Eunice Parsons papers, 1931-2016  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Parsons, Eunice
Eunice Parsons papers
1931-2016 (inclusive)
8 linear feet, (13 boxes)
Collection Number
The Eunice Parsons papers consist of artworks, professional papers, letters, Christmas cards, photographs, and other material related to her life from 1931 to 2016.
Willamette University Archives and Special Collections
Archives and Special Collections
Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem, OR
Telephone: 503-370-6866
Fax: 503-370-6141
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

A special thank you to Sybil Westenhouse for investing in experiential learning through the Sybil Westenhouse Archives Excellence Fund.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Eunice Parsons was born in 1916 in Loma, Colorado but spent most of her young life in Chicago. When she was a young girl, she attended children's classes at the University of Chicago where she learned an appreciation for art, as well as the skills that would allow her to pursue a career in the field later in life. After graduating high school, Parsons attended a few art classes from the University of Chicago. Soon after, Parsons married and moved to Portland along with her new husband. She spent the next two decades as a working mother. In the 1940s she began taking classes at the Portland Museum Art School. Shortly after, in 1957, she took a trip to New York to acquaint and immerse herself in the culture of art. Parsons took a sketchbook where she made exhaustive notes and depicted many landscapes. This notebook showcases her earliest inclinations in playing with color, line, and shading, all developing into a unique and distinctive style. After returning from New York, Parsons continued her career as an artist and eventually began teaching at the Portland Museum Art School. While teaching, she became notorious as a blunt but brilliant instructor and would lead numerous student trips to Europe and the birthplaces of western art. In 2006 Parsons, along with others, was instrumental in opening the 12x16 Gallery in Portland. In 2017 she continues to be an influential and prolific artist at the age of 100.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Eunice Parsons papers encompass not only Eunice Parsons' long and influential career as a Portland artist, but also the inner workings of the Portland art community from the early 1950s through to the present day. It contains Parsons' manuscripts from her endeavors as an author, fliers from a variety of Portland artists, photographs and slides from her teaching career, samples of her art and sketchbooks, professional papers, and a great wealth of correspondence in the form of Christmas cards from many of the most famous Portland artists.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Eunice Parsons papers, Archives and Special Collections, Mark O. Hatfield Library, Willamette University.

Restrictions on Use

Library acts as "fair use" reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Series I:  Manuscripts, 1973-2001Return to Top

Containing several of the original copies of Parsons' manuscripts for her books, this series is organized loosely by manuscript title, but largely maintains the original order. Manuscripts in the series include Passport to Art, The Little Girl from Indiana, and It's All in your Head, along with writings about her travels around Europe, her personal life, and the notes of her travel companion Carol during a trip to France.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 28
It's All in your Head, Draft
1 29
It's All in your Head, Draft
1 30
It's All in your Head, Draft
1 31
It's All in your Head, Later Drafts
13 2
Edith Sitewell Book
13 3
Early Manuscript for the The Little Girl from Indiana
Contains an early manuscript for The Little Girl from Indiana, a book written by Eunice about her mother's upbringing. There are also notes and a small section of the piece that could have been the start to a second novel around Eunice's Father's childhood.
13 4
Biographical Material
13 5
Hand making Paper, manuscript
13 6
Eunice's Notes on Writing
13 7
Carol's Notes from trip to Europe
14 1
Northwest Matriarchs of Modernism
14 2
Passport to Art, Manuscript
14 3
Artist Statement
14 4
The Little Girl from Indiana, 3 Drafts

Series II:  Exhibit Fliers, 1950-2015Return to Top

The exhibit fliers series is organized chronologically and includes materials from many other Pacific Northwest artists in the form of letters, posters, postcards, and publications advertising for the shows of artists from the mid 1950s to 2016. The majority of exhibit fliers reference members of the Portland art community, giving an insider view to the close-knit nature of this group of artists specifically in the late 1960s, 70s and early 80s.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
2 1
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 2
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 3
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 4
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 5
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 6
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 7
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 8
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 9
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 10
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 11
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 12
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 13
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
2 14
Gallery Announcements and Invitations, Undated
2 15
Gallery Announcements and Invitations, Undated
2 16
Gallery Announcements and Invitations
Oversize Posters
Undersize Material

Series III:  Audio and Visual Materials, 1960-2002Return to Top

This Series contains a wide variety of visual media as well as several video interviews with Parsons. It includes images that describe the different aspects of Parsons' life, ranging from her teaching slides, personal photos from around the home, slides from her trips to Europe, and images of her artwork over the years. The negatives show two specific focuses, firstly upon the monuments that are captured, mainly from France, and secondly upon her companions during her travels.

