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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Arthur Allen Lewis

Dates:  1873, 7 April - 1957, 20 March
Born:  US, AL, Mobile
Died:  US, NJ, Basking Ridge
The Allen Lewis Papers are kept at Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL, USA.

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Approved biography for Arthur Allen Lewis
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Arthur Allen Lewis, who was also known as Allen Lewis, was a printmaker and illustrator, who occasionally photographed. He was born in Mobile, Alabama, on April 7, 1873. He grew up in Buffalo, where his family had moved when he was four, and after high school joined the city’s Art Students League.
In 1894, Lewis went to Paris, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts under the academic painter Jean-Leon Gerome. Six years later, he was one of only three Americans to have their prints accepted into the Paris Salon (the other two being Joseph Pennell and James Abbot McNeil Whistler). In 1902, he returned to the United States and set up a studio in New York. He began taking commissions for bookplates, and over the course of his career executed more than fifty of them. Among his clients were the print connoisseur William M. Ivins, Jr., later the curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Paul B. Haviland, a pictorial photographer associated with Alfred Stieglitz.
Lewis himself had dealings with Stieglitz, both as a pictorialist and a printer. In early 1909, forty-three of his etchings and bookplates comprised a two-week exhibition at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession, his first solo show. A note on it in the July 1909 issue of Camera Work observed, "it is singularly refreshing to come across the work of a man who seems to have kept himself untouched by the modern spirit of indifference to the philosophy of life; and who combines a remarkable feeling for composition with a seriousness of purpose and a simple faith reminiscent of the spirit of the old German masters."
In 1913, Stieglitz commissioned Lewis to design not only a bookplate for him, which ended up being one of his most elaborate (utilizing ten separate printing blocks), but also Stieglitz’s collection label. The latter featured stylized lettering in a round-corned box and was affixed to many of the pictorial photographs that Stieglitz acquired over the years. Lewis was also granted membership in Stieglitz’s elite group of photographers, the Photo-Secession, and the October 1916 issue of Camera Work included a photogravure by him. Titled simply Winter, this image is a patterned study in light and shade, showing tree branches under a heavy accumulation of snow. While Lewis regularly exhibited his graphic work, he is not known to have publicly displayed any of his pictorial photographs.
Among the American exhibitions in which his prints were seen were the St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904), San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific Exposition (1915), and Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Exposition (1926). In 1918, he had solo shows at Godspeed’s Bookshop in Boston and the Milch Gallery in New York. Lewis began illustrating books in 1915, when he worked on Journeys to Baghdad by Charles S. Brooks. In 1933, the Woodcut Society commissioned him to make prints for The Preaching of St. Francis to the Birds. And, he illustrated Undine (1930) and Ivanhoe (1940) for the Limited Edition Club, New York.
Beginning in 1922, Lewis maintained his studio in New York at the Marchbanks Press. He taught at the Art Students League from 1924 to 1932, and was the vice president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts for two years. In 1929, he moved to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, where he renovated a barn for his three presses. He remained connected to New York, however, by teaching at the New School of Social Research between 1932 and 1934. In 1935, the National Academy of Design elected him a National Academician. Arthur Allen Lewis died on March 20, 1957, in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

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Allen Lewis Papers (1873-1985) - Wheaton College Archies & Special Collections ... 
The Allen Lewis Collection, measuring over eight feet, highlights the life and work of an American woodblock artist and engraver. The collection contains major series of biographical, correspondence, manuscripts, artwork, media, and secondary materials. The biographical material is mainly that of his professional career, coming from secondary sources, such as a "Who's Who" article. The correspondence is composed of letters sent to Lewis' mother while he was in Paris (1894-1902) and letters received asking for services (1902- ), with the latter being sparse. The manuscript material contains articles and lecture notes. The bulk of the collection lies in the prints and sketches prepared during his career for book illustrations and periodicals, along with a vast assortment of bookplates, which seem to have been Lewis' mainstay. The sketches and prints number over 1300. The media material complements the prints and sketches, in that they were often the source or means for their production. Included in the photographs and negatives are prints that were used for examples in his work. One such piece would be a young DeWitt Jayne in a tree with his cousin, this print was the grounds for Lewis' illustration for The half-breed and other short stories by Walt Whitman. Examples of woodblocks, linoleum cuts, and engraving plates, along with the tools necessary for their production, accompany the collection. Secondary material features articles, news-clippings, reviews, and other items relating to the work and career of Lewis. The collection contains each monographic work that Lewis is known to have illustrated, except for Walter White's Fire in the Flint, for which Lewis provided the illustration for the jacket, and many of the periodicals. 
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