Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

email signup Blog Video Facebook Twitter Instagram
Summer 2006 Newsletter

In Memoriam: Carlton Lake


Carlton Lake with the first edition of Alfred
Jarry's Léda, 1981. The original manuscript
(1899-1900) of this one-act opérette-bouffe
is in the Lake collection, but the book was not
published until 1981. Lake was associated with
the Ransom Center for almost 35 years before
his retirement in 2003. Unidentified photographer

Carlton Lake, whose exceptional collection of modern French materials forms the basis of the Harry Ransom Center's French collection, died May 5, 2006, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 90.

Lake and his collection first came to the attention of Harry Ransom in the late 1960s, and by the end of 1968, a large portion of what is now the Carlton Lake collection was making its way to The University of Texas at Austin from Paris and Boston—the two places Lake called home. In 1969 Ransom brought Lake aboard as a consultant and offered him the position of "lifetime curator." While he considered the offer, Lake worked on the Baudelaire to Beckett exhibition, one of the Center's first blockbuster shows, mounted in 1976, which put Austin on the map as the leading institution outside France for the study of French Modernism. In that same year, Lake accepted appointment as Curator of the Center's French collection.

Lake came to his new role not only as an active collector but also as an accomplished writer, having served as an art critic in Paris for The Christian Science Monitor and author of articles, stories, essays, and extended interviews (with Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Henry Moore, Giacometti, and others) in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other American and European periodicals. Among his book publications are A Dictionary of Modern Painting, In Quest of Dali, Life With Picasso (co-authored with Françoise Gilot), and Confessions of a Literary Archeologist.

In his 34-year association with the Ransom Center, Carlton Lake served as Curator of the French collection, Acting Director (1978-1980), and Executive Curator (1980-2003). He continued to make gifts to the collection and was responsible for bringing to the Center major holdings, such as the Edward Weeks Atlantic Monthly papers, Anne Sexton's archive, Ezra Pound's library, Robert Lowell's papers, Nina Matheson's Vladimir Nabokov collection, many Beckett correspondences, Maurice Saillet's James Joyce and Alfred Jarry collections, Edouard Dujardin's archive, Edgard Varèse's library, and the Durand modern-music manuscript collection.

The Ransom Center's current online exhibition, Fathoms from Anywhere: A Samuel Beckett Centenary Exhibition, is dedicated to Lake. A memorial service for Carlton Lake was held on May 24 at the Ransom Center.  

Table of Contents