Container(s) Description Dates
A: Slides
This subseries consists of slides documenting various aspects of Parsons' life and work. Some of the slides document exhibitions of Parsons' work, as they are numbered in a specific order and grouped together. Some of the slides are from her travels across Europe. There is one group of slides that would have been her teaching slides, which consists of famous paintings starting in the late 13th century and persisting until the early 20th century. The teaching section has an especially large selection of Impressionism, specifically Manet, Monet, Degas, and Cassatt, as well as some very early works by Picasso. The slides of Parsons' own work are not complete as there are occasional gaps or skips in the slide numbers.
circa 1960-1995
Box Folder
1 32
Slides with Relevant Containers
circa 1960-1995
circa 1960-1995
B: Photographs
The photographs show parallels with many of Parsons' drawings in her sketchbooks. There are several contact sheets of photoshoots in her studio that would later appear in magazines or articles, some of which can be found in other sections of the collection.
circa 1960-2002
C: Negatives
The negatives mostly depict Parsons' travels with friends and students. Her negatives are primarily from her trips to Europe during the 1970s and 80s; they focus upon monuments such as cathedrals, archways, and relief sculptures, as well as featuring her companions. There are many images of children playing with both the environment and animals that they encounter while abroad. There are also images that would later be used for print productions, such as the Portland Museum Art School's brochure. There are very few notes on the original casing for the negatives, however the few notes that were found have been preserved separately. These notes are minor, and are generally asking for specific adjustments to images, enlargements or different amounts of contrast.
circa 1960-2002
D: Video Material
This subseries consists of visual elements in CD and DV tape form. There are copies of interviews with several public access television networks showcasing Parsons' artistic process and studio. The two DV tapes are labeled "20 jan 02 - 8:50 min" and "EP in NYC".
circa 1970-2002

Series IV:  Artworks, 1952-2014Return to Top

This series provides a view into several decades of Parsons' artistic progress through the lens of her sketchbooks, drawings, watercolor paintings, and other visual explorations of new forms. Within this series is the sketchbook that Parsons took with her to New York in 1957, which she used to record what she saw when traveling across the country, as well as the study watercolors that are now decorating the fireplace in her home, and even a series of preliminary sketches along with their finished product, Opus #2.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
14 5
A: Notes
In this subseries there are several assorted scraps of paper each with a small note on them.
circa 1952-1970
B: Sketchbooks
There are six individual sketchbooks. The earliest of these is an autograph book which was used as a sketchbook dating to 1952. It contains early exploratory drawings of human figures, as well as some notes on constructing landscape scenes. The next notebook is a large sketchbook from 1957 with basic figure drawings and sketches. There are 3 black sketchbooks that form a series, the first of which comprises Parsons' trip to New York in 1957 to view artworks by modern masters. In this notebook Parsons documents the various places that she visits while on the bus going from Portland to New York. She takes notes on the artists that she views, and she depicts the landscapes that she passes. The later half of the notebook consists of her observations after returning from the east coast. There are portraits of family members and several Oregon landscapes. Notebook II dates to 1959 and documents several important transformations. The people depicted in her previous sketchbook have aged, and the toddler from the end of Notebook I is now 3-4 years of age. The sketches are of landscapes and intimate portraits of friends and family. Notebook III can be dated to the early 1960s. There is a large section of minimalist line studies of characters in motion in anachronistic dress.
Box item
3 1
Autograph Book used as a Sketchbook
Restricted until 2048. Moved to a seperate box (R01).
3 2
Sketchbook, Figure Drawing Studies
4 1
Black Sketchbook I
4 2
Black Sketchbook II
4 3
Black Sketchbook III
4 4
Composition Notebook with Language Notes
C: Drawings
Parsons depicts the form of a cellist playing in a symphony wearing full black tie attire. She employs several different styles over the course of her 6 sketches, culminating into the piece Opus #2. Of the other three works, two of these are prints, and the other is an ink on paper painting. One of the two prints appears to be the original of a self-portrait which later became an exhibit flier, and the other appears to be an old woman asleep in bed.
circa 1953-1962
Box item
5 1
Outline Sketch of 4 Figures, Opus #2 Study
5 2
Block Shading Sketch, Opus #2 Study
5 3
Figurative Block Shading Sketch, Opus #2 Study
5 4
Sketch in the style of an etching, Opus #2 Study
5 5
Sketch with painted ink, Opus #2 Study
5 6
Sketch with painted ink, Opus #2 Study
5 7
Opus #2
5 8
Etching Self-Portrait
5 9
Etching of older woman asleep in bed
5 10
Ink on paper painting of a monkey
D: Watercolors
This subseries contains watercolors that Parsons created for the piece around her fireplace in her home, as well as some watercolors that she would have sold for supplementary income. There are 53 individual watercolor paintings within this section, each is a separate subject with no repeating images. All of the images are of some form of bird, many of them indigenous to Oregon.
circa 1990-2014
53 Watercolors of assorted birds
circa 1990-2014
E: Calendars
In this subseries Parsons experiments with collage as well as creating collections of collages that relate to months. Many of these calendars were used by Parsons herself. The calendars feature a vast array of collages by Parsons.
Watercolor calendars
Watercolor calendars

