Thérèse Bonney: Art Collector, Photojournalist, Francophile, Cheese Lover

Thérèse Bonney aboard the S.S. Siboney, en route to Portugal, 1941.

Thérèse Bonney aboard the S.S. Siboney, en route to Portugal, 1941. BANC PIC 1982.111 series 3, NNEG box 49, item 19

Pioneering war correspondent and Cal grad Mabel Thérèse Bonney (1894-1978) was decorated with the Croix de Guerre and the Legion d’Honneur by the French government, and the Order of the White Rose of Finland for her work during World War II. Her photographs were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Library of Congress, and Carnegie Hall during her lifetime. Her work on children displaced by war spurred the United Nations to create their international children’s emergency fund, UNICEF, in 1946, and inspired the Academy Award-winning film The Search in 1948. Yet in the canon of female war photographers that includes contemporaries such as Lee Miller, Margaret Bourke-White, and Toni Frissell, Bonney rarely receives mention. Bonney was a renaissance woman whose life deserves further study, and her collections at the Bancroft Library are ripe for discovery. Manuscript Archivist Marjorie Bryer has processed The Thérèse Bonney papers, and Pictorial Archivist Sara Ferguson has digitized over 2,500 previously inaccessible nitrate negatives from the Thérèse Bonney Photograph Collection.

ART CONNOISSEUR

While living in Paris in the 1920s and 1930s, Bonney modeled for fashion designers like Sonia Delaunay and Madeleine Vionnet, and became friends with many of the most famous artists and writers of her day, including Raoul Dufy, Gertrude Stein, and George Bernard Shaw. In 1924 Bonney founded an international photo service that licensed images acquired in France for publication in the U.S. She was often dissatisfied with the images she distributed, and this inspired her to take up photography herself. Bonney wrote about, and took photographs of, many of the artists and writers in her life throughout the twenties, thirties, and forties.

PHOTOJOURNALISM AND WAR RELIEF EFFORTS

Bonney photographed throughout Europe during World War II, focusing on the effects of war on the civilian population. Her photographs of children were particularly moving and resulted in her most famous work, the exhibit and book, Europe’s ChildrenBonney was actively involved with relief efforts after the war, particularly in the Alsace region of France. She also founded a number of organizations dedicated to promoting friendship between citizens of France and the United States, and improving Franco-American political relations. One effort, the Chain d’Amite, encouraged French families to open their homes to American G.I.s; another, Project Patriotism, inspired airmen who were shot down in France to help the families that had rescued them. Project Patriotism eventually spread to other European countries, including the Netherlands. Marjorie’s father-in-law, Peter, was a teenager when Germany invaded the Netherlands during the war. He was sent to live with relatives in the Dutch countryside so he wouldn’t be conscripted. One of Peter’s most moving stories was about the American pilot his family hid when his plane crashed on the family farm. Bonney’s papers include many poignant letters from U.S. soldiers and, while processing the collection, Marjorie wondered what this airman from Brooklyn might have written about his experiences with his Dutch “family.”

LOVER OF CHEESE

Bonney’s many interests included food and cooking. She and her sister, Louise, wrote a guide to Paris restaurants and a cookbook, French cooking for American kitchens. Her papers include her research on cheese, which she referred to as “Project Fromage.” Series 7 of Bonney’s papers include meticulous notes on various cheeses from France and the Netherlands, “technical” correspondence about cheese, and materials related to tyrosemiophilia — the hobby of collecting cheese labels.

EVERYDAY PEOPLE AND LIFE DURING WARTIME 

Bonney documented daily life during wartime across Europe. She recorded entire communities — their families, customs, and industries, their artists and politicians, their schools, and their churches. Her papers and photographs show not only the horrors of war but the hope and perseverance of those who lived through it.

NOW AVAILABLE AT THE BANCROFT LIBRARY! 

Newly digitized portions of the pictorial collection include Series 6: France, Germany 1944-1946. This series includes photographs of concentration camps Vaihingen, Buchenwald, and Dachau; Displaced Person camps; Neuschwanstein Castle; and Hermann Göring’s Collection of art looted by the Nazi’s. It also includes many images of the heavily bombarded town of Ammerschwihr in Alsace, France and war relief efforts there. Future digitization efforts will focus on Series 3, Carnegie Corporation Trip: Portugal, Spain, France 1941-1942.  This series consists of images taken while on a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to document the effects of war on civilian populations. It includes images of military personnel, civilian industries, and Red Cross operations. Famous personalities pictured in this series include Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Georges Roualt, Gertrude Stein, Philippe Petain, Raoul Dufy, and Aristide Maillol.

Bonney’s papers help contextualize her photographs. They include correspondence; personal materials; her writings (autobiographical and articles about others); and her files on World War II, Franco-American relations, art, fashion, photography, and cheese.

Both collections are open for research:

Finding Aid to the Thérèse Bonney Photograph Collection, circa 1850-circa 1955 (bulk 1930-1945)

Finding Aid to the Thérèse Bonney Papers 

— Marjorie Bryer and Sara Ferguson


New Databases: Photography: The World through the Lens; Classic Mexican Cinema Online; and askART

The Library has subscribed to three new databases of visual content available to all UC Berkeley patrons:

Photography: The World through the Lens

gale

The invention of photography represented a turning point in nineteenth-century culture and visual experience. For the first time, there was a means to capture an accurate and true portrayal of the people, places, and events that would shape history. As a complement to studies of history, culture, media, and many other disciplines, Photography: The World Through the Lens provides the visual evidence to support and supplement written sources.

