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Christian Brinton Research Collection

Identifier: BRI

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of material compiled by art critic, curator and collector Christian Brinton that pertains to multiple contemporary artists, namely the Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga and the Russian sculptor Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy and the Russian painter Nicholas Roerich. The important Russian artists Savely Sorin and Ilya Repin are also included in his files. Files pertaining to Zuloaga include Correspondence, 1904-1922, from the artist to Brinton is fairly extensive, and most is written in French. In his letters Zuloaga discusses paintings, exhibitions, views on art, and social activities. There are also clippings about the artist and many photographs of his works, including those used in the 1916-17 exhibition, the catalogue to which Brinton contributed. The files also contains some of Brinton's notes and draft writings about Zuloaga, as well as published writings by Brinton and others. There are a few exhibition catalogues and checklists and correspondence from several members of the artist's family. The second large group of material pertains to Prince Paolo Troubetzkoy, whose sculpture Brinton examined in 1911 and 1916 exhibition catalogues. Material consists primarily of Brinton's research notes and photographs and prints of the artist's objects, as well as reference files of newsclippings and other journal writings about Troubetzkoy. There are also a few items documenting a $500 loan the artist received in 1916 from the Philadelphia financial institution, Rittenhouse Trust Company. For collateral, Troubetzkoy put up two of his bronze figures.


  • 1902-1938


Language of Materials

Predominately French with some English and Spanish materials.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Christian Brinton Research Collection are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

Art critic, curator and collector Christian Brinton (1870-1942) championed the art of his day, promoting works from geographic areas and artists often outside the traditional western European schools. In one of his earliest published writings, "Modern artists, by Christian Brinton" (1908), the author included artists as diverse as Belgians Antoine Wiertz and Constantin Meunier, Russian Il'ya Repin, the American Gari Melchers as well as expatriates James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent and the 18th -century French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. Perhaps Brinton intended this diversity as evidence of his notion of "evolution, not revolution in art," which emphasized a gradual transformation from Impressionism through post-Impressionism. Brinton contributed to a number of exhibition catalogues, including those featuring the works of Prince Paul Troubetzkoy (1911 and 1916), Ignacio Zuloaga (1916), Boris Anisfeld (1918) and Cesáero Bernaldo de Quirós, (1932), as well as art from the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition (1916), war paintings and drawings by British artists (1919), and contemporary Scandinavian, Belgian and Russian art (held respectively 1912, 1929, and1934). The Philadelphia Museum of Art co-sponsored the latter exhibition, and in 1941 Brinton gifted to PMA his collection of contemporary European art, which consisted primarily of Russian objects, and included paintings, sculpture, prints and drawings, costumes and textiles, and crafts and toys. His gift also included more than 1,200 reference books. Brinton also collected paintings by the African-American folk artist Horace Pippin. Like Brinton, Pippin was born and resided in West Chester, Pennsylvania, located about 25 miles west of Philadelphia. His portrait of Brinton ("A Chester County Art Critic") was part of the 1941 gift to PMA. Along with N.C. Wyeth and William Palmer Lear, Brinton co-founded the Chester County Art Association in 1931. He was married briefly to the artist Caroline Peart Brinton, also a native of Pennsylvania.

A self-taught artist recognized for his portraits and traditional Spanish scenes such as bullfighting, IGNACIO ZULOAGA was born in 1870 in Eibar, part of the Spanish Basque country. Although his father planned for Zuloaga to study engineering (and then when that failed, architecture), those plans were dashed with the son's first chance visit to Madrid. According to a 1916 article that Christian Brinton wrote for Vanity Fair, during that visit, Zuloaga came "under the spell of the restrained, aristocratic vision of el Greco and Velázques, and the restless vitality of Francisco de Goya." As a result, a "feverish exaltation appeared to take possession of the young man's soul." In terms less flowery, other scholars also have seen the influence of these artists, as well as John Singer Sargent, in Zuloaga's works. Zuloaga lived for a time in Rome and Paris, where he became friends with Lautrec, Degas and Gauguin. He then went to London, before returning to Spain, where he was hailed as the "regenerator of Spanish national art." As described by Brinton, Zuloaga's paintings typify the "somber Gothic" Spanish style, conveying an "austerity and a rigorous sense of reality." In the fall of 1924, he traveled to America where members of high-society welcomed him and American women, including Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, happily posed in Spanish costumes as he painted their portraits. Zuloaga died in 1945.

