other friends.")
Box 2 Advertising, Printer's Ink (3 issues)
Three issues of Printer's Ink containing articles by Carewe. The Dec 31, 1943 issue also contains a draft of that article and some pertinent correspondence.
Box 2 Art or art-related
A. One unsigned pencil sketch and five unsigned watercolor sketches
B. Paperwork outlining a proposed series of 12 "Epic of America" Aubusson tapestries
C. A design and copyright search results for an for an original dress designed by Carewe, the "Once-Over Dress."
Box 2 Art or art-related
A. Invitations to gallery and exhibit openings, both Sylvia Carewe's and others (13 items)
B. Sylvia Carewe exhibition catalogs and posters advertising same, some in duplicate (29 items)
Oversize 1 Original art work (pastel) for Ivory Flakes advertisement
Published material
Box 2 Miscellaneous
Photocopied newspaper clippings, including reviews and paid advertisements (30 items)
Magazine clippings, including exhibit announcements and paid advertisements (12 items)
Reviews (14 items)
Articles about the artist and her work, some in duplicate
Box 3 Book: 31 Contemporary Artists (NY: ACA Gallery, 1959)
Box 3 Scrapbook and date book
A. Scrapbook: Contains both family/friends and professional mementos
B. "Week-at-a-glance" type date book for 1947, with very few entries
Box 3 General memorabilia and awards
Among the items here are greeting cards, a birth announcement, a Women in the Arts meeting agenda, two Brooklyn Society of Artists' Presidents's Reports, an award "in recognition of service to the War Food Administration" (undated), and a notice of election as a "Daughter of Mark Twain" (30 Oct. 1970).
Oversize 1 Photograph of Artist's Equity testimonial dinner to Yasuo Kuniyoshi at Cafe Montparnasse 25 Mar 1948
Box 3 Miscellaneous - no clear relationship to Carewe (4 items)
Box 4 Works (2 folders, 434 items)
Black and white, 8x10, professional photographs of Sylvia Carewe's works. Only a few are captioned on back by Carewe; some have a photographer's indexing number.
Box 4 Work-related (8 items)
Black and white, larger, professional photographs of gallery exteriors (7) and 1 shot of a model (?) in the artist's studio in Millbrook, NY.
Box 5 Family and friends (224 items)
Black and white photographs, some professionally taken; some in a small package in folder.
Box 5 Home in Millbrook, NY ( 60 items)
Photographs (one in color) of a home owned by Sylvia Carewe and Marvin Small. Carewe had a studio in a barn on the property and some of her poetry ("Farewell") expresses her sadness at parting with the home.
Oversize 1 Miscellaneous (6 items)
5 large black and white photographs of Carewe
1 large black and white photograph of the interior of the Community Church of NY showing three Aubusson tapestries designed by Carewe on exhibit
Box 5 Works - unidentified and unlabelled (10 packages)
Color transparencies
Box 5 Works - various media, all but a few are unlabelled (118 items)
Box 6 Color slides, mounted (approximately 400 items, 2"x2")
Of the nearly 400 slides, 276 show works by Carewe either in full or in detail. Because only some are titled by the artist, they have been loosely organized by style into 10 groups: 1) Beach paintings (possibly done at Provincetown, MA), 2) portraits, 3) more realistic paintings, 4) more abstract paintings, 5) "Mother Scenes", 6) "white" paintings, 7) "blown" paintings, 8) lights and night paintings, 9) miscellaneous, and 10) family, friends and travel. In many cases there are 2 copies of each slide.

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