Elizabeth Bayley Willis papers, circa 1933-1988  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Willis, Elizabeth Bayley
Title
Elizabeth Bayley Willis papers
Dates
circa 1933-1988 (inclusive)
1942-1976 (bulk)
Quantity
5.94 cubic ft. (10 boxes, 2 oversized folders)
Collection Number
2583 (Accession No. 2583-019)
Summary
Museum curator, art collector, and art consultant
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

The Willis papers are open to all users, except for boxes 5 through 10, which are closed until Dec. 2, 2017. These boxes contain material primarily about Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, as well as material about other figures in the Northwest art scene. Researchers may request permission for access from the donor's family before 2018. Consult the repository for information.

Languages
English, French
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Elizabeth Bayley Willis was born Elizabeth Palmer Bayley in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1902. She attended Queen Anne High School and spent a year in Boston and West Newton, Massachusetts, at the Misses Allen School. In Boston Willis studied European art history and the Asian collections at the Boston Museum. Willis spent one year of college at Mount Holyoke, continuing to visit Boston and study at the museum. She graduated from the University of Washington in 1923. Willis married Cecil Durand Willis in 1923, and the couple had four daughters before their divorce in 1937.

In 1937 Willis studied painting at Mills College summer session with artists Lyonel Feininger, Helen Chapin, and others. There she met Kenneth Callahan, who brought her into Seattle's art world. Through Callahan she met Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, and other Northwest artists, and she studied painting with Tobey in 1939 and 1940. From 1938 to 1943, Willis taught English and Latin at Garfield High School in Seattle and headed the school's art department.

In 1943 Willis went to New York looking for a gallery to show Mark Tobey's work. She was hired by Marian Willard to show Morris Graves's work at the Willard Gallery, and in 1947 she returned to Seattle to work as curator at the University of Washington's Henry Art Gallery. From 1948 to 1950, Willis was curator at the San Francisco Museum of Art and from 1950 to 1951, curator and acting assistant director of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. In charge of exhibits, Willis curated Mark Tobey's first retrospective exhibit and was instrumental in bringing to the United States a series of exhibitions of the decorative arts of Japan, China, and Korea.

While in San Francisco, Willis had helped to show and sell Japanese folk art for Dr. Suetsu Yanagi of the Mingei Kan National Folk Art Museum in Tokyo. In 1951 she went to Japan as a consultant to the Mingei Kan on the quality and marketing of modern folk art. She made her first visit to India on her return trip and collected folk textiles in Bombay. Back in the United States, Willis went to New York to study the Cooper-Union museum's Indian decorative arts collection. On the weekends she went to Boston to study with Georg Swarenski, curator of decorative arts at the Boston Museum.

In 1952 Willis was appointed to the United Nations Technical Assistance Board, having been recommended by the Cooper-Union Museum as a curator and marketer of handcrafts. Her work for the UN focused on stimulating the economic development of handcrafts in India and East Asia through marketing textile and other decorative art products to American and European importers. In November of that year, Willis went to India as an advisor to the government of Uttar Pradesh on the development and preservation of handcrafts.

Willis worked with the All India Handcrafts Board, the Handloom Board, and the Khadi and Village Industries Board to improve and develop crafts production and sales, and in so doing improve the living and working conditions of the craftspeople. Working in Uttar Pradesh, Willis observed many one of a kind techniques and designs in textile creation and helped the local artisans to develop consistent production for export. Willis returned to India several times as a gazetted advisor to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the Textile Commissioner, and the All India Handloom Board. Her primary role was to help develop the export business for handloom textiles for all of India, a task that involved visiting hundreds of villages throughout the country, establishing guidelines for quality control, and assisting with technical improvements. Willis also worked on similar missions for the UN in Vietnam, Formosa, and Morocco.

