The Brorby Project

The life and career of Harry Brorby


Harry Brorby (1927-2012) was an artist whose career in painting, printmaking, sculpting, and teaching (1940’s-1970’s) bore fruits of lasting impact on the art world today. It is peculiar that for as influential as he seemingly was, not much has been said about him as an artist in art historical scholarship. Brorby was born in Chicago, Illinois to affluent parents Melvin and Rowena (Williams) Brorby, and received his BFA at Harvard University and later his MFA in Etching at the University of Iowa under the influential artist-professor Mauricio Lasansky. After graduation, he moved to Tucson, Arizona and other Southwestern locations to explore the less-charted culture of the United States. He then spent his final years at his family’s estate in Holland, Michigan (where he founded the Ottawa Fine Arts Workshop), near Hope College and Saugatuck Center for the Arts.

Under the direction of Dr. Kraus, students will examine, organize, utilize, and showcase the materials in Brorby’s unprocessed archival collection, which contains Brorby’s personal papers, photographs, letters, sketch books, and artwork. While contributors are encouraged to explore the unprocessed collection in order to discover their own research questions and problems, potential projects and digital components are provided below.

Potential Inquires
Topic // Research Question // Research Problem

I am examining Brorby’s archival collection because I want to determine which method of archival processing (minimal, maximal, or maximum) should be used when cataloguing his collection in order to enable researchers to effectively use the materials.

I am researching Brorby’s youth and undergraduate career because I want to evaluate his early artistic influences so that the scholarly community may better understand his point of view.

I am studying copyright law as it pertains to artwork and archival material because I want to assess if his works and papers may be published in print or online so that scholars and the general public may easily and legally access his collection.

I am evaluating Brorby’s time at Hope College and his involvement in the Ottawa Fine Arts Workshop because I want to contextualize his time in Holland in order to demonstrate to my readers his significance to the local community.

Suggested Digital Components

Students may develop a plan for digitizing and disseminating Brorby’s archival collection. The process of digitizing Brorby’s collection will expose students to the technology used in archives and libraries. It will also provide students with the opportunity to learn about metadata. Digitizing Brorby’s collection will allow researchers to remotely access his personal papers and artwork. Furthermore, placing his collection on a digital platform will allow his work to reach a wider audience.

In spring 2015, Dr. Kraus’s ART 361-01 class developed a website to display their scholarly work on Brorby. Students may continue to contribute to the website. Their contributions could include

  • a digital map that geolocates the city where each piece of his work was created
  • a series of contextualized oral histories conducted with Brorby’s colleagues and former students
  • a scholarly paper enhanced with embedded digitized archival materials

Curated Digital Exhibit
Students may create a curated digital exhibit featuring a selection of Brorby’s artistic pieces. In addition to photographing his pieces, students will have to research, analyze, and contextualize each work of art. After synthesising their findings, students will write copy to accompany the pieces displayed in their exhibit.


Dr. Heidi Kraus
Dr. Kraus is Hope College’s Modern and Contemporary art historian and also serves as the Director of the De Pree Gallery. Last year she taught ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. The students in the course began processing, digitizing, and creating provenances for the uncatalogued collection. They also conducted original archival research on Harry Brorby. Their work may be viewed at the class website: The Harry Brorby Project.


The Harry Brorby Collection (Currently held by Dr. Kraus)

Bennick, Amanda. The Harry Brorby Project: An Overview of Influences.” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Biba, Brant. “Harry Brorby’s Artistic Progression and Influence: 1945-1973.” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Courey, Rachel. “Harry Brorby: The Figures.” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Dwyer, Monica. “The True Lost Art Form: Letter Writing.” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Hunt, Mason. “White Feet on Another Land.” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Erin Schregardus. “INTROSPECTION AND INSPIRATION: AUTONOMY AND ‘THE HOUSE OF THE RED CLOUDS’” ART 361-01: The Harry Brorby Project. May 1, 2015.

Methodology & Theory
  • Analysis of Form
  • Archival Theory and the Principle of Provenance
  • Biographical Approach to Art History
  • Critical Theory
  • Digitization Best Practices
  • Historiography
  • Reception Theory
  • Theories of Archival Processing: Minimal Archival Processing, Maximal Archival Processing, Maximum Archival Processing
  • Theories of Copyright: Fairness Theory, Personality Theory, Welfare Theory, Cultural Theory
  • Visual Cultural Studies