Best-known as a portrait sculptor, PRINCE PAUL TROUBETZKOY was twice the subject of Christian Brinton. In the catalogue to the 1916 exhibition of the artist at the Detroit Museum of Art, Brinton praised his sculpture for what it did not include, namely the "conventional nude" and "that vacuous symbolism so dear to those who are too cowardly or too incompetent to face the facts of everyday existence and extract whatever measure of beauty may reside therein." Born in 1866 to a Russian nobleman and the American Ada Winans, Troubetzkoy grew up in the Lago Maggiore area of Italy. According to Brinton, Troubetzkoy's talents surfaced at an early age when the Milanese sculptor Grandi declared the horse's head the boy modeled from wax as "youthful genius." By 1887, he was exhibiting in Italy, France and the United States. The following year he moved to Russia and remained there until 1906. He visited Leo Tolstoy at his estate, making many drawings and busts of the famed Russian author. Other well-known figures Troubetzkoy depicted include George Bernard Shaw, the dancer Pavlova and a young Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He also designed an equestrian monument of Emperor Alexander III. Troubetzkoy died in 1938.

NICHOLAS ROERICH was a Russian painter who was deeply influenced by mystical and spiritual practices. He was well known for his designs for the Ballets Russes. Brinton organized a large exhibition of his work to travel in the United States in the early 1920s.

ILYA REPIN was a realist Russian painter who was well known for bringing Russian peasant scenes and art depiciting Russian subjects to the foreground. He is known for his painting Barge Haulers on the Volga (1873).

SAVELY SORIN was a Russian painter known for portraits.


3 linear feet


Through his writings and the exhibitions he curated, Christian Brinton (1870-1942) promoted modern and contemporary art, particularly from areas outside of the traditional western European school, and has been credited with introducing Nordic, Slavic and Teutonic modernism to America. This collection consists of material compiled by Brinton pertaining to multiple contemporary artists, with the most material on the Spanish painter Ignacio Zuloaga, the Russian sculptor Prince Paul Troubetzkoy, and the Russian painters Nicholas Roerich, Ilya Repin, and Savely Sorin. There are reference news clippings, correspondence about the artist and many photographs of their works, as well as some of Brinton's research notes and draft writings.

Custodial History

The initial material that formed the collection, the Zuloaga material, was part of the gift of Christian Brinton's book collection to the Museum Library in 1949. This material was transferred to the Archives in 1989.


1. Additional correspondence, clippings and photographs pertaining to Zuloaga were transferred from the Museum Slide Library in 1993. 2. The Troubetzkoy files, previously catalogued as artist monograph material, was transferred from the Library, date unknown. 3. Additional material from the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs collection, transferred in 2009, was added by Rose Chiango in 2019. Those artists are Annenkoff, Beltram Masses, Erler, Gontcharova, Gurdjan, Larionov, Melchers, Oppenheimer, Putz, Rannus, Roerich, Sorin, Soudbinin, Soudeikine, Quiros, Yakovlev, 4. The Repin material, previously cataloged in the Library, was also transferred to the Archives in 2019.

Existence and Location of Copies

The initial Zuloaga material was microfilmed by the Archives of American Art (AAA) in 1991 as part of its Philadelphia Arts Documentation Project. Reel 4548. A copy is available in the museum's Library.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams, funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services. Later accruals of materials from the Prints, Drawings, and Photographs department and the Library were added by Rose Chiango.

Guide to the Christian Brinton Research Collection
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams in 2009 and updated by Rose Chiango in 2019
2009, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States