From 1957 to 1965, Willis returned to India many times at her own expense to collect textiles and continue her study of the folk textile industry. Over 1,400 textiles as well as jewelry from Willis's collection were donated to the University of Washington by Willis and her friends Virginia and Prentice Bloedel, who helped to fund several of Willis's later trips to India. This gift started the University's Costume and Textile Study Center, now part of the Henry Art Gallery. Other Willis textiles, artifacts, photographs, and unpublished research are in the National Anthropological Archives and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

Willis resided in Bainbridge Island near Seattle for many years and died at the age of 101 in 2003.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Willis papers document her work promoting textiles from India and other countries, her interest in Northwest art and artists, and her friendships with the artists. The accession also includes letters and other material sent to Willis by her Garfield High School Japanese American students during World War II. At the time of writing, mainly 1942, most of the students were incarcerated at the Puyallup Assembly Center, called Camp Harmony. The letters are filed in the subject series "Nisei Students." These and many other letters and writings are filed in subject series under headings that were established by Willis.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from this collection in digital format.

Restrictions on Use

A letter from Julia Feininger to Willis, dated Oct. 15, 1947 (folder 2/4), is not to be copied or quoted by users any time in the future.

Willis's rights have been transferred to the University of Washington Libraries, except for those in the closed portion of the accession.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Personal PapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
1/1
Biographical Features
1953-1983, undated
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder
1/2
Anderson, Guy
undated
1/3
Callahan, Kenneth
1977
1/3
Cashin, Bonnie
1965-1982, undated
1/4
Cunningham, Imogen
1970
1/5
Devree, Howard
1947, undated
1/6
Goetz, Hermann
1961-1965
1/7
Kalman, Lily
1959-1960, undated
1/8
Macdonald, Vera
1966-1977
1/9
Marriott, McKim
1958-1961
1/10
Michener, James
1961-1966
1/11
Nehru, (Mrs.) B.K.
1962-1966
1/12
Ross, Nancy Wilson (Mrs. Stanley Young)
1951-1978, undated
1/13
Willard, Marian
1973-1976
1/14-16
A-Z
1941-1982, undated
Outgoing Letters
Box/Folder
1/17
To Family
1956, undated
1/18
To Olive Buchanan
1964-1986, undated
1/19
Miscellaneous
1967-1982, undated
1/20
Re: Nancy Wilson Ross
June 30, 1984
General Correspondence
Box/Folder
1/21
Dodge, Marilyn
1978-1980, undated
1/21
Hranga, R.K. (Shillong)
1980-1983, undated
1/21
Kaimal, Lorraine (Denver Art Museum, Re: Textiles)
1981
1/22
Kawai, Hiroshi
1951-1973
1/22
Mohrman, Constance K.
1981
1/22
Nishi, Jana S.
1984
1/23
Ravindran, O.T.
1979-1980, undated
1/23
Rossbach, Ed and Katherine Westphal
1967-1981, undated
1/23
Wittlin, Thaddeus
1977
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder
1/24
Re: Autobiographical Information
1979-1988, undated
1/25
"Two Englishmen in India"
undated
1/26
Re: Kanjiro Kawai
1974
1/26
Re: Macdonald Family
1972-1975, undated
1/26
Re: Jim Thompson
1974
1/26
Re: Clifford Wright
1970
1/27
Re: Coomaraswamy, Ananda and Robert Allerton Parker
1988
1/27
"The Japanese Folk Art Collection"
undated
1/27
"Willard Gallery Daze"
1987
1/28
Miscellaneous
1973-1988, undated
Notes
Box/Folder
1/29
Re: Ambrose and Viola Patterson and Shillong Visits
1963-1975, undated
1/30
Miscellaneous
