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Blondelle Malone papers

 Collection
Identifier: SCL-MS-2743
The collection consists of approximately ten linear feet of materials that document the life of Blondelle Octavia Edwards Malone. In date, the collection ranges from approximately 1800 to 1956, with the bulk of the papers ranging from 1898 to 1951. The collection is comprised of correspondence, invitations, diaries, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, photographs, and original works of art documenting the work of this artist and historic preservationist. The collection is divided into three series: personal papers, artwork, and photographs.

SERIES I, PERSONAL PAPERS:

Series I, personal papers, is organized by subject and comprises the bulk of the materials contained in the collection. Blondelle Malone's personal papers span her entire life and also touch upon the lives of her parents and several relatives. In date the personal papers series contains materials from 1800 to 1956. The series is broken down into the following subseries: career as an artist, correspondence, family history and genealogy, general materials, historic preservation activities, journals, legal documents, newspaper articles and clippings, research materials, travels, and writings.

Materials pertaining to Blondelle's CAREER AS AN ARTIST include exhibition catalogs, programs, criticism and exhibition reviews, and exhibition admittance cards. Also included in this group of materials is a visitor's book from one of Blondelle's first major showings at the Lyceum Club in Paris, France, in 1913. For preservation and conservation purposes, original works of art (as well as their accompanying sketches and photographs) are housed separately and are found in Series III, Artwork.

Of interest and significance is Blondelle Malone's CORRESPONDENCE. The value of these materials lies in the many references that Blondelle made to other artists painting from the turn of the century until around 1920. In date, the correspondence in the collection ranges from 1800 to 1951. Letters written to her parents give accounts of Blondelle's experiences in New York, California, Japan, and Europe. Forms of correspondence include traditional letters, telegrams, and postcards; many letters were written in French. The collection also includes correspondence in German, Italian, and Japanese. The correspondence offers the researcher a view onto Blondelle's life - particularly her time spent overseas. It appears that her parents kept most of her letters written to them; Blondelle, on the other hand kept few of the letters written to her by her family members. In the correspondence, one can see the relationship that existed between Blondelle and her parents. They funded her many journeys throughout Europe, and she wrote faithfully telling them of her adventures. The letters are also of interest because they show the changing relationship between a daughter and her parents. Correspondence commences when Blondelle leaves home for the first time to attend Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and starts to decrease after the death of Mrs. Malone. Topics in her early letters include discussions of fashion and social events, accounts of time spent with friends and love interests, worries about academic pursuits, and answers to questions asked her by her parents. Later letters include descriptions of the progress of her career as an artist, tales of living in exotic locales, accounts of people she socialized with.

While Blondelle may not have kept a great deal of correspondence from family members, she did hold onto letters written to her by friends and peers. The collection contains many letters from Walter Richard Sickert and Henry Simpson (both had studied with Whistler). Their letters were professional and personal in tone - in later years more personal than not. Both men were also interested in her romantically. Simpson frequently referred to her with pet names and made insinuations about marriage.

Other potential suitors who corresponded with Blondelle include the following individuals:

Dr. Richard Bohun Baker (A retired physician. He and Blondelle met during the summer of 1896. He was 73 years old at the time; Blondelle was only 19. They maintained their correspondence for around five years.) Luigi Cappelli (Blondelle met him in Europe) Emanuel Gateschi (An Italian studying at Cambridge University) Professor David S. L. Johnson (a devoted friend and correspondent despite the fifty-year age difference that existed between Blondelle and the choir director for the Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia.) Baron Paul de Launay (the organist and choirmaster at Trinity Cathedral in Columbia.) Ted/Laurie Swinburne (son of Blondelle's friend, Mrs. Swinburne)

Blondelle also corresponded with many artists and friends and relatives of artists:

Miss Lucy Bacon (Blondelle met her in California. At one time, Miss Bacon had also hoped to become an artist. She was familiar with the New York School and had studied in France with Pissarro and Mary Cassat; in fact, Miss Bacon, provided Blondelle with a letter of introduction for Pissarro shortly before his death - a letter that Blondelle was not able to use. Miss Bacon moved to California and gave up painting to become a Christian Science practitioner.) Jacques Blanche (The French portraitist.) Mathilde de Cardoba (A close friend and an aspiring artist. The two met in New York and exchanged letters for some time.) William Merritt Chase (Mentor and teacher - provided her with letters of introduction.) Lula Merrick (A critic for the New York Post.) Madame J. Francois Millet (Geraldine, the daughter-in-law of the French artist Millet.) Claude Monet (The collection includes the letter in which he invited Blondelle to his studio.) Madame Camille Pissarro (The widow of Pissarro; Blondelle stayed with her on more than one occasion.) Mrs. A.S. Swinburne (A close friend and an aspiring artist. The two met in New York and often traveled together.) Mary Taft (A critic for the New York Times.) Mrs. Twachtman (Blondelle became good friends with the wife of her former teacher.) Helen Whistler (Daughter-in-law of James McNeill Whistler.)

Other correspondents included:

W. C. Brownell (Executive at Harper & Brothers Publishers.) Ambrose E. Gonzales (Owner/editor of The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina.) Mrs. Herbert Hoover (Daughter-in-law of President Herbert Hoover.) William Nash (New York businessman, founder of the Corn Exchange Bank, financial sponsor for Blondelle's trip to Ireland.) Eleanor Roosevelt (Wrote to thank her for a floral arrangement sent to the President and her.) Dr. John Hunter Selby (Old family friend from Columbia; corresponded with Blondelle in the later years of her life; arranged for her to donate her papers to the Caroliniana Library and her art to the Columbia Museum of Art.)

The CORRESPONDENCE subseries also includes a plethora of postcards. Included are postcards Blondelle sent home to her parents as well as postcards sent to Blondelle from friends living and travelling within the United States and Europe.

Included within the first series are materials pertaining to the Malone, Edwards, and Jones families' genealogies and histories. The subseries, FAMILY HISTORY AND GENEALOGY, includes genealogical charts, written histories, the Malone family coat of arms, and several miscellaneous materials.

The sub-series, GENERAL MATERIALS, contains documents and materials that did not necessarily fit into any other series or subseries scheme, but that are germane to the collection. These materials are organized alphabetically and include a listing of Blondelle's involvement in various associations, membership cards, calling cards, hospital bills, materials pertaining to Converse College, a few publications collected by Blondelle (several are signed by the authors), and various miscellaneous and unidentified materials.

During the 1930s, Blondelle lived in Alexandria, Virginia, where she became active in the historic preservation movement. The sub-series, Historic Preservation Activities, reflects her participation in the preservation of several Alexandria properties.

Blondelle's JOURNALS are by no means comprehensive. The materials contained within the volumes are scattered, and many pages were removed before the Caroliniana acquired the collection. It does not appear that she maintained a regular diary; rather, she used the notebooks found in this collection to record meetings with individuals, addresses, thoughts, and drafts of letters.

The LEGAL DOCUMENTS sub-series includes materials pertaining to the last will and testament of Miles A. Malone. Blondelle and her father grew apart in the last years of his life, and his will reflects this. He left her with a modest income and deeded the majority of his assets to the city of Columbia. For years, Blondelle contested the will and tried to draw more from her yearly stipend than was stipulated by the will. Other legal documents include real estate agreements for properties owned and rented by Blondelle and other members of the family.

Both Blondelle and her parents clipped newspaper and magazine articles pertaining to her career as an artist (NEWSPAPER ARTICLES AND CLIPPINGS). The collection contains the contents of three scrapbooks plus many loose clippings. The articles follow Blondelle's career from Columbia to California to Europe to New York to Washington, D.C. The newspaper articles also contain references to some Malone/Jones/Edwards family events. The collection contains several files on Stone Mountain, Georgia, which was owned in part by Blondelle's cousins.

