Charles E. Butner Papers, MS 033
Scope and Content
The Charles Edgar Butner Papers contain sketches and drawings from the architect's travels in California and Europe, newspaper clippings, photographs, ephemera, and a scrapbook on his service as an aviator in World War I and limited information on Butner's commissions in the San Joaquin Valley and Monterey Bay area in California.
The most extensive portion of the collection is in Series 2, subseries A, containing architectural sketches made during Butner's travels in California and Europe. Throughout his career as an architect, he enjoyed drawing and painting. The earliest work in the collection is a sketch of Philadelphia City Hall, which dates from his student days at Penn. This small pencil drawing is rendered with the soft, architectural qualities which characterize many of the travel sketches and watercolors he produced throughout his life. Of particular interest are European streetscapes, which probably date to World War I, when Butner served in France as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Services.
The balance of the sketches in the collection dates from the 1920s and 1930s. Diverse in stylistic interpretation, choice of media and technique, these selected examples of Charles Butner's drawings and paintings were assembled from his personal collection, which is now believed to be lost. They reflected his lifelong fascination with the ornamental characteristics of classic architecture, and his delight in the romantic and picturesque qualities of Mediterranean buildings. Red tile roofs, white-washed adobe walls, towers, and village scenes were the images Charles Butner most often captured in his art, and were the themes which inspired the designs of many of his built works interpreted in the Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean Revival Styles. Few of the sketches have much to do with projects in his architectural practice but instead reflect his Beaux-Arts-influenced training and ability to meticulously document the structures of the past.
Most are pencil or watercolor sketches. Butner created one oil painting included in the collection during the Depression, using house paint because artist's oil paints were too expensive. It is believed that most of the plans for Butner's commissions were destroyed at his death in 1957.
In addition, the collection contains photographs related to his years with the United States Army Air Services and other personal materials.
Where possible, the provenance, or original organization, of the papers has been preserved. However, in order to simplify access to the collection for researchers, the sketches in the collection were reorganized in alpha order by title to more accurately reflect their contents.
The collection is divided into two series:
- Series 1: Personal and Professional Papers
- Series 2: Art and Artifacts
The collection is housed in 25 boxes, with Series 2.A. Sketches containing the most extensive and unique portions of the collection.