Unpublished biographical documents

James E. and Grace Parmelee Allen

The "James E. Allen papers, 1921-1949" in the Smithsonian and the artist's file in the Smithsonian Library contain a good deal of the personal papers of the artist -- correspondence, sketchbooks, clippings, etc. Much more is still in the hands of his family. They contain valuable glimpses into his life and career in the form of photos, letters, and personal notes. Of particular value is a handful of hand-written and typed biographies from friends, family and the artist himself covering different parts of his life. Original documents are part of the Allen catalog; transcribed texts are provided here.

In addition Allen's great nephew Allen Rizzi has graciously allowed his brief biography that has appeared online in the past to be included here.

For additional biographical sources, see the Citations page in this exhibit. (photo from the Allen Family Papers)

Finally, we have Allen's own words in a short bio as part of a letter dated Aug 5, 1950 concerning his upcoming exhibition at the Rehn Gallery:

Some of the things one needs to know about James E. Allen.

Served overseas in the first world war as a flier. Was able to take advantage of the Cezanne movement, during this and in the intervening time. Returned to Paris in 1925 to study painting and etching and to investigate especially Kandinsky, Malevich, Cezanne, Roualt, and cubistic groups. Also made a trip to England to renew interest in Blake. These, the Chinese painters, Persian painters, Byzantine painters, Giotto and El Greco are his heroes in painting.

He studied painting in Chicago, then came East where he studied extensively. He is grateful to Hans Hoffman for a short but effective bit of teaching.

He was born in the South but was taken to Montana in infancy, where he lived until he was seventeen. He lived on the Continental divide. Mountains of all kinds, shapes, and sizes surrounded him. He had to make the most of them. They could make or break him. Because of this, these forms are his most natural means of expression. Due to the exigencies of raising a family, it is only in the past few years that he has been able to concentrate entirely on his painting. During these years he has exhibited painting occasionally in the yearly shows and was represented in the 1947 Pepsi-Cola Paintings of the year show, the the New York Academy, and in the traveling show that followed from museum to museum about the country--Rochester Memorial Gallery, Corcoran Gallery and the Toledo Museum.

A number of his paintings are privately owned.

------ Smithsonian Archives of American Art, "Frank K.M. Rehn Galleries records, 1858-1969, bulk 1919-1968", Series 1: Correspondence, A-Z, 1858-1969 - Box 1, Reel 5849, Frame 539