Request Checked Items

Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup
Search Collections

W. H. Crain:

An Inventory of His Costume and Scenic Design Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Crain, W. H., 1917-1988
Title: W. H. Crain Costume and Scenic Design Collection
Inclusive Dates: ca. 1650-1993
Bulk Dates: bulk 1900-1960
Extent: Original inventory: 4 document boxes, 32 oversize boxes, 301 oversize folders (16.8 linear feet); Addition: 1 document box, 1 oversize box, 3 oversize folders (0.84 linear feet)
Abstract: The bulk of the W. H. Crain Costume and Scenic Design Collection, ca. 1650-1993, consists of original renderings of costumes and scenic design for various types of performances. Though the work of French, British, and Russian artists is present, the emphasis is firmly on twentieth-century American designers. Noteable artists include Edward Gordon Craig, Léon Bakst, Alexandre Benois, Percy Anderson, Lemuel Ayers, Cecil Beaton, Attilio Comelli, Archie Gunn, James Henderson, Houghton, Robert Edmond Jones, Charles Karl, William Henry Mathews, Sidney H. Sime, Ernest Stern, and Dolly Tree.
RLIN Record #: TXRC00-A10
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Purchases and gifts, 1965-1998

Provenance:

W. H. Crain was senior curator of the Theater Arts Collection from 1970 until his retirement in 1994. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, he joined the staff of the Ransom Center in 1965. Throughout his tenure at the Center he assembled and augmented this collection with purchases from a variety of sources.

Processed by:

Helen Baer and Toni Alfau, 1999-2000; Helen Adair and Katie Causier, 2006; Helen Adair, 2007

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin


The bulk of the W. H. Crain Costume and Scenic Design Collection, ca. 1650-1993, consists of original renderings of costume and scenic designs for plays, operas, ballets, revues, and films, augmented by works of art on paper, costumes, prints, and other material. The collection is arranged in four series: I. Artists, ca. 1650-1993 (33.5 boxes, 280 oversize folders), II. French Music-Hall, ca. 1920-55 (0.5 box, 16 oversize folders), III. Toy Theater Prints, ca. 1830-50, nd (1.5 boxes, 4 oversize folders), and IV. Sources, 1851-ca. 1960 (0.5 box, 1 oversize folder). Within each series, material is arranged alphabetically by name of artist or production title, or chronologically as appropriate. In addition to providing a description of the contents and the location of each folder in the collection, the Item List includes supplemental information for all of the renderings and other works of art in Series I and II, viz. the artist's name, the number of items, and an indication of the media used. Series I can be accessed by title of work via the Index of Production Titles following the Item List.

Represented in the Artists series are over eighty costume and scenic designers ranging from the Bibienas in the seventeenth century to Jo Mielziner. Though the work of French, British, and Russian artists is present, the emphasis is firmly on twentieth-century American designers. The series is divided into two subseries: A. Renderings, ca. 1650-1993, and B. Other Materials, 1819-1979. Both subseries are arranged alphabetically by name of artist, then chronologically, with unidentified artists placed at the end. Subseries A contains over 850 study sketches and preliminary and final renderings executed in a variety of media for productions staged in the United States and Europe. Included are woodcuts by Edward Gordon Craig; renderings by Léon Bakst and Alexandre Benois for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russe; Mielziner sketches covering nearly his entire career, including work done while an apprentice to Robert Edmond Jones; a large group of Luigi Bartezago renderings, presumably for productions staged at La Scala; several sketches by the Constructivists Aleksandra Exter and Boris Aronson; and a number of costume designs for the Ziegfeld Follies by James Reynolds. Also included are a small number of original sketches attributed to the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century artists Jean Bérain, Fabrizio Galliari, Pietro Gottardo Gonzaga, and members of the Bibiena family. Though many artists are represented by a few items, the series includes at least ten sketches for Percy Anderson, Lemuel Ayers, Cecil Beaton, Attilio Comelli, Archie Gunn, James Henderson, Houghton, Robert Edmond Jones, Charles Karl, William Henry Mathews, Sidney H. Sime, Ernest Stern, and Dolly Tree. Item-level descriptions of Ernest Stern's renderings for White Horse Inn are available in an earlier finding aid in the Reading Room.

Subseries B contains materials that relate to specific artists but which are not renderings. Included here are ephemera, reproductions of renderings, works of art on paper, such as Edward Gordon Craig's non-theatrical woodcuts, and other formats. Notable items are costumes by Bakst and Nicholas Roerich for Ballet Russe productions of Narcisse and Le sacre du printemps; an Edward Gordon Craig set model; nearly seventy slides of Arch Lauterer designs; a portfolio of material pertaining to Edward Gorey's sets and costumes for Dracula; scrapbooks containing small renderings by R. Bööcke, Jo Mielziner, and Georgii A. Pozhedaev; a small number of letters by Benois and his daughter Anna Tcherkessof to Elizabeth Hudson and Antonina Fedorovna; and prints showing the work of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century artists Giuseppe Bibiena, Alfonso Parigi, and Alessandro Sanquirico.

The French Music-Hall series, ca. 1920-55, contains souvenir programs and original costume and scenic designs. Although many of the renderings are probably from the Folies-Bergère, it is likely that other Parisian venues are represented. The bulk of the series comprises renderings for showgirls' costumes by Ranson, Alec Shanks, and Zig, and scenic designs by Dany. The material in this series was purchased from a single source.

The Toy Theater Prints series, ca. 1830-50, nd, contains colorful plates intended for children that show the characters and settings for plays. The bulk of the series consists of prints for over twenty plays that were popular enough in London for British publishers to issue sets of plates as children's versions; however, the prints in this series do not constitute complete sets. The plates, most of which were published by Benjamin Pollock, I. J. Dyer and Co., or John Redington, are arranged alphabetically by title; unidentified plays and a few non-alphabetical groupings are placed at the end. Completing the series are four folders of undated French and German toy theater prints published by Imagerie Pellerin and Verlag J. F. Schreiber. Item-level descriptions of most of the toy theater prints are available in an earlier finding aid in the Reading Room.

The Sources series, 1851-ca. 1960, contains photographs, promotional materials, sheet music, and clippings which illustrate popular styles of dress. Also included is a reproduction of a modern artist's rendering of dancers in an eighteenth-century ballet.

Researchers will find related material in the Costume and Scenic Design Collection and the Robert Downing Papers. The Theater Arts Collection includes the papers of the theatrical designers Boris Aronson, Norman Bel Geddes, Eldon Elder, Gordon Conway, and James B. Newton, and the records of the costume firm of B. J. Simmons and Co.


The finding aid for the W. H. Crain Costume and Scenic Design Collection is a conflation of the original inventory created in 2000, and of a small addition that was catalogued in 2006 and 2007. Currently the addition is described only by a Folder List which has been appended to the original inventory, using the series arrangement established with the original inventory and continuing the box and folder numbering sequence. The Scope and Contents note and Index of Production Titles do not make reference to the addition, and the RLIN record for the collection summarizes the material in the original inventory only.