In 1963 Louise Jones DuBose, the former director of the University of South Carolina Press, wrote and published a biography of Blondelle. Entitled Enigma: the Career of Blondelle Malone in Art and Society, 1879-1951, the book relies heavily on materials found within Blondelle's papers. Louise DuBose's RESEARCH MATERIALS are included as part of the collection. By and large, the materials in this series consist of annotated transcriptions of letters written to or by Blondelle.

The subseries TRAVELS includes official documentation pertaining to Blondelle's passages to and from various European cities as well as passports. It also includes souvenirs, booklets, and brochures she picked up over the course of her journeys.

Lastly, included within the collection are WRITINGS penned by Blondelle. Found in this subseries are an autobiographical essay written by Blondelle when she was fifteen years old, accounts of painting in France, and article on the educational system in Japan, and several miscellaneous and unidentified pieces.

SERIES II, ARTWORK:

Blondelle left little information about what happened to many of her paintings. The Columbia Museum of Art owns quite a few; beyond that, though, she often gave paintings away without recording any information.

Contained within this collection are sketches, photographs of paintings, some original (small) pieces of art, a few bookplates, and a few pieces probably attributable to artists other than Blondelle. The collection contains one framed watercolor entitled “Washington Monument with Fireworks.”

SERIES III, PHOTOGRAPHS:

Blondelle Malone's photograph collection contains around two hundred images of friends, family, and associates. The collection contains photographs of Blondelle from childhood through her last years of life. It also contains numerous images of her parents and her ancestors. The series contains an interesting collection of professional photographs (Blanchard Photo, Columbia, SC) taken of Blondelle in her parents' home and garden on Gervais Street around 1909. The series also contains photographs of the interiors of Blondelle's Alexandria, Virginia, properties. It also includes many photographs or photostats of friends from Europe and artists she met (including photographs of Blanche, Sickert, and Pissarro - the latter was given to Blondelle by his widow).

Dates

  • 1800-1956

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All rights reside with creator. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact The South Caroliniana Library.

Extent

6.25 Linear Feet (14 document boxes 2 oversize folders.)

Biographical / Historical

Blondelle Malone (1877-1951) fancied herself the “garden artist of America,” a mantle bestowed upon her by a New York critic and friend in the 1920s. Blondelle spent the first half of her life living an idealized artist's life. Financially supported by her parents, she traveled around Europe painting the gardens of dignitaries, royalty, and wealthy aristocrats. She lived in finely appointed apartments in Paris, London, and Dublin, yet considered herself a misunderstood artist - probably because she was never able to sell many of her paintings. While she may not have achieved the fame she hoped for, Blondelle did lead a rather privileged life - especially for an unmarried woman of the early twentieth century. She traveled relatively freely all over the world. In her formative years, she often had chaperones; in her later years, she traveled with companions, but she also rented property and lived alone in California, Paris, London, and Washington, D.C. She met and socialized with some of the pre-eminent artists of her day. Her letters, journals, articles, and artwork tell the fascinating story of an only child and artist who lived a charmed and privileged life.

Blondelle Octavia Edwards Malone was born on November 16, 1877, in Bostwick, Georgia, to Miles Alexander and Sarah Glenn (Jones) Malone. The family lived briefly in Augusta, Georgia, but soon moved to Columbia, South Carolina, where Blondelle grew up. Miles, a distributor of pianos throughout the Southeast and owner of Malone's Music House in Columbia, was sufficiently well off that he was able to provide his daughter with the support to lead an independent and free-spirited life as an artist. At age fifteen, Blondelle entered Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a special student. For the next four years, she studied French, music, and art. At Converse, she made the decision to focus on pursuing a career as an artist after completing her education. With the support and financial backing of her parents, Blondelle moved to New York in 1897 to study at the New York School of Applied Design for Women. The school proved to be too confining for Blondelle, and she soon transferred to the New York School of Art where she fell under the tutelage of American artists John H. Twachtman, William Merritt Chase, and Robert Blum.