1976-1986, undated
Subject Series
Protests
Box/Folder
1/31
Re: Wildlife
1982, undated
1/32
Re: Environmental Issues
1969-1982, undated
1/33
Re: Nuclear Efforts
1982, undated
1/34
Re: Cambodia
1967-1971, undated
1/35
Re: ABM/ Sentinel
1969-1987, undated
1/36
Miscellaneous
1965-1983, undated
Box/Folder
1/37
University of Washington President's Club
1979, undated
1/38
Bayh, Gibson
1955
1/39
Bowen, Betty
1952-1977, undated
Chinese Periodicals -China Reconstructs
Box/Folder
1/40
General Correspondence
1975-1982, undated
1/41
Notes
1976
1/42
Ephemera
1976-1978, undated
Box/Folder
2/1
Elwin, Verrier
1957-1964
Feininger, Julia and Lyonel
Box/Folder
2/2-3
Incoming Letters
1945-1961, undated
2/4
Incoming Letter
Restricted.
Oct. 15, 1947
2/5
Artworks
1951
2/6
Exhibit Catalogs
1936-1964
2/7
Clippings
1936-1972, undated
Box/Folder
2/8
Fell, Barry
1976-1979, undated
2/9
Ford, Gordon Onslow
1977-1980, undated
2/10
Fozdor, Shirin
1951-1954
2/11-12
Graves, Morris
1947-1982, undated
2/13
Henry Gallery
1967-1986, undated
India
Box/Folder
2/14
Incoming Letters - Re: India, Community Development and Co-operation Ministry, Department of Community Development
1963-1964
2/15
General Correspondence
1960-1971
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder
2/16-20
"In the Footprints of the Raj "
1986
2/21-22
Two Sides of the Coin, by Katherine Palmer
undated
2/23
India's Roots of Democracy (annotated)
1965
2/24-25
"A Brief Guide for Visitors to Temples of South India"
undated
3/1
Reminiscences Re: India, Indian Textiles, and Blanchett Rockefeller and Folk Arts
1972-1986, undated
Notes
Box/Folder
3/2
Re: Reference Material for North East Frontier Agency and Dr. Verrier Elwin
1963-1964, undated
3/3
Re: Reference Material. India. Andra - Tripura and Uttar Pradesh
1960-1969
Box/Folder
3/4
Exhibit Catalogs
1982
Subject Series
Box/Folder
3/5
Bhutan
1960-1965, undated
Gandhi, Indira
Box/Folder
3/6
Incoming Letter
1962
3/7
Clippings
1976-1977, undated
Mehta, Ved
Box/Folder
3/8
General Correspondence
1976-1977
3/9
Clippings - Articles inThe New Yorker
undated
Box/Folder
3/10
Clippings Re: India, Andra - Tripura
1960-1970, undated
Box/Folder
3/11
Johnson, Gertrude
1969-1983, undated
Larsen, Jack Lenor
1966-1978, undated
Box/Folder
3/12
Incoming Letters
1966-1978, undated
3/13
Notes
undated
VF:oversize
55
Publications -American Fabrics/Fashions, Summer 1978, Volume 113
1978
Box/Folder
3/14
Calendars - Small Monthly Calendar
With J.L.L. trademark in a tin case.
1978
3/15
Ephemera
1975, undated
3/16
Clippings
1974-1978, undated
Box/Folder
3/17
Liebes, Dorothy
1962-1972, undated
Nisei Students
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder
3/18
Kobayashi, Masao
1942
3/19
Unidentified "Ben"
1942-1943
3/20
Miscellaneous A-Z
1942-1949
Box/Folder
3/21
Newsletter - Camp Harmony
1942
3/22
Clippings
1940-1950
Box/Folder
3/23
Newland, Joseph (Henry Art Gallery)
1986-1988, undated
3/24
Schuster, Carl
1975, undated
3/25-26
Tobey, Mark
1939-1982, undated
3/27
Wilgress, John
1950-1953, undated
3/28
Yanagi, Soetsu
1949-1951
Box/Folder
3/29-30
Exhibit Catalogs
1933-1958, 1982, undated
folder:oversize
11
Posters - Leo Kenney Retrospective
1973
Exhibit Files
Box/Folder
3/31
Re: "Northwest Artists" Show
Correspondents include Kenneth Callahan, the Henry Gallery, Walter Isaacs, and Richard E. Fuller.
1950-1951
3/32
Miscellaneous
1974, undated
Photographs
Box/Folder
3/33
Washington State International Marketing Conference Committee
1954
3/33
E.B. Willis with Indira Gandhi and her son, Sanjay
undated
Box/Folder
3/34
Ephemera
1963, undated
Clippings
Box/Folder
3/35
Re: Northwest Artists
1937-1978
3/36
Biographical
1948-1982, undated

