John Weatherwax papers relating to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, 1928-1988, bulk 1931-1933

A Finding Aid to the John Weatherwax Papers Relating to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, 1928-1988, bulk 1931-1933, in the Archives of American Art, by Rosa Fernandez and Erin Corley

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Funding for the digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Table of Contents:



Biographical Information

American writer John Weatherwax (1900-1984) was born in Aberdeen, Washington, and attended the University of Washington in Seattle for two years before going to Harvard College in 1921. His studies focused on English literature, business, mythology, and world literature. Weatherwax wrote a number of children's stories and, in 1934, co-authored with his sister and brother-in-law Gerald Strang, The Coming of the Animals, a series of California Native American stories.

Weatherwax met Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and painter Frida Kahlo in San Francisco when the couple stayed with sculptor Ralph Stackpole in his studio on Montgomery Street. Rivera was there to work on a commission to paint a mural for the San Francisco Stock Exchange. At the time Weatherwax was working on an English translation of the ancient Mayan codex, Popol Vuh, and asked Rivera if he would provide illustrations for the manuscript. Although the translation was never published, Rivera agreed and produced twenty-four watercolor illustrations for the text.

Weatherwax revealed his admiration for Diego and Frida by writing a manuscript entitled "The Queen of Montgomery Street" , a clever short story about Frida's and Diego's experiences in San Francisco. Probably written as a gift to the Rivera's, the central figures of "The Queen of Montgomery Street" where Diego as King and Frida as Queen. He also wrote a story entitled "Diego".

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

This small collection of scattered papers of American writer John Weatherwax (1900-1984) dates from 1928 to 1988 (bulk 1931-1933), and measures 0.4 liner feet. The papers document Weatherwax's relationship with Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. In 1931, John Weatherwax approached Rivera to illustrate his English translation of the Mayan story of creation, the Popol Vuh. Rivera agreed and produced twenty-four watercolor illustrations for the text. The papers contain Weatherwax's translation, "Seven Times the Color of Fire", as well as manuscript versions of stories he wrote about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, including one entitled "The Queen of Montgomery Street". Also found are several draft manuscripts of stories concerning Diego Rivera, which include "Diego", "Diego, Galka and Toby", the latter about art dealer Galka Scheyer's visit to Diego Rivera's studio in San Francisco containing references to the Blue Rider exhibition she organized in the early 1930s of the work of the artists collective, the "Blue Four" (Dar Blaue Vier).

Also found within the collection is scattered correspondence, including letters from painter, printmaker, and muralist Emmy Lou Packard concerning Diego and Frida, two telegrams from American novelist Upton Sinclair to John Weatherwax, and a letter from the Russian filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, to Rivera introducing Weatherwax. Additional manuscripts and notes, printed materials, and photographs are also found within the papers.

Arrangement and Series Description

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms.

Subjects:

  • Kahlo, Frida
  • Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957
  • Scheyer, Galka E.
  • Popol Vuh

Subjects-Topical:

  • Mayas
  • Mural painting and decoration, American -- Foreign influences
  • Mural painting and decoration, Mexican -- Influence
  • Artists -- California -- San Francisco

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs

Names:

  • Kahlo, Frida
  • Packard, Emmy Lou, 1914-
  • Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957
  • Sinclair, Upton, 1878-1968

Provenance

Seema Weatherwax donated her husband's papers to the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in 1988.

How the Collection was Processed

Processing was completed and the finding aid written by Rosa M. Fernandez in July, 2002, and updated in 2009 by Erin Corley. The collection was digitized in 2009 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The John Weatherwax papers relating to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

This collection has been digitized and is available via the Archives of American Art's website.