Returning to Columbia in July 1898, Blondelle set up a studio in her family home at 1517 Gervais Street, but within a year she grew restless. Once again, she convinced her parents to let her return to New York to further her studies. This time, Blondelle studied under Twachtman at the Art Students' League. The next summer she spent time in an artists' colony run by Twachtman at Cos Cob, Connecticut. She became a friend to the artist and his wife. Her first artistic success came around the same time with the acceptance of eight book cover designs for exhibition by the Architectural League in New York. In 1900 Charles Scribners' Sons Publishers purchased two of her designs.

Blondelle believed that Columbia was too limiting a place for her; the following summer of 1901, she left for the West Coast. She traveled throughout California for a year before she announced to her parents that she intended to study and paint abroad. In 1903 Blondelle left for Japan in the company of the Rothrocks - Mrs. Rothrock, a fellow aspiring artist and her husband, a federal judge. She stayed in Japan for around a year and then persuaded her parents that her return trip should take her through Europe. Blondelle arrived in Venice in May 1904. She began to meet other artists including Walter Sickert and Henry Simpson, two English painters who became lifelong friends and correspondents. Blondelle delayed her return to the United States indefinitely - much to her parents' dismay.

In Europe between 1904 and 1915 (she returned home only once during these years), Blondelle lived a life of great freedom. She spent her time painting gardens in France, England, Italy, Holland, and Ireland. She led the life of a socialite. She met and was entertained not only by key figures in the art world, but also ingratiated herself with dignitaries, royalty, and aristocrats. In her first year in Europe, she visited Claude Monet and received his critique of her work and later returned to paint in his garden. At various times she stayed with Madame Camille Pissarro (the widow of her idol, Camille Jacob Pissarro) and Geraldine Millet (the daughter-in-law of Jean-Francois Millet). She was a frequent guest and correspondent of Jacques Blanche, the French portraitist. She called on the sculptor Auguste Rodin more than once.

In 1905, Blondelle moved to Paris and joined the Society of Independent Artists where she exhibited eight paintings and reported one sale during that year. At the same time, her parents sent her work to exhibitions in the United States. During that year the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts also accepted her work. After travel throughout Holland and England, Blondelle returned to the United States on Christmas Day in 1905. Trying to settle back into life in Columbia, she painted in her studio at Gervais Street and traveled to Charleston where she painted the flower gardens of Magnolia on the Ashley River, the sandy dunes of Sullivan's Island, and various gardens around the city.

The following year, Blondelle returned to Europe. Traveling briefly throughout Italy and Germany, she again chose France to remain in for a longer period of time -- this time at Eragny, where she lived with the widow of Pissarro. Winter saw her in Paris where she made the acquaintance of Rodin and exhibited “The Garden of Camille Pissarro” at the Salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts. A gallery on the Rue De Faubourg St. Honoré also accepted some of her works. In 1911 she exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and in 1913 at the Société Nationale once again. That same year she had a one-person exhibition at the Lyceum Club in Paris. It was around this time that she fully developed her specialty of garden paintings, and traveled from one acquaintance to another to record their gardens. This specialty took her to England where she painted various society gardens and was invited to join the New English Art Club and to show at the Autumn Salon and the Lyceum Club. In 1912 she traveled throughout Italy painting gardens and eventually returned to Paris where she exhibited with the Societe Internationale d'Aqaurellistes and the American Art Students Club. She also spent that Christmas in Barbizon with the son and daughter-in-law of Jean François Millet.

William Nash commissioned Blondelle to paint several works of art in Ireland. She traveled there in 1914 and 1915 and, for a time, lost touch with her family. Her parents received no word from her; therefore, Mr. Malone contacted various government officials before he finally located her. Blondelle returned to the United States in December 1915 when she learned of her mother's death. She spent a relatively short and unhappy stay in Columbia. She purchased a house and studio in Aiken, but felt too limited even there. In 1920 she moved to New York where she rented a studio at Carnegie Hall and held exhibitions of her work at the Women's University Club, the Misses Hill Studio, the Babcock Gallery and at galleries in Utica, Elmira and Binghamton.

