Margaret Casey Gates papers, 1934-1988

A Finding Aid to the Margaret Casey Gates Papers, 1934-1988, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Biographical Information

Margaret Casey was born in 1903 in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C. She studied art in the studio of Bertha Perry, and from 1924 to 1926 at the Corcoran Art School. She later studied under Henry Varnum Poor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

After working as a commercial artist from 1928-1929, Casey began studying at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in 1931 under C. Law Watkins. There, she met her husband, painter Robert Franklin Gates, and married on January 7, 1933. Robert Franklin Gates (1906-1982), who came to Washington, D.C. in 1930, also studied at the Phillips Gallery Art School and worked with Karl Knaths between 1934 and 1947.

Between 1934 and 1941, Robert Gates, with other artists including Mitchell Jamieson and Prentiss Taylor, made several painting trips to the Virgin Islands on a fine arts commission from the U. S. Treasury Department. Margaret Gates accompanied her husband and produced artwork of her own. She also documented their travels. During this same time, Robert taught at the Phillips Gallery Art School and Margaret was employed as the Art School's secretary. In 1937, they purchased a house in McLean, Virginia where Margaret lived until 1980.

In 1939, Margaret Gates won honorable mention in a national mural competition held by the Section of Fine Arts of the U. S. Public Buildings Administration and was subsequently commissioned by the Federal Works Agency to execute a mural for the Post office at Mebane, North Carolina. The mural was completed and installed in 1941.

During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Margaret Gates wrote articles on art for Washington, D. C. publications including the column "The People vs. Art" for American University's Right Angle, and for the magazine The Washington Spectator.

Margaret and Robert Gates were divorced circa 1955. They had no children.

Margaret Gates exhibited her work in the first exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in 1941, as one of many winners of a national competition sponsored by the Federal Works Agency for artwork to decorate a Marine hospital for lepers in Louisiana. She also exhibited in the "Group Show of Washington Painters" at the Bignou Gallery in New York City, as well as at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Philips Collection, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. A retrospective of her work was exhibited at the Watkins Gallery of American University in 1981. Several of her paintings are in the collection of the Phillips Gallery.

Margaret Casey Gates died on November 4, 1989, in Mitchellville, Maryland.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of Washington, D.C. painter Margaret Casey Gates date from 1934-1988, and measure 1.0 linear foot. Gates' papers document her work as a painter, her projects for the New Deal federal arts programs, the Phillips Memorial Gallery and its art school, where she attended school and later worked as secretary and where her husband Robert Franklin Gates was a teacher, and the Washington, D.C. arts scene. Found are scattered correspondence, seven sketchbooks by Gates and two sketchbooks of her divorced husband Robert Franklin Gates. Miscellaneous notes and writings, a scrapbook, printed material, and photographs of Gates, her husband, friends, artwork, and views of the Virgin Islands are also included in the papers.

Twelve folders of scattered correspondence include letters from the Federal Works Agency and one or two letters each from friends and individuals that reflect Gates' wide range of interests and activities. Correspondents include Betty Jean Clark, Arthur G. Dove, D. R. Fitzpatrick, Alice Garrett, John Gernand, Karl Knaths, John L. Lewis, a Brazilian artist named Portinari, Julian Lee Rayford, Alfred Stieglitz, and Prentiss Taylor.

Artwork consists of seven of Margaret Casey Gates' sketchbooks and two of Robert Franklin Gates' sketchbooks of both abstract and figural sketches. Margaret's sketchbooks contain landscapes that illustrate her travels to Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Virgin Islands. Sketchbook #2 contains pencil, ink, and pastel drawings of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and an intimate drawing of Robert Franklin Gates, Mitchell Jamieson, and Prentiss Taylor asleep on a ship. Artwork also includes a fine caricature of Robert Franklin Gates by Karl Knaths.

Notes and writings primarily consist of scattered notes and brief descriptive accounts of Gates's experiences at the Phillips Gallery, and at the Colorado Springs Art Center. Her extensive descriptions of her travels to the Virgin Islands are also illustrated.

