Francis V. O'Connor papers, 1920-2009

O'Connor, Francis V. (Francis Valentine), b. 1937
Art historian, Poet
Active in New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 23.4 linear feet

Collection Summary: Research material, consisting of subject, project and exhibition files, writings, questionnaires, and transcripts collected and assembled by Francis O'Connor pertaining to the New Deal and the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration.

Subject files relate to the Federal Arts Project and the New Deal, including copies of correspondence and documents, New York WPA Arts Projects Reports, Nov. 1938 spring 1940, a copy of the manuscript Federal Relief Administration and the Arts by William McDonald, 1949, and information regarding New Deal print workshops and Art Front magazine. Also included are chronological files,19632008, containing clippings, press releases, journals, and other printed materials documenting government art patronage in the United States and bound computer printouts pertaining to Federal support for the visual arts during the New Deal era, including annual earnings of participant artists and summaries of questionnaire responses and 4,000 IBM computer cards with accompanying data sheets regarding employment transcripts for New Deal art programs.

Additional subject files regard New Deal administrators and WPA figures Mildred Baker, Mrs. Byron Browne, Holger Cahill, Sister Eleanor Carr, Robert Cronbach, Olin Dows, Jacob Kainen, Marchal Landgren, Olive Lyford, Richard McKinzie, Audrey McMahon, Jane de Hart Mathews, Gerald Monroe, Dorothy Miller, Lincoln Rothschild, Erica Rubenstein and Joseph Solman.

Project files including correspondence, drafts, transcripts, manuscripts, mailing lists, and art work pertain to publications by OConnor including The New Deal Art Projects: An Anthology of Memoirs edited by OConnor, Art for the Millions, Federal Art Patronage Notes, edited and published by OConnor 1974-1983, and Federal Support for the Visual Arts: The New Deal and Now, 1969. Exhibition files pertaining to art exhibitions about the New Deal, 1966-1997, some with OConnors participation, and include correspondence, notes, catalogs, press releases, clippings and other printed materials.

Writings include copies of thesis dissertations The Mexican Muralists in the United States: Their Work and Influence by Lawrence P Hurlburt, 1983, and The Lost Years: Mural Painting in New York City Under the Works Progress Administration, Federal Arts Project, 1935-1943 by Greta Berman, 1975, among others.

Photocopies of selected WPA documents; questionnaires sent by O'Connor and filled out by Federal Art Project artists and administrators, 1967-1968; copies of Federal Art Project personnel transcripts; computer printouts of summaries of his data; correspondence relating to the research; and miscellaneous photographs and biographical material.

Biographical sketches of and essays by 103 Federal Art Project artists and project administrators originally solicited by Emanuel M. Benson for an annual report of the Federal Art Project in 1936. They comprise his unpublished manuscript, Art for the Millions, later edited by O'Connor.

Biographical/Historical Note: Francis O'Connor (1937- ) is an art historian in New York, N.Y. O'Connor wrote extensively on the New Deal art programs of the Depression and the Roosevelt Administration. In addition to "Art for the Millions" and "Federal Support for the Visual Arts: the New Deal and Now," he also wrote, "The New Deal Art Projects: an Anthology of Memoirs" based on extensive interviews and research of New Deal artists and the genesis and continuity of government sponsored art programs. His papers are the results this extensive research. O'Connor edited the 1936 unpublished manuscript by Emanuel M. Benson for his annual report on the Federal Art Project, maintaining the original title, "Art for the Millions."

Francis V. O'Connor gave papers (partially microfilmed on reels 1084-1091) to the National Collection of Fine Arts, now the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which subsequently transferred the papers, with O'Connor's permission, to AAA in 1974. O'Connor donated an additional 15.8 linear feet of papers to AAA in 2010.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reels 1084-1091 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
  • Artists' questionnaires (Reels 1087-1089 and unflimed): Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce, including photocopying, must be obtained from: the individual artist.
    The donor, Francis V. O'Connor, has retained copyright to the documents he created, not in the public domain. AAA has been given a non-exclusive license to reproduce and display.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
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