Series V:  Professional papers, 1931-2004Return to Top

This series of the collection contains many notable items from Eunice Parsons' time at the Museum Art School, as well as containing a list of the locations where she showed and sold her artworks spanning a period of two decades.

Container(s) Description Dates
A: Museum Art School papers
This subseries contains papers relevant to Parsons' time as both a student and as a faculty member at the Portland Museum Art School. In this section there are advertisements for the Museum Art School dating back to as early as 1931 and up through 1986. There are also notes from faculty meetings where the inner workings of the Museum Art School were discussed, showing the influence that artists such as Manuel Izquierdo had on the institution in an administrative capacity. There are also notes on the students that Parsons taught and the materials that she was instructing these students to work with.
circa 1931-2004
Box Folder
1 11
Museum Art School Documents
1 12
Museum Art School Documents
1 13
Museum Art School Documents
1 14
B: Business Papers
These are papers relating to Parsons' material career. They range from lists of her works and their gallery locations to her application for a name change after a divorce, and even to newspaper clippings, some of which were later used for posters and exhibit fliers. In this section the subjects vary more heavily than in the previous subseries. This subseries contains contracts, checks, invoices, resumes, notes and even newspaper clippings from throughout her career, some dating back to the early 1960s. Many of these materials are arranged in the order that Parsons left them, and in several cases in the folders that she put them in. In the case of folders that do not reflect their original condition at the time of donation, their materials have been arranged by subject matter and chronology.
circa 1960-2004
Box Folder
1 15
Receipts and Checks from Europe
1 16
Contacts and Mailing Labels
1 17
1 18
Gallery Commentary Book
1 19
Invoices and Payments
1 20
Contracts and Communications
1 21
Folder "APR 04"
1 22
Early Notes
1 23
Carbon Copy List
1 24
Hallie Ford related materials
1 25
"Misc Eunie" Folders
Composed mainly of contact sheets, and lists of works with their respective pricings.
1 26
Oregon College of Arts and Crafts submission
1 27
Contents of "Old Business"
2 17
Records of Works sent and pricing
2 18
Newspaper Clippings

Series VI:  Correspondence, 1940-2008Return to Top

This series, focusing on correspondence between Parsons and her many contacts around the Northwest, emphasizes Parsons' ideal of doing "anything to make correspondence less banal." It is characterized by the artistic inclinations and personalities of the senders. Almost exclusively in the form of Christmas cards, there are many different styles present. Many of these Christmas cards can be traced back to the Museum Art School, where the instructors annually made their own Christmas cards. Many of these Christmas cards contain short notes about the New Year, or about the recent exhibitions of the sender. Also contained are letters between Parsons and her colleagues detailing artistic, economic, and personal problems, as well as untitled, small scale artworks without a name or clear sender.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box Folder
1 1
A: Correspondence from Eunice
circa 1940-2008
B: Correspondence to Eunice
circa 1940-2008
Box Folder
1 2
circa 1950-2008
1 3
circa 1950-2008
1 4
circa 1950-2008
Undersize Material, Grimm
circa 1950-2008
1 5
circa 1950-2008
1 6
circa 1950-2008
1 7
circa 1950-2008
1 8
circa 1950-2008
Box Folder
1 9
C: Non-Artist Correspondence
circa 1940-2008
1 10
D: Unnamed Art correspondence

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Art
  • Arts--Northwest, Pacific
  • Fine Arts
  • Personal Names :
  • Bunce, Louis, 1907-1983
  • Dodson, Betty
  • Izquierdo, Manuel, 1925-2009
  • Johanson, George, 1928-
  • Krause, LaVerne, 1924-1987
  • LaDuke, Betty
  • Corporate Names :
  • Hallie Ford Museum of Art
  • Portland Art Museum (Or.)
  • Geographical Names :
  • Portland (Or.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • artists' materials