In the United States, over the course of her life, Blondelle's work was shown at the Pennsylvania Academy; at the Babcock and The Misses Hill Galleries in New York City; in galleries in Elmira, Utica, and Binghamton, New York; in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; in Denver, Colorado; in San Francisco, California; and in Columbia, South Carolina. Her pictures ranged in subject matter from flowers in her parents' garden to roses at Bagatelle in Paris, and the gardens of historic estates in England and Ireland. She was clearly influenced by the Impressionists - both American and European.

Blondelle's father died in 1930 as the result of injuries he sustained when an automobile hit him. Soon after her father's death, Blondelle purchased property in Alexandria, Virginia, and became involved in historic preservation activities. She restored the home of Dr. James Craik, the surgeon general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and the physician to George Washington. She also purchased a second home in the same neighborhood; after she restored it, she maintained it as her studio for several years. In addition to her interests in historic preservation, Blondelle continued to paint for several more years. While living in the Washington, D.C., area she became enamored with the flowering cherry trees and many of her later pieces reflect this. Unfortunately, the impact of an automobile accident and old age curtailed Blondelle's artistic career in the 1940s.

In the last few years of her life, Blondelle's health declined to the point where she could no longer look after herself. Initially she moved into a hotel in Alexandria but eventually she needed more care so she returned to Columbia. Blondelle died on June 25th in a Columbia nursing home. In the months before her death, though, she agreed to donate her papers to the Caroliniana Library and her remaining artwork to the Columbia Museum of Art. Ironically, her legacy remains in the very place she always tried so desperately to leave.

Chronology

1877: Blondelle Octavia Edwards Malone was born to Miles Alexander and Sarah Glenn (Jones) Malone on November 16th near Bostwick, Georgia. The family lived in Augusta, Georgia, until around 1883 when they moved to Columbia, South Carolina. The Malones lived at 1517 Gervais Street.

1892-96: At age fifteen, Blondelle entered Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a special student.

1897: Studied briefly at the New York School of Applied Design for Women. Transferred to the New York School of Art.

1898: Blondelle returned to Columbia and was presented by the South Carolina Club at the State Ball on November 17th.

1899-1900: Returned to New York to continue her art studies at the Art Students' League.

1900: Exhibited book cover designs at the Architectural League in New York. Contacted by Harper & Brothers Publishers and Charles Scribners' Sons Publishers; both companies expressed an interest in seeing more of her work. In March, Blondelle received a check for $25 from Charles Scribners' Sons Publishers for two designs.

1901-02: Left from Columbia for California. Spent time painting in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, and Pacific Grove.

1903: Set sail for Yokohama, Japan, from Portland, Oregon, on January 26th. Arrived in Yokohama in early March. Painted for a year in Japan.

1904: In February, left Japan for Paris. Traveled through Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and Europe. While in Venice, met English painters Walter Richard Sickert and Henry Simpson, who became Blondelle's life-long friends.

1904: Made the acquaintance of the widow of Impressionist artist Camille Pissarro and the French portrait artist, Jacques Blanche. In Giverny, France, Blondelle met Claude Monet. Painted his garden in December.

1905: Returned to Columbia, South Carolina, in December.

1906: Sailed from Charleston to New York in June. Went with Mrs. Swinburne (a fellow student from the Art Students' League) to Newport, Rhode Island, where they summered and painted.

1909-10: Returned to Europe. Traveled throughout Europe before arriving in France. In France, Blondelle received a letter of introduction to Auguste Rodin from Jacques Blanche. She visited Rodin on several occasions. Arrived in Eragny, France, in October 1910. Reestablished contact with Madame Camille Pissarro and stayed with her until December. In December, Blondelle relocated to Paris.

