Russell Barnett Aitken Collection

Donated by Irene Roosevelt Aitken along with other materials now in the museum's collection, this group contains scrapbooks, photographs, notebooks, and objects from Cleveland ceramicist and famed outdoorsman Russell Aitken.

Summary Information

Repository: Cleveland Museum of Art Archives
Creator - Artist: Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002)
Title: Russell Barnett Aitken Collection
ID: 1111.131
Date [inclusive]: 1915-2003
Extent: 8.0 Cubic feet
Language: English

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Biographical/Historical note

Russell Barnett Aitken was a celebrated ceramic sculptor and enamellist from Cleveland, most active during the 1930s. While a student at the Cleveland School (now Institute) of Art, Aitken began sculpting figures at the Cowan Pottery Studio alongside Viktor Schreckengost, his exact contemporary. He graduated from CIA as the class valedictorian in 1931. He also received a degree in journalism that same year from Case Western Reserve. From 1931-33, he did post-graduate study in Vienna with Professors Michael Powolny and Josef Hoffmann. After Cowan Pottery closed in 1931, Aitken set up his own studio in Cleveland. His fame grew among collectors and dealers alike and he moved to New York in 1935. He was known for his distinctive caricatures of people and animals in a style influenced by his contact with Viennese modernists. Prior to World War II, Aitken continued to exhibit and win 1st prizes in the annual May Show, maintaining his ties to Cleveland. His work in Surrealism brought him special acclaim and a placement in the Museum of Modern Art, in New York. Later, his mural for the 1939 World’s Fair, which was the largest decorative mural ever fired in vitreous enamel, was exhibited subsequently at the Metropolitan Museum and is a promised gift there currently.

Born in 1910, Aitken quickly discovered his two callings during his youth, sculptor and sportsman. He frequently traveled to the Canadian wilderness earning money as a guide and trapper. In these as with all things, Aitken pursued success with passion. He became a highly decorated soldier in World War II and a gunnery ace. Following the war, he went on to become one of the most celebrated outdoorsman of the 20th century. He was an associate editor for Field & Stream, and contributed over 300 articles about the genre. Aitken shot skeet, live pigeons, and big game, traveling to five continents to do so. In 1969 his book “Great Game Animals of the World” was published. Aitken married his first wife Anne Laurie Crawford Aitken in 1957. She was also a ceramicist and with her financial prowess they afforded their shared interests in houses, English and French furniture, rare books, arms and armor, decoys, African art, porcelain, silver, and fine decoration. Together they supported many philanthropic causes. The Annie Laurie Aitken English galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Russell Barnett Aitken Arms and Armor galleries represent their generosity to that institution. After nearly 30 years of marriage, Anne Laurie died in 1984. Years later Aitken married Irene Roosevelt. Russell Barnett Aitken died in 2002.

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Scope and Contents note

The Russell Barnett Aitken collection was donated to the museum archives by Irene Roosevelt Aitken. The collection documents the artist's life and career through visual, textual, and three dimensional materials. It consists of six scrapbooks, four photo albums, loose photographs, three sketchbooks, one notebook, fifteen works of ar; and artist tools and molds.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Ingalls Library and Museum Archives

11150 East Blvd.
Cleveland, OH, 44106

Conditions Governing Access note

Open to the public. For more information or to access this collection contact archives staff at

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Irene Roosevelt Aitken, 2016.

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Controlled Access Headings


  • Ceramicists
  • Outdoorsmen


  • Art, American -- Ohio -- 20th century.
  • Art--Private collections
  • Artists -- Ohio -- Cleveland.
  • Cleveland School of Art
  • Cowan Pottery Studio
  • May Show (Cleveland, Ohio)

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Collection Inventory


Scope and Contents note

Arranged chronologically consisting of photographs, drawings, articles, newspaper clippings, awards, and other ephemera.

Number 1 1915-1931 


Number 2 1932-1933 


Number 3 1934-1936 


Number 4 1937-1939 


Number 5 1940-1942 


Number 6 1979-2003 



Scope and Contents note

Photo Albums contain object photographs, installation views, and portraits. Some object photographs have an index card with history of piece.

Photo Album number 1 


Photo Album number 2 


Photo Album number 3 


Photo Album number 4 


Century Album 1: loose photos 1930-1937 

Scope and Contents note

Object Photographs, 1930-1937. Photos are arranged in chronological order. May Show images are filed the year prior to the exhibition.


Century Album 2: loose photos 1938-1946, undated 

Scope and Contents note

Object Photographs, 1938-1946 and undated. Photos are arranged in chronological order. May Show images are filed the year prior to the exhibition.

Object Photographs, Groups. Object Photos, Installation Views, Aitken Home and Galleries.

Portraits of Russell Aitken by Cecil Beaton.

Portraits of Artists and Visitors to Aitken Exhibitions at New York Galleries.



Scope and Contents note

Less than 1/4 cubic foot of materials.

Sketchbook number 1 


Sketchbook number 2 


Sketchbook number 3 





Scope and Contents note

Three dimensional objects including works of art, tools, and plaster molds.


 A2014-001.1  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) The Highwayman (Second Version). 1938   Ceramic 10"h x 9"w x 5"d

Unboxed A2014.001.1

 A2014-001.2  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Monkey Business. 1933   Ceramic. 11"h x 9"w x 9"d

Unboxed A2014.001.2

 A2014-001.3  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Congo Belle. 1932-1933   Ceramic. 13"h x 9"d

Unboxed A2014.001.3

 A2014-001.4  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Copper Stylized Antelope. 1933   Copper. 15"h x 13"w x 6"d

Unboxed A2014.001.4

 A2014-001.5  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Figural Group. 1932-1933   Metal. 8.5"h x 13"w x 3.5"d

Unboxed A2014.001.5

 A2014-001.6  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Wild Woods Fawn. 1938   Ceramic. 7"h x 4"w x 4"d

Unboxes A2014.001.6

 A2014-001.7 Leda, or "Kiss the Boys Goodbye" 1933   Ceramic. 12"h x 6"d

Unboxed A2014.001.7

 A2014-001.8  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Virgins of Mogambo. 1935   Enamel on metal. overall 20 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.8

 A2014-001.9  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) The Cactus Kid. 1932   Ceramic. overall 19 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.9

 A2014-001.10  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) The Virgin & the Unicorn. 1937   Ceramic. 8"h x 10"w x 5"d

Unboxes A2014.001.10

 A2014-001.11  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Wild Woods Fawn. 1938   Ceramic. 7"h x 4"w x 4"d

Unboxed A2014.001.11

 A2014-001.12  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Possum. 1935   Ceramic. overall 4 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.12

 A2014-001.13  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Congo Pottery Punch Bowl. 1936   Ceramic. overall 15 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.13

 A2014-001.14  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Enamel Plaque of a Masai Warrior framed in silver moulding unknown   Enamel. 7"h x 4.5"w x 2"d

Unboxed A2014.001.14

 A2014-001.15  Russell Barnett Aitken (American, 1910-2002) Black Scotty.   Ceramic. overall 3 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.15

 A2014-001.16 10 Ceramic Tools. 


 A2014-001.17 Pistol. unkown 

Unboxed A2014.001.17

 A2014-001.18.a-b Plaster Mold of bear. unknown   6"w x 8"l x 3"d

Unboxed A2014.001.18.a-b

 A2014-001.19 Plaster Cast of Animal Track. unkown   overall 3 3/4 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.19

 A2014-001.20 Plaster Mold. Unknown object. unknown   overall 10 inches.

Unboxed A2014.001.20