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Guide to the Marian Stoll Letters to Elizabeth Morison

MSN/MN 5024

 

Collection Summary

Title: Marian Stoll letters to Elizabeth Morison
Dates: 1928-1938
Collection No.: MSN/MN 5024
Creator: Stoll, Marian, 1879-1960
Extent: 27 folders; 1 container; .5 linear feet
Language: Collection material in English.
Repository: University of Notre Dame. Hesburgh Libraries, Department of Special Collections. 102 Hesburgh Library, Notre Dame, IN 46556
Abstract: A collection of 100 manuscript personal letters written by American textile artist Marian Stoll to her friend Elizabeth Morison, all dated between 1928 and 1938. The letters describe aspects of her professional life as well as her experiences living in Paris, Athens, and later, the U.S.

Selected Search Terms

Stoll, Marian, 1879-1960
Textile artists
Women artists -- 20th century
Expatriate artists -- Foreign countries -- 20th century -- Intellectual life
Letters -- 20th century

Administrative Information

Restrictions: There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Marian Stoll Letters to Elizabeth Morison, [Folder no.], Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Hesburgh Libraries of Notre Dame.

Acquisition and Processing Note: The Marian Stoll Letters to Elizabeth Morison were acquired by the Hesburgh Libraries in 2016, from Michael Brown Rare Books of Philadelphia. Arranged and described 2017, by Debra Dochuk and George Rugg. Finding aid 2017, by Debra Dochuk and George Rugg.

Biographical Note

Marian Stoll (1879-1960) was an American textile artist. She was born on 15 February 1879 in Waterbury, Connecticut, the daughter of Roswell Buck (1841-1915) and Minnie Donaldson (b. 1856). By 1900 Stoll was attending classes in the Department of Fine and Applied Art at the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, in Philadelphia. In 1902 she married Hugo Leon Stoll (1879-1961), an electrical engineering student at the school. Passport records from 1903 indicate Stoll's profession as "artist." From 1908-10 and 1911-16 Stoll lived in Germany, mainly in Munich, where she continued to study and practice embroidery. She also made two prolonged visits to Vienna, where she became familiar with the fine Austrian wools she would long favor in her work. Marian and Leon Stoll divorced in 1911 or 1912; they had no children. In February 1916 Stoll moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where she worked as a clerk for the Agence internationale des prisonniers de guerre (AIPG), organized by the Red Cross in the early months of World War I. In October 1920 she settled in Oxford, England.

In Oxford Stoll began to gain a measure of recognition as an artist. As she later summarized her mature aesthetic: "After having done a good deal of professional embroidery in Vienna and in England, I came to think I might be able to paint in wool. So I set out to test my hypothesis. For a long time now, I have felt that a needle with wool was just as respectable and legitimate a medium for serious painting as any other, and so I have deliberatley gone after painters' objectives, such as light effects, recession, volume, aerial perspective, atmospheric quality, texture etc. . . . it ought to become obvious that wool used in this way has possibilities far beyond certain much admired media—for instance, it is a hundred times more flexible than tapestry work, whose legitimacy has never been questioned. And it is tied to no formal stitch; it's as free and supple as oils, aquarelle or pastel—what more could one ask?" (Georgiana Harbeson Brown, American Needlework, New York, 1938, 185). Some critics were impressed. Of a show of Stoll's embroideries held at the Oxford Arts Club in 1925, a critic wrote, ". . .all of one's preconceived ideas about the purpose and function of needlework and all reflections on traditional embroidery took flight in the first glance around this amazing exhibition." Even so, her search for financial support remained a difficult one. Of great assistance to her at this time was Lady Ottoline Morrell, a well-known patron of the arts with whom Stoll became friends. Lady Morrell lived in Bloomsbury and kept a country home in Garsington, near Oxford, in which she entertained artists, writers, and philosophers. Through her relationship with Morrell and regular visits to the Garsington house, Stoll made acquaintances with several literary and artistic elites. Her list of private clients steadily expanded to include luminaries like Siegfried Sassoon, Aldous Huxley, John Masefield. Lytton Strachey, Lady Gwendolen Churchill, Bertrand Russell, and Alexander Woollcott. By the late 1920s, Stoll had gained further success, exhibiting in Paris, New York, Chicago and Brussels as her art grew in popularity.

It was during her time in England—and thanks to Morrell—that Stoll met Elizabeth "Bessie" Morison (1886-1945), wife of historian Samuel Eliot Morison, then a professor of American History at Oxford. Stoll and the Morisons developed a close relationship, detailed in this collection, that would last for many years.

In 1928 Stoll left Oxford for Paris. Then, due to mounting financial difficulties, she moved to Greece in 1933. Stoll explained to Morison that "we're all at the mercy of the crisis and mine isn't the only career ruined by a long shot." But amid the Great Depression, life in Greece proved costly as well, so—likely at the urging of Elizabeth Morison—Stoll returned to the United States in 1935. Demoralized, despondent at having to leave Europe without her wools, facing a bleak economic future, Stoll relied on the Morisons for moral and financial support. They paid the costs to have her wools and belongings shipped from Europe to the United States and found her housing in Connecticut. Despite these initial difficulties, Stoll's fortunes did improve. Through Alexander Woollcott, an old acquaintance from Garsington House, she was introduced to Eleanor Butler Roosevelt, wife of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. Eleanor was an avid embroider and an admirer of Stoll's work, which she first encountered in Woollcott's New York City apartment. As a result of the meeting an exhibit was organized at the Arden Galleries in New York. Stoll later reported to Morison that the show was "a huge success," with large and enthusiastic crowds. Stoll sold a number of works, and subsequently wrote to Morison that "there will be enough to get me out of the red." In 1939 her career received an additional boost when she was asked by the Society of Designers and Craftsmen to display her work at the New York World's Fair.

