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Dorothy Weir Young papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 1291

Scope and Contents note

Collection consists primarily of handwritten and typewritten drafts of her book, The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir. These drafts are liberally marked with corrections such as additions and instructions for omissions. Some are in her handwriting; some may be in the hand of Lawrence Chisolm. Filed with the drafts are several lists of sources consulted for reference in compiling the manuscripts. Correspondence concerning the book and some original artwork by Dorothy Weir Young complete the collection.


  • 1926-1960


Conditions Governing Access note

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use note

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances.

The literary rights reside with the Weir family and with Yale University Press. There are no restrictions on use.

Biographical History

Dorothy Weir Young (1890-1947) was an American artist and a writer and daughter of Julian Alden Weir.

Dorothy Weir Young was born June 18, 1890, in New York City, the third child of J. Alden and Anna Baker Weir. She studied under her father, the distinguished American impressionist painter, and followed in his footsteps by becoming a professional artist. As her skill improved, she studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League of New York. In 1928, she received the Joan of Arc bronze medal from the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors at the Brooklyn Museum; in 1929, she was awarded the Crowinshield prize by the Annual Exhibit of Paintings and Sculpture of the Stockinbridge Art Association.

In February, 1931, at the age of forty-one, she married American painter and sculptor, Mahonri Young, after making his acquaintance some five years earlier. Together they pursued their artistic inclinations, spending much of their time on a farm in Branchville, Connecticut.

Dorothy Young suffered attacks of serious illness during the closing years of her life. She died on June 23, 1947, at the age of fifty-seven, after an exploratory operation the previous April had revealed that she was suffering from cancer. Her untimely death occurred before she was able to publish a biography of her father to which she had devoted forty years of recording and research. The biography, entitled The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir, was published posthumously in 1960 by Yale University Press under the editorship of Lawrence W. Chisolm.

Biographical note

Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) was an American impressionist painter.

J. Alden Weir was born at West Point, New York on August 30, 1852, the fourteenth child and youngest son of Robert W. Weir. He had a natural inclination for art, drawing and sketching regularly as a child even before he received any training in art from his father.

Following a stint at the National Academy of Design (during which he began a lifelong friendship with Albert P. Ryder), he went to Paris in 1873, where he studied with Jean-Lion Girime and was influenced to work directly from nature by Bastien-Lepage. During the next ten years he made several trips to Europe, seeking out Edouard Manet, three of whose paintings he purchased, and J.A.M. Whistler, whom he called "a first class specimen of an eccentric man."

Always interested in broadening the opportunities for the exhibition of paintings and in furthering the cause of American art, Weir was a founding member of the Society of American Artists. He also worked within the framework of the National Academy, which he joined in 1885 and served as president in 1915-1917. About 1890 Weir began to experiment with the technique of impressionism and two years later to teach summer classes at Cos Cob, Connecticut, with John Twachtman, his closest friend, and also an impressionist. Weir was one of the founding members of a group known as "Ten American Painters," or "The Ten," from their first exhibition in 1898. As a virtual "academy of American impressionism", one of their aims was to promote the works of American impressionists rather than accept French impressionism as the standard. Despite his association with the establishment, his work was personal and experimental, and he remained receptive to the newer movements in art. Late in 1911, as the Association of American Painters and Sculptors laid plans for the Armory Show of 1913, he was elected president in the hope that such an eminent figure would unite the many factions. When the press played up the hostility of the Association to the Academy, Weir resigned, although he contributed to the exhibition in 1913.

Weir's work was stamped with what the collector and art writer Duncan Phillips termed a "reticent idealism," at the same time that it reflected the variety of an inquiring, liberal mind. His prolific output included portraits, figure studies, landscapes, a mural decoration at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and work in stained glass, etching, and watercolors. His Idle Hours (1888, Metropolitan) won a $2000 prize from the American Art Association. It shows a relaxed but carefully composed interior flooded by light from the windows. The smoothly applied pigment contrasts with the broken brushwork and higher key of such impressionist works as The Red Bridge (1895, Metropolitan). Through his painting, ranging from the subdued grayed harmonies of A Gentlewoman (National Coll.) to the sun-flecked impressionism of Visiting Neighbors (1900-09, Phillips), the integrity of his quiet, individual vision is manifest. Other well-known works include The Orchid (1899, Mrs. Ian MacDonald), Portrait of Albert Pinkham Ryder (1902, National Academy of Design), and The Factory Village (1897, Mrs. Charles Burlingham).

J. Alden Weir married Anna Dwight Baker on April 24, 1883 and lived very happily with her until her death in February of 1892. The next year Weir married Anna's sister Ella, who took over the dual responsibilities of wife to J. Alden and mother to Anna's children. One of J. Alden Weir's children by his first marriage, Dorothy, later married the American artist Mahonri Young.

J. Alden Weir experienced ill health for the last several months of his life and finally passed away in his New York home on December 8, 1919.


5 boxes (2.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of the drafts of a biography of the author's father Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) and typescripts of his letters. There is also background material on Julian's father, Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889). Both men were prominent American artists from New York state. The collection is typescripts of various drafts of the biography which was published in 1960 under the title of The life and letters of J. Alden Weir. The drafts have been corrected with insertions and deletions made in pencil. The collection cannot be dated with certainty. There are also some miscellaneous materials in the collection including some of the author's correspondence and a few of her sketches.

Arrangement note

Arranged in four series: 1. Dorothy Weir Young correspondence. 2. Dorothy Weir Young artwork. 3. Dorothy Weir Young miscellany. 4. Dorothy Weir Young drafts of The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir.

The papers are arranged in the following order: correspondence, artwork, miscellaneous, and drafts. Following the drafts are lists of sources and loose pages which either relate to the drafting process or were once a part of a draft. The drafts are arranged in rough chronological order according to the penciled time periods and titles used by the author. Within a given packet, labeled 1882 for example, may be material from or pertaining to other years. Thorough research into the process of writing the book or into the many letters of J. Alden Weir not included in the book but present in the drafts will require a perusal of all the drafts, almost on a page-by-page basis. See additional notes in the container list.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History note

The Dorothy Weir Young papers came to the university following the death of Mahonri Young in 1957 along with the Weir family papers (MSS 41), the Mahonri M. Young papers (MSS 4), and an extensive collection of paintings, drawings, and prints. Together, the manuscripts comprised the Weir-Young collection until 1977 when the three separate collections were created.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Donated; 1957.

Appraisal note

Arts and Communications.

Processing Information note

Processed; Dennis Rowley, Loretta Trentman, and Janiece Pompa; 1998.

Register of Dorothy Weir Young papers
Dennis Rowley, Loretta Trentman, and Janiece Pompa; Revised by Katelin Tanner
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States