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Guide to the Jane Bannerman Travel Sketchbooks Collection
1929, 1955-2011
 PR 297

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Susan Kriete

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on June 20, 2013
Description is in English

Biographical/Historical note

Jane Campbell Bannerman was born in 1910 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. As a young woman, she studied illustration and advertising at Parsons School of Design (then known as the New York School of Fine & Applied Art). She spent the 1929 academic year abroad, studying at Parsons' Paris Atelier (founded in 1921), an experience that sparked a lifelong love of travel and sketching. "I hadn't seen any of the world until then”, she said, "Paris started my life."

After graduating from Parsons, Jane worked at a fabric design firm, and as the assistant to the art director of the Delineator magazine. Then she joined the prestigious interior design firm McMillen, Inc., where she worked with Mrs. Zelina Brunswick. Although Jane had not studied interior design, she said, “The firm hired me because I went to Parsons, and thus, they felt I was trained in the proper taste."

In 1938, Jane married Charles S. Bannerman, grandson of Frank Bannerman (namesake of Bannerman Island – formerly Pollepel Island) who built a castle there to store goods from his thriving army surplus business. The island is in the Hudson River, near Beacon, New York. In 1939 she left McMillen to raise her daughter, Ann. When Ann was in school, Jane started her own interior decorating business. She returned to McMillen (then renamed Brunswick & Fils) for a while, then left to pursue her travels and artistic interests. Jane traveled and sketched extensively abroad. And from 1955–2010, she also did sketchbooks of New York City (her hometown). Those sketchbooks illustrate how the city changed over those years.

From 1955–2003 Jane traveled to many international destinations including Europe, Japan, China, Thailand, Egypt, South America, India, Sri Lanka, and many others. Most often, Jane journeyed with friends on organized cruises or tours. On each trip (referred to by Jane as "Jane's jaunts") instead of bringing a camera, she took sketchbooks and watercolors to record the scenes and people in her travels. Jane said. “If I take a photo, I meet the subject; if I sketch it, I get to know the subject”. Although her subjects are mainly familiar tourist fare – beautiful scenery, famous attractions, “local color,” native characters, fellow travelers, hotel rooms, and tasty (or not) meals – there is nothing typical about her pictures. Colorful, whimsical, quirky, and utterly unique, Jane’s sketchbooks capture the quintessential spirit of the places she visited, and also reflect her own appealing personality.

In the late 1990's Jane studied with the Chinese artist C.C. Wang, and that inspired her second trip to China in 2000 – her first China trip was in 1979. Those sketchbooks illustrate the radical changes in China over that time. In 2003, at the age of 93, Jane traveled to the Azores and did two sketchbooks and a powerful painting series of those Portuguese islands.

In 1994 Jane helped Neil Caplan found the Bannerman Castle Trust, Inc. to preserve the Bannerman Castle, located on Bannerman Island. Jane also did sketches and watercolor paintings of the castle from the late 1930's – 2010. In 2005 she had a retrospective show of that artwork in the Trust’s Bannerman Island Gallery, in Beacon, New York.