Basking Ridge, N.J.
American printmaker, painter, illustrator and designer Allen Lewis is remembered for his prints and the more than fifty bookplates he created on commission. Born in 1873 in Mobile, Alabama, his family moved to Buffalo, N.Y. when he was four years old. After attending public schools in Buffalo, Lewis studied at the Buffalo Art Students League under George Brant Bridgman (1864-1943). Lewis went to Paris in 1894, where he enrolled in the École des Beaux Arts to study under Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904) and took evening classes at the Academie Colarossi. Lewis began creating etchings in 1895 with the encouragement of his friend Ernest Haskell (1876-1925), another American printmaker working in Paris. His success in the medium was recognized when an etching of his was accepted for exhibition in the Paris Salon of 1900, one of three American printmakers selected, the others being James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) and Joseph Pennell (ca. 1860-1926). Although he received funds from his parents, to support himself Lewis worked as a church sexton, did work for other artists and gave occasional art lessons, although he did receive his first commission to design a bookplate came in 1900 and was able to sell a few prints. He returned to America in 1902 and settled in New York City. Lewis exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, where he was awarded a bronze medal. He received more commissions for bookplates as well as portraits. He became friends with the photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), who mounted a one-man show of Lewis’s work in his Gallery 291 in 1909. Lewis became an associate member of the Photo-Secession group Stieglitz had founded, had one of his photographs published in “Camera Work,” the magazine published by Stieglitz and in 1913 designed a bookplate for him. In 1915 Lewis won prizes for works exhibited in shows at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Buffalo Society of Etchers and was awarded a gold medal for his 23 prints shown at San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition. He also received awards at the exhibitions of the Chicago Society of Etchers (1916), Brooklyn Society of Etchers (1917), Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exposition (1926), Society of American Etchers (1928) and the National Arts Club (1928). Lewis received the first of many book illustration commissions in 1915. Lewis taught printmaking at the Art Students League (1924-1932) and the New School for Social Research (1932-1934), both in New York City. He was made an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1929 and a full member in 1935. In the 1940s both his career and his health declined. He died in 1957 in Basking Ridge, N.J. (Rev. TNB 10-2015) Selected bibliography: Fahlman, Betsy. Allen Lewis (1873-1957). Wheaton College website, College Archives & Special Collectons. http://www2.wheaton.edu/learnres/ARCSC/collects/sc60/biography/biography.shtml Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art, p. 370. Madison, Conn.: Sound View Press, 1985.