A scrapbook primarily contains clippings, but also includes an award certificate, letters concerning various topics including Pepsi-Cola's annual art competition and Federal Works Agency projects, brochures for the Phillips Gallery Art School and for the McLean Art Club, and a photograph of the mural at the Mebane, North Carolina post office.

Printed material consists of clippings including copies of the rare magazines The Washington Spectator and the American University publication Right Angle, announcements and catalogs for exhibitions of Gates's work, and miscellaneous booklets and brochures. There is also printed material concerning the Armory Show including a copy of the booklet The Story of the Armory Show by Walt Kuhn.

Photographs are of Margaret Casey Gates, Robert Franklin Gates, friends including Prentiss Taylor, her home, and her artwork. Photographs of Margaret and Robert Gates and their artist friends during their visits to the Virgin Islands in the 1930s are of primary interest, offering unique glimpses of that culture during the 1930s. These photographs include aerial photographs of St. Thomas and photographs by Prentiss Taylor.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 6 series. Each series is arranged chronologically.

Subjects and Names

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

Subjects:

  • Gates, Robert Franklin,1906-1982
  • Federal Art Project
  • Phillips Collection
  • Phillips Memorial Gallery. Art School
  • Armory Show (1913: New York, N.Y.)

Subjects-Topical:

  • Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Washington (D.C.)
  • Art teachers -- Washington (D.C.)
  • Women painters -- Washington (D.C.)
  • New Deal, 1933-1939
  • Post office buildings -- North Carolina
  • Painters -- Washington (D.C.)

Types of Materials:

  • Photographs
  • Scrapbooks
  • Sketchbooks
  • Writings

Names:

  • Clark, Betty Jean
  • Dove, Arthur Garfield, 1880-1946
  • Garrett, Alice Warder
  • Fitzpatrick, Daniel Robert, 1891-1969
  • Gates, Robert Franklin, 1906-1982
  • Gernand, John, 1913-1990
  • Knaths, Karl, 1891-
  • Lewis, John L.
  • Rayford, Julian Lee
  • Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946
  • Taylor, Prentiss, 1907-
  • Federal Works Agency

Provenance

The Margaret Casey Gates papers were a bequest from Gates' estate in 1994, executed by her niece Joyce D. Svedberg.

Separated and Related Materials

Also found in the Archives of American Art are the papers of Gates' divorced husband Robert Franklin Gates dating from 1910-1988.

How the Collection was Processed

The Margaret Casey Gates papers were processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 2007.


How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Margaret Casey Gates papers 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.

How to Cite this Collection

Margaret Casey Gates papers, 1934-1988. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Correspondence, 1934-1986
(Box 1; 12 folders)

Correspondence consists of scattered letters concerning art-related activities including letters from the Federal Works Agency enclosing a contract for the post office mural in Mebane, North Carolina. There are also one or two letters from Betty Jean Clark, Arthur G. Dove, D. R. Fitzpatrick, Alice Garrett, John Gernand, Karl Knaths, John L. Lewis, a Brazilian artist named Portinari, Julian Lee Rayford, Alfred Stieglitz, and Prentiss Taylor.

Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence, undated
1 2 Correspondence, 1934
1 3 Correspondence, 1935
1 4 Correspondence, 1936
1 5 Correspondence, 1938-1939
1 6-7 Correspondence, 1940
(2 folders)
1 8 Correspondence, 1941-1945
1 9 Correspondence, 1946
1 10 Correspondence, 1947-1948
1 11 Correspondence, 1952-1985
1 12 Correspondence, 1986

Series 2: Artwork, 1935-1965
(Box 1; 12 folders)

Seven sketchbooks by Margaret Casey Gates are of landscapes from travels in Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Virgin Islands. Sketchbook #2 contains drawings of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and of Robert Franklin Gates, Mitchell Jamieson, and Prentiss Taylor asleep on a ship. There are two sketchbooks by Robert Franklin Gates of figural and abstract studies. There is also a caricature of Robert Franklin Gates by Karl Knaths.

