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Ben Johnson Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: ASE
Date: Feb 1994

Biographical History

Ben Johnson (1902-1967) was a Brooklyn-born painter who specialized in female nude figures.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1951 to 1968, the Ben Johnson Papers comprises correspondence, artwork, writings, and memorabilia of the Brooklyn-born painter (1902-1967) who specialized in female nude figures. Illuminating Johnson's personal and professional life, the collection also provides insight into the career of his wife, artist Alice Terry (b. 1925). Includes correspondence, personal and business, including family letters (1951-1968); photographs of Johnson's paintings; interviews, statements on art; lists of paintings, partially annotated with prices; and printed material, including articles and reviews (1963-1967), newspaper clippings (1954-1967), and exhibition catalogs and invitations (1962-1966).

Family correspondence (Box 1) from Alice Terry's relatives predominates, however there are also a significant number of letters between Ben Johnson and his wife, as well as some from their children. Additional family material other than correspondence may be found in Memorabilia.

Correspondence-subject files (Boxes 2-7), primarily from the 1960s, consists of incoming and outgoing letters and carbons, as well as other documents relating to the artwork of both Johnson and Terry. Unless otherwise noted, the remainder of the collection pertains to Johnson only. Fellow artists are among the correspondents listed (Helen Avlon-Daphnis, Will Barnet, Robert Bero, Henry Billings, Frank Colson, John W, Dixon, Guy Owen Dolen, Bruce Dorfman, Jim Eakle, Emmet Edwards,Nancy Ellison, Dan Fruits, Sandy Goodman, Bruce Gregory, Philip Held, Klindt Houlberg, Bob Jacobson, Tom Keating, Gabriel Kohn, Joseph Konzal, Ethel Kott, Eleanore Lockspeiser, Jack Lubin, Robert R. Malone, Hugh Mesibov, Morris C. Mitchell, Lyn Ott, Fairfield Porter, Craig Rubadoux, Dolores Ryan, Edward G. Samuels, Walter Schramm, Richard Segalman, Stuart Van Orden, Richard Wagner, William Walmsley, George M. Wardlaw, William Weiner, George Wexler, Julia Papiroff Zagar). Other correspondents include authors and critics (Jacqueline Barnitz, Rosalind Browne, Lawrence Campbell, John Canaday, John Ciardi, Gerald H. Dorset, John Gruen, Ben M. Hall, Beth Hannah, Nina Kaiden, Anthony Kerrigan, Hilton Kramer, Margaret Rigg, Sheldon Williams, Miriam Young); patrons and notable admirers (Joseph James Akston, William Benton, Tony Curtis, Frederick C. Gans, Arthur and Carol Goldberg, James E. Hanson, Arthur L. Harris, Carl Hertzberg, Louis and Margaret Kannenstine, Miriam Kazon, Richard and Gloria Kins, Monique Knowlton, George Frederick Morgan, Paul Jacques Schupf, Martin T. Sosnoff, John C. Stetson, Billy Wilder); photographers (Robin Johnstone, Herb Snitzer); and poets (John Lucas, Selden Rodman). The couple's involvement with Christian Science is documented in their correspondence with Harold and Virginia Marietta.

Organizational correspondence includes that with art associations (American Federation of Arts, Associated American Artists, Christian Art Associates, Woodstock Artists Association); art galleries and museums (Baltimore Museum of Art, Banfer Gallery, Byron Gallery, Collectors Gallery, Findlay Galleries, Flair Gallery, Rose Fried Gallery, Gallery Dache, Gallery 63, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, I Gallery, Kornblee Gallery, Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, Pace Gallery, Lillian Phipps Gallery, Rosequist Galleries, Selected Artists Galleries, David Stuart Galleries, Vancouver Art Gallery, Visual Artists Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art, Howard Wise Gallery); educational institutions (Florida State University, Purdue University, Syracuse University); and periodicals and publishers (Allied Publications, Art Voices, Arts Magazine, Playboy, Wittenborn and Company).

Photographs of Johnson's paintings, alphabetized by title when provided, constitute Artwork (Box 8). Writings (Box 8) consists of interviews via mail and radio, statements on art, and miscellaneous notes.

Memorabilia (Boxes 8 and 9) encompasses addresses, an exhibition quest register, lists of paintings partially annotated with prices, a paintbrush and mixing dish, photographs of Johnson and family, political and religious material, press releases of exhibitions, artwork and memorabilia of Alice Terry, travel an tourism information, and printed material. Printed material includes articles and reviews abot Johnson (1963-1967), newspaper clippings (1954-1967), exhibition catalogs and invitations including Johnson's work (1962-1966), as well as posters for two exhibitions.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by sender. Material within the other series is arranged alphabetically by title or topic.


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


Barnet, Will, 1911-2012.
Billings, Henry, 1901-
Campbell, Lawrence, 1914-1998.
Canaday, John, 1907-1985.
Ciardi, John, 1916-1986.
Curtis, Tony, 1925-2010.
Dixon, John W., Jr., 1919-2004.
Dorfman, Bruce, 1936-
Ellison, Nancy.
Fruits, Dan.
Gruen, John.
Hall, Ben M.
Hannah, Beth H.
Johnson, Ben, 1902-1967.
Kaiden, Nina N.
Kannenstine, Louis F., 1938-
Keating, Tom, 1917-
Kerrigan, Anthony.
Kohn, Gabriel, 1910-1975.
Konzal, Joseph.
Kramer, Hilton.
Ott, Lyn.
Porter, Fairfield.
Rigg, Margaret.
Rodman, Selden, 1909-2002.
Schupf, Paul Jacques.
Segalman, Richard.
Snitzer, Herb.
Sosnoff, Martin T.
Sturgeon, Theodore.
Terry, Alice.
Wardlaw, George M., 1927-
Wilder, Billy, 1906-2002.
Young, Miriam, 1913-


Art, American -- 20th century.
Art, American.
Figure painting.
Human figure in art.
Nude in art.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.
Painting, American.
Women in art.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ben Johnson Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents

Biographical material

Family Correspondence

Correspondence-Subject Files