How to Cite this Collection

John Weatherwax papers relating to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, 1928-1988, bulk 1931-1933. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1928-1988
(Box 1; 5 folders)

This series includes scattered correspondence between Weatherwax and several publishing houses regarding the possible publication of his English translation of the Mayan codex, Popol Vuh, as well a copy of the contract between Diego Rivera and Weatherwax for the illustrations. Also found are letters from painter, printmaker, and muralist Emmy Lou Packard concerning Diego and Frida, two telegrams from American novelist Upton Sinclair to John Weatherwax, and a letter from the Russian filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein, to Rivera introducing Weatherwax. A copy of a letter written by Frida Kahlo to Clara and Gerald Strang, Weatherwax's sister and brother-in-law is also housed in this series.

Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence regarding the Popol Vuh Manuscript, 1930-1933, 1960
1 2 Correspondence with Emmy Lou Packard, 1982-1988
1 3 Miscellaneous Correspondence between Weatherwax and Others, 1928-1932, 1953, 1973-1975
1 4 Letters to Diego Rivera from Sergei Eisenstein, circa 1930
1 5 Letter from Frida Kahlo to Clara and Gerald Strang, 1931

Series 2: Manuscripts and Notes, circa 1930-1971
(Box 1; 14 folders)

Finished or draft copies of short stories by Weatherwax including his unpublished English translation of the ancient Mayan text Popol Vuh, entitled "Seven Times the Colour of Fire". Additional manuscripts include "The Archer of Itza" by Weatherwax and "Sun Tiger and Moon Tiger" by Clara Fowler Weatherwax, both of which are translations of Mayan stories. Also found are several draft manuscripts of stories concerning Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, which include "Diego", "Diego, Galka and Toby" about art dealer Galka Scheyer's visit to Diego Rivera's studio in San Francisco containing references to the Blue Rider exhibition she organized in the early 1930s of the work of the artists collective, the "Blue Four" (Dar Blaue Vier). Several versions of Weatherwax's manuscript "The Queen of Montgomery Street" are also found in this series. Also found are notes regarding several sheets of graph paper Rivera used to square off and draw his murals to scale and a photograph of a handwritten note by Frida Kahlo.

Box Folder
1 6 The Archer of Itza, circa 1971
1 7 "Diego", circa mid-1900s
(multiple versions)
1 8 "Diego, Galka and Toby", circa mid-1900s
(multiple versions)
1 9-10 "The Queen of Montgomery Street", 1930- circa mid-1900s
(multiple versions; 2 folders)
1 11-13 "Seven Times the Color of Fire" (Draft One), circa 1931
(3 folders)
1 14-16 "Seven Times the Color of Fire" (Draft Two), circa mid-1900s
(3 folders)
1 17 "Sun Tiger and Moon Tiger" (Draft One), circa 1930s
1 18 "Sun Tiger and Moon Tiger" (Draft Two), circa mid-1900s
1 19 Notes, circa 1930-1931

Series 3: Printed Material, 1931-1987
(Box 1; 4 folders)

Clippings from various Spanish and English language newspapers and magazines regarding Rivera and Kahlo's 1931 visit to San Francisco and other printed matter. Also found are reproductions of Rivera's watercolor illustrations he designed for "Seven Times the Colour of Fire".

Box Folder
1 20 Exhibition and Event Announcements, 1955-1986
1 21 News Clippings, 1931-1986
1 22 Reproductions of Diego Rivera Watercolors for "Seven Times the Colour of Fire", 1960
1 23 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1987, circa mid-1900s

Series 4: Photographs, circa 1930s, 1974
(Box 1; 3 folders)

Several sepia tint photographs of Diego Rivera and a Paul Juley photograph of Rivera with his wife Frida Kahlo at the studio of Ralph Stackpole in San Francisco. The photograph includes a handwritten dedication by Rivera to William Gerstle. Two photographs of murals by Diego Rivera, photographs of Rivera's watercolor illustrations he designed for "Seven Times the Colour of Fire", and photo negatives of the Juley photograph complete this series.

Box Folder
1 24 Photographs of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, circa 1931
1 25 Photographs of Murals, circa 1930s
1 26 Photographs of Diego Rivera Watercolors for "Seven Times the Colour of Fire", circa 1931, 1974