1911: Exhibited oil paintings and watercolors at Salon d'Automne I and at the 21st Exhibition of the Société Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris. Her critically acclaimed painting of Pissarro's garden was displayed at the latter. Accepted into the Lyceum Club of France in February. From November to December, Blondelle exhibited with the New English Art Club at the Galleries of the Royal Society of British Artists. She also exhibited with the Society of American Women in London at the invitation of Mildred Hoover (daughter-in-law of Herbert Hoover).

1912: Blondelle spent a great deal of time painting gardens in England. From there, she traveled to Italy and Greece before she returned to France.

1913: Exhibited her works at the Lyceum Club and at the Salon de la Societe Internationale d'Aquarellistes (both in Paris). Accepted into the London Lyceum Club. Spent Christmas at Barbizon, France, at the home of Monsieur and Madame J. Francois Millet (the son and daughter-in-law of the French artist of the same name).

1914: In January Blondelle exhibited at the American Art Students' Club in Paris. In February, she exhibited at the Galerie Bontet de Monvel. William Nash, founder of the Corn Exchange Bank in New York, met with Blondelle in Paris. He purchased ten paintings and commissioned her to paint several more in Ireland.

1915: Blondelle's parents fell ill and traveled to a Chicago health facility to seek treatment. Mrs. Malone died on November 30th, and Blondelle returned from Ireland to Columbia, South Carolina. She would not return to Europe again.

Ca 1916: Blondelle purchased a home and set up a studio in Aiken, South Carolina.

Ca 1920-24: Moved to New York. Rented a studio in Carnegie Hall. Exhibited at the Women's University Club, Misses Hill Studio, Babcock Gallery, and in various smaller galleries throughout the state. Met art critics Mary Taft of the New York Times and Lula Merrick of the New York Post - both women became devoted sponsors and admirers of Blondelle. Taft dubbed Blondelle “the Garden Artist of America.”

1925: Blondelle hosted an exhibit of her Japanese paintings. She used the proceeds to purchase a radio for St. Luke's Hospital in Tokyo.

Ca 1926: Moved to Washington, DC. Sold the Gervais Street property. Rented a studio at the Wardman Park Hotel.

1930: Her father died as a result of injuries sustained when an automobile hit him as he crossed the street in Columbia on September 21st. Soon after her father's death, Blondelle moved to Alexandria, Virginia, and became involved in historic preservation activities. She maintained a studio address in the capital city at 1520 Wisconsin Avenue.

1933: Blondelle purchased and restored the Alexandria, Virginia, home of Dr. James Craik, surgeon general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and physician to George Washington.

Ca 1938: Blondelle purchased the Wayles House in Alexandria, Virginia. After restoring it, she used it as her studio.

1947: Moved to the George Mason Hotel in Alexandria. At seventy years old, she was a semi-invalid.

1951: Died on June 25th in a Columbia, South Carolina, nursing home. In her will, she left her papers to the South Caroliniana Library on the stipulation that her biography be written. In 1953, Louise Jones DuBose, former director of the University of South Carolina Press, wrote Enigma. Blondelle donated most of her artwork to the Columbia Museum of Art.

Physical Location

This collection is held by the South Carolinina Library, 900 Sumter St. Columbia, SC 29208. All collections are currently housed off-site and require 24-hours advance notice to retrieve. Please call (803) 777-3132 or email sclref@sc.edu to request materials.

Description of Series

Personal Papers, 1800-1956 (bulk 1894-1951) (Boxes 1-12). Correspondence, journals, newspaper clippings, exhibit catalogs, invitations, genealogical charts, calling cards, membership cards, real estate materials, legal documents, booklets, brochures.

Artwork, ca 1900-1940, nd (Box 13). Oversize flat files. Framed art shelves. Arranged by subject. Includes original works of art, sketches, photographs of art.

Photographs, ca 1870-1940, nd (Box 13-14). Oversize flat files. Arranged by subject. Black and white photographs of various sizes. Glass plate negatives, slides.

Repository Details

Part of the South Caroliniana Library Repository

Contact:
910 Sumter St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA
803-777-3131
(803) 777-5747 (Fax)

Status
Completed
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script