Robert Edmond Jones Designs, 1933, 1951

Summary Information
Title: Robert Edmond Jones Designs
Inclusive Dates: 1933
Inclusive Dates: 1951

  • Jones, Robert Edmond, 1887-1954
Call Number: U.S. Mss 54AN

Quantity: 1.0 c.f. (oversize files)

Wisconsin Historical Society Archives / Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research
Contact Information

Archival Locations:
Wisconsin Historical Society (Map)

Set designs by noted stage designer Robert Edmond Jones, including two sets of blueprints for a 1951 production of The Green Pastures, a ground plan for The Green Bay Tree (1933), and an unidentified watercolor.

Language: English

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Robert Edmond Jones, called “the most influential artist-designer in the modern theater,” was born in Milton, New Hampshire on December 12, 1887. At an early age he withdrew from rugged farm life, and his mother, a musician herself, allowed him to develop his artistic talents. From 1906 to 1910 he attended Harvard University, where Kenneth MacGowan introduced him to traditional and experimental theater.

In order to develop his skills, Jones traveled to Europe in 1913, settling in Berlin. His talents matured, he returned to the United States in 1914 and was shortly thereafter chosen to design the sets for the Anatole France play, The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife. With this venture he began a long and fruitful association with Arthur Hopkins. In 1916, at the request of Nijinsky, he became the first American to design sets for the Russian ballet. Jones also designed the sets for Richard III (1920), which some consider his greatest triumph, Macbeth (1921), Green Pastures (1929), Othello (1943), and The Lute Song (1946). In addition to ballet and the theater, Jones also was a scenic designer for operas, such as Allan Berg's opera, Wozzeck (1931).

Jones is especially noted for his scenic designs for Eugene O'Neill's plays. These include The Hairy Ape (1921), Desire Under the Elms (1924), The Great God Brown (1925), and Mourning Becomes Electra (1931). His involvement in all aspects of experimental theater was broad. From 1923 to 1925, he was associated with the Experimental Theater in Provincetown, and later with the Greenwich Village Theater. In 1933, he moved to Hollywood where he assumed a major role in the development of technicolor.

Jones is credited with developing the “new stagecraft,” a dramatic departure in set designing from the earlier realism. In the “new stagecraft,” he attempted to achieve a wholly new integration of the background with the spirit of the play in order to project more fully the playwright's thoughts. He emphasized the essentials, eliminating obscuring details. Jones expanded his theory of set design in his only book, The Dramatic Imagination (1941).

Jones' achievements won him many honors. In 1925, he won the Howland Memorial Prize awarded by Yale University, and in 1936, he was awarded the Fine Arts Medal by the American Institute of Architecture.

In 1933, Jones married Margaret Huston Carrington. They had no children. He died on November 26, 1954.

Source: Current Biography Yearbook, 1946

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains only fragmentary evidence of Jones' contribution to the field of set design. Included are blueprints for stage sets of Green Pastures, a ground plan for The Green Bay Tree, and an unidentified set rendering.

The blueprints for Green Pastures consist of two sets of designs, one on blue papers and the other on white papers. Much of the white set duplicates the blue, but neither set is complete. In each set, the designs are arranged in a numerical sequence.

Administrative/Restriction Information
Acquisition Information

Presented by Mason Arvold via A. A. Ostrander, New York, New York, 1962; by Morgan Farley, Los Angeles, California, 1968; and by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, Genesee Depot, Wisconsin, 1975. Accession Number: MCHC62-084, MCHC68-095, MCHC75-154

Processing Information

Processed by MFF, 1965, and Christine Rongone, 1979.

Contents List
U.S. Mss 54AN
Green Pastures (1929) Blueprints
White sheets
1: First draft, June 23, 1950
1: Second draft, June 26, 1950
1: Revision, June 29, 1950
3: Lighting equipment layout, June 19, 1950
4: Drapery and framed border, details, June 21, 1950
5: Portal and returns, details, June 21, 1950
5A: False floor, details, June 19, 1950
6: Cloud legs, details, June 26, 1950
7: Cloud borders and legs, details, June 26, 1950
9: Sunday school, June 23, 1950
11A: Fish fry tree, June 26, 1950
20: God's office, undated
24: Noah's house, undated
24A: Noah's house, details, undated
26: Noah's ark and waves, undated
26A: Noah's ark, details, undated
31: Throne room, details, June 22, 1950
38: Hezdrel wall, details, June 22, 1950
Blue sheets
1: , Undated
1: Revision, October 16, 1950
2: Section, October 16, 1950, revision
4: Drapery and framed border, details, June 21, 1950
4A: Foliage borders and woodwings, permanent ground row, details, June 26, 1950
4B: Framed black devetyn drop and border, October 16, 1950
5A: False floor, details, June 19, 1950
6: Cloud legs, details, June 26, 1950
7: Cloud border and lets, details, June 26, 1950
8: Plans, Sunday school, July 5, 1950
9: Sunday school, June 23, 1950
9A: Sunday school, undated
10: Plan, fish fry, November 1, 1950, revision
11: Ramp and pearly gates, detail, October 18, 1950
11A: Fish fry tree, June 26, 1950
11B: Pearly gates - post, full size detail, October 18, 1950
11C-D: Pearly gates, details (2), October 22, 1950
13: Plan, garden, July 3, 1950
18: Road slide, details, set pieces, September 18, 1950
19: Plan, God's office, November 1, 1950, revision
20: God's office, November 1950; January 4, 1951, revision
20A: Sky backing, office, November 16, 1950
21: Plan, roadside, November 1950
23: Plan, Noah's house, November 1950
24: Noah's house, November 1950
24A: Noah's house, details, November 1950
24B: Black drop for Noah's house, November 1950
25: Plan, Noah's ark hillside, July 5, 1950
26: Noah's ark and waves, November 1, 1950
26A: Noah's ark, details, November 1, 1950
27: Plan, Noah's ark at sea, July 5, 1950
28: Plan, cave, September 21, 1950
29: Returns for cave scene, November 13, 1950
30: Plan, throne room, July 3, 1950
31: Throne room, details, June 22, 1950
31: Throne room, details, January 4, 1951, revisions
31A: Throne room, banners, copy 1, copy 2, November 13, 1950
32: Plan, marching scene, November 1, 1950, revision
32: Plan, marching scene, January 26, 1951, revision
33: Marching scene, hill details, September 18, 1950
33A: Marching scene, step details, January 26, 1951
34: Plan, night club, October 16, 1950, revision
35: Night club elevation, June 23, 1950
37: Plan, Hezdrel, July 1950
38: Hezdrel wall, detail, June 22, 1950
39: Ark animal heads, January 16, 1951
The Green Bay Tree (NY: Cort Theatre, 1933)
Item File A63
Ground plan, circa 1933
Item File Size D
Unidentified set rendering, undated