Stoll's professional life expanded in subsequent years. In addition to continuing work on her embroidery, she wrote articles about her art and artistic expression for publications like Studio Magazine. In 1940 she was profiled in Life. As her popularity increased, Stoll's financial status did as well, in no small part because of her own investments in "very sound stock." She would spend the remainder of her life living and working in Connecticut. She died on 17 May 1960, in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Scope and Content Note

With two exceptions, the 102 personal letters making up this collection were directed by Marian Stoll to Elizabeth Morison between January 1928 and July 1938. They were written from 1) France (41 letters, March 1928 to October 1933; 2) Greece (22 letters, November 1933 to September 1935; and 3) Connecticut (38 letters, October 1935 to July 1938. They are densely written, and are primarily concerned with Stoll's own personal, financial, and professional affairs. Among the topics commonly raised are: her art dealings, including the difficulties she faced earning a living from her art, and the impact of the Depression on her finances and lifestyle; her health and illnesses; and literature and theater of the day. She also describes current political and military events, some personally witnessed, as well as descriptions of the places she lived in or visited. The letters are very conversational, even gossipy, with much discussion of the whereabouts and activities of friends and acquaintances. Persons most frequently mentioned include Samuel Eliot Morison, mutual friends Julian and Juliette Huxley, and Alexander Woollcott. The two additional letters include one written by Stoll to Samuel Eliot Morison (7 May 1935), and another written by an unidentified author to Elizabeth Morison.

Arrangement Note

The letters are arranged chronologically, with multiple items per folder.

Related Material

Other letters written by Marian Stoll are contained in the Alexander Woollcott Correspondence (MS Am 1449) at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and in the Ottoline Morrell Collection at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Container List

  • Series 1: Letters 
    • Folder 1 (MSN/MN 5024-1) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France to Elizabeth Morison, SS 1928 March-August. 5 ALsS, some with envelopes.
      • Folder 2 (MSN/MN 5024-2) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1928 October-December. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
        • Folder 3 (MSN/MN 5024-3) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts and Oxford, England, 1929 January-May. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
          • Folder 4 (MSN/MN 5024-4) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1929 July-December. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
            • Folder 5 (MSN/MN 5024-5) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1930 January-April. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
              • Folder 6 (MSN/MN 5024-6) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Murren, Switzerland, SS California, and Boston, Massachusetts, 1930 July-December. 5 ALsS, with envelopes.
                • Folder 7 (MSN/MN 5024-7) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Seal Cove, Maine, Boston, Massachusetts, and Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1931 April-November. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
                  • Folder 8 (MSN/MN 5024-8) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1932 March-December. 3 ALsS, with envelopes, and an enclosure.
                    Folder contains a photograph of Marian Stoll.
                    • Folder 9 (MSN/MN 5024-9) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, and Peterborough, New Hampshire, 1933 January-June. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
                      • Folder 10 (MSN/MN 5024-10) Letters: Marian Stoll, Paris, France and Athens, Greece to Elizabeth Morison, Seal Cove, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts, 1933 August-December. 5 ALsS, with envelopes.
                        • Folder 11 (MSN/MN 5024-11) Letters: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts and Naples, Italy, 1934 February-June. 4 ALsS, with envelopes.
                          • Folder 12 (MSN/MN 5024-12) Letters: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Munich, Germany and Oxford, England, 1934 August-September. 3 ALsS, with envelopes.
                            • Folder 13 (MSN/MN 5024-13) Letters: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1934 October-December. 3 ALsS, with envelopes.
                              • Folder 14 (MSN/MN 5024-14) Letters: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1935 January-May. 5 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                • Folder 15 (MSN/MN 5024-15) Letters: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts and Seal Cove, Maine, 1935 June-August. 5 ALsS, some with envelopes.
                                  • Folder 16 (MSN/MN 5024-16) Letter: Marian Stoll, Athens, Greece, to Elizabeth Morison, Seal Cove, Maine, 1935 September. 1 ALS, with envelope.
                                    • Folder 17 (MSN/MN 5024-17) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1935 October-December. 5 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                      • Folder 18 (MSN/MN 5024-18) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1936 January-March. 7 ALsS, some with envelopes.
                                        • Folder 19 (MSN/MN 5024-19) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts and Paris, France, 1936 April-July. 4 ALsS, some with envelopes.
                                          • Folder 20 (MSN/MN 5024-20) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, New York, New York, 1936 September. 2 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                            • Folder 21 (MSN/MN 5024-21) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1936 October-December. 6 ALsS, some with envelopes.
                                              • Folder 22 (MSN/MN 5024-22) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1937 January-March. 5 ALsS, some with envelopes.
                                                • Folder 23 (MSN/MN 5024-23) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Boston, Massachusetts, 1937 April-June. 3 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                                  • Folder 24 (MSN/MN 5024-24) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Seal Cove, Maine, 1937 August. 2 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                                    • Folder 25 (MSN/MN 5024-25) Letters: Marian Stoll, Woodbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, London, England, 1938 January-March. 2 ALsS, one with an envelope, and an enclosure.
                                                      • Folder 26 (MSN/MN 5024-26) Letters: Marian Stoll, Southbury, Connecticut, to Elizabeth Morison, Oxford, England and Paris, France, 1938 May-July. 2 ALsS, with envelopes.
                                                        • Folder 27 (MSN/MN 5024-27) Letter: Unidentified, Vienna, Austria, to Elizabeth Morison, Oxford, England, 1929 May. 1 ALS, with envelope.