Photography: The World Through the Lens assembles collections of photographs, photograph albums, photographically illustrated books, and texts on the early history of photography found in libraries and archives across the globe. The nineteenth century was about changes in family and society, invention and scientific discovery, exploration and colonization, urban versus rural life, work, leisure and travel — all this is captured in photographs. Photography: The World Through the Lens delivers around 2 million photographs from Britain, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

 

Classic Mexican Cinema Online

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The Golden Age of Mexican cinema is illuminated in this collection of popular movie periodicals. It includes magazines such as Cinema Reporter (1943-1965), Cine Mundial (1951-1955), and El Cine Gráfico. From the Archives of the Filmoteca of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Mexican cinema, from its beginnings in the late 1890s to its Golden Age (1930s to 1960), was consistently the largest and most important of all the Spanish-speaking countries. Over 40,000 images from Mexican Cinema are included.

askART

askart

askART provides access to artists’ profiles, images, literature references, biographies, auction records, art for sale and art wanted, essays on important art movements, and statistics on the markets. Millions of auction records and results (from 1987+). 300,000+ worldwide artists.

 

 

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Now Online: Images from Glass Negatives of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Palace of Fine Arts building, Panama-Pacific International Exposition
Palace of Fine Arts (BANC PIC 2015.013:50522–NEG)

The Bancroft Pictorial Processing Unit is proud to announce that The Edward A. Rogers collection of Cardinell-Vincent Company and Panama-Pacific International Exposition Photographs has been organized, archivally housed, individually listed, and made (substantially) available online. This work was accomplished over two years, thanks to grant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and, of course, careful hard work on the part of many library staff.

In this blog posting, Project Archivist Lori Hines describes some of the most challenging (and rewarding) work; preserving and providing access to fragile and often damaged glass negatives.

 

Handling Glass Plate Negatives: A Lesson in Mindfulness

The Rogers collection of Panama Pacific International Exposition photographs, received as a gift in 2014, includes over 2,000 glass negatives. These fragile items required special handling and archival containers with padding. Hardest to work with were approximately 150 oversize glass negatives ranging from 11 x 14 inches to 12 x 20 inches. Antique glass can become brittle and, of course, is heavy. From handling to wheeling the negatives back and forth to the conservation department and the digital lab, one had to be very conscious of every move and step taken.

Stack of large glass plate negatives

This first photo shows how the negatives were received in the library. Note they have no padding between the plates and there are only original, brittle sleeves to protect them. A stack of ten or fifteen is very heavy and getting your fingers under one, to lift it off the stack, is challenging. The weight of the negatives on top of each other is also a risk — the antique glass can easily crack under the weight.

Large glass negatives in archival box

This photo shows how the negatives have been housed by library staff; vertically with corrugated archival cardboard around each. Our library conservators designed the housing to limit box weight, to provide protective padding, to protect the plates from abrasion as they’re removed, and to make handling safer.

Custom archival box for large glass negatives

 

The largest plates, at 12 x 20 inches, needed another housing solution because it was impractical to store them upright, but the weight of one on another was a concern. The Library’s Conservation Department built custom trays to hold each 12 x 20 negative, with just three plates (and their trays) in an archival box that is stored flat on a cabinet shelf.

 

Handling large glass negative

 

 

 

The negatives are handled on the long side of the glass to offer best support and, during the cleaning, housing, and inventory process, are rested on a piece of thin foam padding to buffer any impact with the work table.

 

 

About 10% of the negatives arrived broken. To be digitized, we had to re-piece the broken negatives together on a supporting sheet of glass, like a puzzle, then hand it off immediately to the photographer in the Library’s Digital Imaging Lab. The glass sheet with the broken negative on top was then placed on a light table, so it was lit from behind, to be captured by the digital camera. The light table and camera are visible in the background of this image.

Staff re-assembling broken glass negatives in the digital imaging lab

 

The results were often quite satisfying,  as can be seen in this example of a badly broken glass negative that was pieced together.

Broken glass negative, re-assembled, of Workmen On Tower
Workmen on tower. Edward A. Rogers collection of Cardinell-Vincent Company and Panama-Pacific International Exposition photographs. BANC PIC 2015.013: 02916–NEG

 

The finding aid describing and listing the entire Rogers collection, with more than 2,000 digital images, may be viewed at the Online Archive of California.

To browse examples of images scanned from broken plates, try searching the finding aid for “negative is broken”, and navigating through the results, or by browsing this Calisphere website search that retrieves just the broken-plate images.

Special thanks go to Christine Huhn and the staff of the Digital Imaging Lab; Hannah Tashjian, Erika Lindensmith, Martha Little, and Emily Ramos  of the Conservation Department; staff of the Library Systems Office and the California Digital Library that worked with us to get the material online; to Gawain Weaver Art Conservation (contractors for preservation and scanning of panoramic film negatives), and to the Bancroft Pictorial Unit team that devoted much or their 2016-2018 work life to this effort: Lori Hines, Lu Ann Sleeper, and a crew of student staff.

 

 


New Donation of Photography Books

The Art History/Classics Library has received a gift of six photography titles from donor Richard Sun. In addition to being the donor of a generous endowment to the Library Fine Arts Collection at Berkeley, Richard Sun annually selects and purchases specific titles for the Library. Here are his most recent selections:

 

yoko my love

Yoko My Love, by Nobuyoshi Araki

 

araki

Sentimental Journey – Winter Journey, aka “Diary Sentimental Journey,”, by Nobuyoshi Araki

 

araki3

Shokuji (The Banquet), by Nobuyoshi Araki

 

dream

The Dream, by Fabio Bucciarelli

 

discordia2

Discordia, by Moises Saman

 

posterestante

Poste Restante, by Christer Strömholm