Scope and Content
Call Number: SC0569
Elsen, Albert Edward, 1927-
Title: Albert Edward Elsen papers
12.5 Linear feet
Language(s): The materials are in English.
Department of Special Collections and University Archives
557 Escondido Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6064
Phone: (650) 725-1022
Administrative transfer from the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, 1999.
Information about Access
Ownership & Copyright
Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain
permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections and University
[Identification of item], Albert Edward Elsen Papers, SC 569, Stanford University Archives, Stanford, Calif.
Albert Elsen, scholar of modern sculpture who specialized in Rodin, was professor of art at Stanford University from 1968
until his death in 1995. He was a pivotal figure in Stanford's acquisition of outdoor sculpture and served as the curator
of the Rodin collection.
Mr. Elsen was born in New York in 1927 and earned all his degrees -- bachelor's, master's and doctoral -- from Columbia University,
where he wrote his dissertation, "Rodin's 'Gates of Hell,' " under the supervision of Meyer Schapiro. After teaching at Carleton
College (1952-1958) and Indiana University, he joined the faculty of Stanford University in 1968.
In a career that spanned more than four decades, Mr. Elsen was known as an expert on late-19th-century and early-20th-century
sculpture and as an outstanding teacher and lecturer. He wrote books on Matisse, Seymour Lipton and Paul Jenkins as well as
several on Rodin, and two surveys of modern sculpture. His published works include
Purposes of Art;
Law, Ethics, and the Visual Arts (with John Henry Merryman);
Origins of Modern Sculpture: Pioneers and Premises; and
Modern European Sculpture 1918-1945.
His former graduate students include many museum professionals, among them Kirk Varnedoe, former chief curator of painting
and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art. Mr. Varnedoe said Mr. Elsen was central in restoring Rodin's reputation, and cited
his 1963 Rodin exhibition at the Modern as the moment the sculptor's work "was annexed into the history of modern art."
Mr. Elsen's activities took him far beyond the library and classroom. He contributed frequently to museum exhibitions and
catalogues, and served as director of the National Gallery's enormous exhibition "Rodin Rediscovered" in 1981. He was an authority
on many facets of the art world, including museum practices, artists' rights, arts legislation, art forgeries and art law.
With John Merryman, a Stanford law professor, he established the first university course on art law in the early 1970's and
also wrote "Laws, Ethics and the Visual Arts." And because of Mr. Elsen, Stanford has not only an extensive collection of
outdoor sculpture, but also the second largest collection of works by Rodin in the world.
In the late 1960's Mr. Elsen was vocal in the heated art world debate on the authenticity of sculptures made from posthumous
casts. As president of the College Art Association from 1974 to 1976, he supervised the drafting of a comprehensive "Statement
on Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventive Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze."
His first marriage, to Patricia Morgan Kline, ended in divorce. He was survived by his second wife, Sharon McClenahan Elsen;
a son, Matthew; two daughters, Nancy McVickar and Katherine, and four grandchildren.
Scope and Content
These papers consist of notes, lectures, articles, and other sources Elsen compiled for the art history courses he taught
at Stanford; course readers; drafts of his published works; transcripts of interviews he did with Bruce Beaseley, Kristina
Branch, John Davis, Louis Finkelstein, Leon Golub, Sue Gussow, Dimitri Hadzi, James Rosati, Miriam Schapiro, and Kenneth Snelson;
subject files on individual artists; and other miscellaneous files.
The course materials were originally kept in 3 ring binders of varying sizes, with some items folded and/or inserted loose
into the divisions. The materials have been removed from the binders and foldered according to the division titles; the course
title is entered on the folder as the series.
Beasley, Bruce,, 1939-
Finkelstein, Louis, 1895-
Golub, Leon,, 1922-2004.
Hadzi, Dimitri,, 1921-2006.
Rosati, James,, 1912-1988.
Schapiro, Miriam,, 1923-
Snelson, Kenneth,, 1927-
Stanford University -- General subdivision--Curricula.;
Stanford University. Department of Art. -- General subdivision--Faculty.;
Art--Study and teaching.