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Carlton Lake:

An Inventory of His Literary File Photography Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Lake, Carlton, 1915-2006
Title: Carlton Lake Literary File Photography Collection
Dates: circa 1850s-1980s (bulk 1900-1960)
Extent: 2,285 items
Abstract: The result of six decades of collecting French literary materials, Carlton Lake's photograph collection is a comprehensive gathering depicting important French literary and artistic figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The photographs are arranged in a single alphabetical sequence by the name of the person who either owned or is the subject of the photographs, and date from the 1850s through the 1970s (bulk 1900-1960), though most are undated.
Call Number: Photography Collection PH-02754
Language: English and French
Access: Open for research. Please note: Transparencies may be accessed but require 24 hours advance notice. Negatives cannot be accessed without curatorial approval. To make an appointment or to reserve photography materials, please email Visual Materials Reference staff. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation Carlton Lake Literary File Photography Collection (Photography Collection PH-02754). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchases and gifts, 1966-2004 (R3087, R4833, R5161, R4833, R5881-5886, R7146-7149, G846, G2284, R13375, G101713, G12083)
Processed by: Monique Daviau, Jennifer Hecker, 2005; Kait Dorsky, 2018

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin,

Biographical Sketch

Over a period of six decades, Carlton Lake gathered together what has become the most extensive collection of modern French literary research materials anywhere outside of Paris. He collected books, photographs, artwork, and other original documents in addition to manuscripts. The collection covers a broad range of French writers, artists, and musicians, such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Samuel Beckett, André Breton, Albert Camus, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Claude Debussy, Marcel Duchamp, André Gide, Alfred Jarry, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Ravel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Erik Satie, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Valéry.
Carlton Lake was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, on September 7, 1915. He attended Boston University and graduated summa cum laude in 1936. The following year he graduated with a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After the war, he pursued his doctorate at New York University, but he ultimately abandoned his dissertation to become a freelance writer.
From 1950 to 1965 he was Paris art critic for The Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed to a number of other American and European periodicals, such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Town and Country, and The Atlantic Monthly, which published his interviews with such artists as Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Henry Moore, and Alberto Giacometti. Lake also co-edited A Dictionary of Modern Painting in 1956, and he and wrote, edited, and translated books about Chagall, Picasso, and Salvador Dali.
Carlton Lake came to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in 1968, ultimately serving as Curator of the French Collection, Acting Director, and Executive Curator. His impressive collection of French materials was added to the Ransom Center collections in the late 1960s. In 1976, the collection was the subject of a major exhibition, Baudelaire to Beckett, that focused international scholarly attention on its strong manuscript resources, which numbered approximately 350,000 pieces. Since then, other significant exhibitions based on Carlton Lake Collection material have been devoted to Samuel Beckett (1984) and Henri Pierre Roché (1991). In addition, art and literary materials from the Collection have been loaned to many French, European, and American exhibitions held by such institutions as the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Grolier Club, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Lake Collection has also been a principal source for two literary exhibitions held at the Centre Pompidou: Paris -New York, and Les Réalismes.
In 1985, Lake was decorated by the French government and inducted into L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres with the rank of Chevalier; later he became an Officier. In 1990, he published his memoirs, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist, detailing his adventures purchasing and collecting French literary materials. In 2003, Lake retired from the Ransom Center with the title of Executive Curator Emeritus. Lake died on May 5, 2006 at the age of ninety.


Ashton, Linda. Biography of Carlton Lake. Unpublished.
Lake, Carlton. Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist. New York: New Directions, 1990.

Scope and Contents

The result of six decades of collecting French literary materials, Carlton Lake's photography collection is a comprehensive gathering of images that depict important French literary and artistic figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The photographs are arranged in a single alphabetical sequence by the name of the person who either owned the photographs or was the subject of the photographs, and they date from the 1850s through the 1980s (bulk 1900-1960), although most are undated.
Lake collected photographs from such artists and writers as Walter Arensberg, Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, Constantin Brancusi, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Gustave Coquiot, Paul Fort, André Gide, Sisley Huddleston, Valentine Hugo, James Joyce, Marie Laurencin, Pierre Louys, Man Ray, Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso, Maurice Ravel, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri-Pierre Roché, John Quinn, Erik Satie, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Paul Valéry, Emile Vuillermoz, and Beatrice Wood, among others. These photographs mostly depict the artist or writer and his or her friends and family. There are also many interior design photographs as well as pictures taken at art galleries and of art collections. Photographs of Cocteau's production of Romeo and Juliet are located here, as is Vuillermoz's collection of celebrity portraiture. A large collection of personal photographs of Roché and his friends and family is also present. An Index of Subjects is available at the end of this finding aid.
Photographers represented in this collection include Robert Capa, Robert Doisneau, Cecil Beaton, Fritz Henle, Jacques Faujour, Nadar, Man Ray, Darthea Speyer, Ella Maillart, Claude Michaelides, Soichi Sunami, Waléry, Roger Villiers, Carl Van Vechten, André Lefebvre, Suse Byk, Georges Alliè, Constantin Brancusi, Françoise Gilot, Richard Heyd, and Emile Otto Hoppé, among others. Consult the Index of Photographers at the end of this finding aid for a complete listing of identified photographers.
Types of photographs included in this collection include portrait photography, family snapshots, series by renowned photographers of prominent artists, vacation photos, annual school portraits, wedding albums, custom postcards, and slides. Largely composed of black and white silver gelatin prints, the collection also includes daguerreotypes, tintypes, cartes-de-visite, cabinet cards, photomechanical prints, and photographic postcards. Some of these photographs are duplicates and some have an accompanying negative. Many folders include typed or handwritten notes describing images, some of which may have been written by Lake. Within the finding aid, descriptions placed within quotation marks are directly transcribed from the item or accompanying materials.
Prior to 1990, photographs were routinely separated from manuscript collections during cataloging at the Ransom Center. This collection was formed in this manner. Most photographs accessioned since 1990 have been kept with related manuscripts, see the Carlton Lake Collection of French Manuscripts (MS-04960) for further photographic materials collected by Carlton Lake.

Related Material

Manuscripts and additional photographs by and collected by Carlton Lake can be found in the Carlton Lake Collection of French Manuscripts (MS-04960) at the Harry Ransom Center. Lake's collection of fine art can be found in the Carlton Lake Art Collection (AR-00148).

Index Terms


Art, French--19th century.
Art, French--20th century.
French literature--19th century.
French literature--20th century.

Document Types

Black-and-white negatives.
Cabinet photographs.
Cartes-de-visite (card photographs).
Copy prints.
Gelatin silver prints.
Photograph albums.
Photographic prints.
Photomechanical prints.

Container List