United Nations. Technical Assistance Board / All India Handloom BoardReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Incoming Letters
Box/Folder
3/37
Re: Reference Material. India, Andra - Tripura
1957-1960
General Correspondence
Box/Folder
3/38
Correspondence with U.N. Officials
1952-1953, undated
3/39
Re: Uttar Pradesh
1952-1953, undated
3/40
Miscellaneous
Correspondents include: Sher Singh Rawat, Victor Sanè, All Indian Handloom Board.
1953-1957, undated
Box/Folder
3/41-42
Memoranda Re: All India Handloom Board
1955-1956
Notes
Box/Folder
3/43
Reference Materials for All India Handloom Board
1956-1957, undated
4/1
Reference Material. India. Andra - Kerala
1951-1957, undated
4/2
Reference Material. India. Madras - Tripura
1956, undated
4/3
Uttar Pradesh
1953, undated
Publications
Box/Folder
4/4
All India Handloom Board
1955-1956, undated
4/5
Miscellaneous
1954-1959
Box/Folder
4/6
Reports - Re: Indian Weaving
1953, undated
Speeches and Writings
Box/Folder
4/7
Re: Uttar Pradesh
1953-1955, undated
4/8
T.T. Krishnamachari
1957-1959
Box/Folder
4/9
Exhibit Files - "Textile Art and Costumes of India," Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Aug.-Oct., 1956
Subject Series
Box/Folder
4/10
Burma
1952-1954
4/11
Manipur
1960, undated
4/12
Morocco
1959
4/13
Taiwan
1955
4/14
L'Artisanat au Maroc
1958-1959
Box/Folder
4/15
Photographs
undated
Ephemera
undated
Box/Folder
4/16
Re: Reference Materials, India - Madras to Tripura
1956-1960, undated
Clippings
Box/Folder
4/17
Re: All India Handloom Board
1956-1957, undated
4/18
Re: Uttar Pradesh
1953-1958, undated

Closed MaterialReturn to Top

Folders include personal correspondence between the artists and Ms. Willis related to works and exhibitions, as well as notes, journals, catalogs, letters of other individuals, writings, and clippings. A more detailed inventory of boxes 5 through 10 is available.

Container(s) Description Dates
Box
5-6, 10
Graves, Morris
1942-1967
6-8
Tobey, Mark
1940-1976
Other Northwest Artists, "Group of Twelve"
Box
9
Anderson, Guy
9
Banner, Al
9
Barret, Virginia
9
Callahan, Kenneth
9
Chong, Fay and Priscilla
9
Cooper, Jack
1982
9
Cumming, Bill
9
Cunningham, Merce
9
Farwell, Denise and Hollis
9
Gowen, Mary Trimble
9
Hill, Warren
9
James, Barbara and Clayton
9
Morris, Ruby
9
Nomura, Ruth
9
Park, Helen Graham
9
Patterson, Viola
9
Penington, Ruth
9
Ross, Nancy Wilson
9
Tsutakawa, George
9
Wehr, Wesley
Box
9
Northwest History
9
Outgoing Letters - To Marian Willard
Copies.
1950-1951, undated

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Art museums--California
  • Art museums--Washington (State)
  • Art, American--Northwest, Pacific
  • Decorative arts--India--Marketing
  • Museum curators--California
  • Technical assistance, American--India
  • Textile crafts--Collectors and collecting--United States
  • Textile crafts--India--Marketing
  • Women museum curators--California--Archives
  • Personal Names :
  • Cashin, Bonnie
  • Elwin, Verrier, 1902-1964
  • Feininger, Julia
  • Goetz, Hermann, 1898-1976
  • Johnson, Gertrude B
  • Kawai, Hiroshi, potter
  • Larsen, Jack Lenor
  • Newland, Joseph N
  • Ross, Nancy Wilson, 1901-1986
  • Willis, Elizabeth Bayley--Archives
  • Corporate Names :
  • All India Handloom Board
  • Henry Art Gallery
  • United Nations. Technical Assistance Board
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Exhibition catalogs
  • Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)