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Sylvia Carewe Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: DH
Date: Aug 1984

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.

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.

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.


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.

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)



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.

Table of Contents

Biographical information


Legal material


Published material