Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2009 Newsletter

E. E. Cummings's Paint Box

Paint box. Click to enlarge.

Box of paints belonging to E.E. Cummings

No one can accuse E. E. Cummings, best known for his self-proclaimed poempictures, of dabbling in painting; more than 1,600 oils and watercolors were in the Cummings estate, and this did not include those he'd sold. One critic claimed, "Compared with his writings, Cummings's art is as soft and wholesome as fresh butter."

Cummings responded, "Since my writing is hard, then the natural thing would be that my paintings are soft." He also knew what his paintings were not: "painstakingly washed flat surfaces sans brushstrokes" or "fine camel's hair delineation." Instead, he pinpointed his style as "chunking ahead with a big brush held loosely & loaded with paint." The condition of his paint box reflects this exuberance.

—Suzy Banks

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