Box Folder
1 13 Sketchbook 1 by Margaret Casey Gates, undated
1 14-15 Sketchbook 2 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1935-1940
(2 folders)
1 16 Sketchbook 3 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1938-1948
1 17 Sketchbook 4 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1939
1 18 Sketchbook 5 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1939
1 19 Sketchbook 6 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1946-1947
1 20-21 Sketchbook 7 by Margaret Casey Gates, 1949-1965
(2 folders)
1 22 Sketchbook by Robert Franklin Gates, undated
1 23 Sketchbook by Robert Franklin Gates, 1950-1953
1 24 Caricature Drawing of Robert Franklin Gates by Karl Knaths, undated

Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1939-1984
(Box 1; 7 folders)

Notes and writings primarily consist of descriptive accounts of Gates's experiences at the Phillips Gallery, at the Colorado Springs Art Center, and of her travels to the Virgin Islands in the 1930s. Some of the writings are also illustrated.

Box Folder
1 25 List of Groceries and Household Items, 1939
1 26 Notes about Early Days at the Phillips Gallery, 1947
1 27 Typescript Describing Margaret Casey Gates's Approach to Painting, undated
1 28 Typescript "The Future of Evolution," undated
1 29 Manuscript "The Amateur Traveler at St. Thomas, or Facts and Fancies About the Virgin Islands," 1936
1 30 Typescript about Colorado Springs Art Center, 1936
1 31 Writings by Others, "Dedication of Woodcarving for the Lewinsville Retirement Residence," 1984

Series 4: Scrapbook, 1938-1961
(Box 1; 3 folders)

The scrapbook contains an award certificate, letters concerning various topics including Pepsi-Cola's annual art competition and Federal Works Agency projects, clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, brochures for the Phillips Gallery Art School and for the McLean Art Club, and a photograph of the mural at the Mebane, North Carolina post office.

Box Folder
1 32-34 Scrapbook, 1938-1961
(3 folders)

Series 5: Printed Material, 1935-1988
(Box 1; 20 folders)

Printed material consists of clippings including copies of the rare magazines The Washington Spectator and the American University publication Right Angle, announcements and catalogs for exhibitions of Gates's work, and miscellaneous booklets and brochures. There is also printed material concerning the Armory Show including a copy of the booklet The Story of the Armory Show by Walt Kuhn.

Box Folder
1 35 Clippings, undated
1 36 Clippings, 1936-1949
1 37 Clippings, 1952
1 38 Clippings, 1955-1966
1 39 Clippings, 1968-1979
1 40 Clippings, 1982-1985
1 41 Clippings, 1986-1987
1 42 Clippings, 1988
1 43 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1935-1939
1 44 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1943-1945
1 45 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1946
1 46 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1947-1949
1 47 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1953-1981
1 48 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs for Robert Franklin Gates and for Sarah Baker, 1976-1980, undated
1 49 Printed Material Concerning the Armory Show, 1938-1988
1 50 Booklet American Paintings - Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1947
1 51 Brochures for the Phillips Gallery Art School, 1943-1945
1 52 Travel Brochures for Key West and the Virgin Islands, undated
1 53 Picture Postcards, undated
1 54 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1946-1988

Series 6: Photographs, 1934-1976
(Box 1; 19 folders)

Photographs are of Margaret Casey Gates, Robert Franklin Gates, friends including Prentiss Taylor, Gates' home, and artwork. There are also photographs of various views of the Virgin Islands in the 1930s including aerial photographs of St. Thomas, and photographs by Prentiss Taylor.

Box Folder
1 55 Photographs of Margaret Casey Gates, 1934, undated
1 56 Photographs of Robert Franklin Gates, 1934, undated
1 57-59 Photographs of Margaret and Robert Gates, 1951, undated
(3 folders)
1 60 Photographs of Margaret and Robert Gates with Friends in the Virgin Islands, 1936, undated
1 61 Photographs of Miscellaneous Friends, 1973, undated
1 62 Photographs of the Virgin Islands by Prentiss Taylor, undated
1 63 Photographs of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, undated
1 64-67 Miscellaneous Photographs of the Virgin Islands, undated
(4 folders)
1 68 Photographs of McLean, Virginia, Residence, undated
1 69 Photographs of the Washington, D. C. Area, 1937, undated
1 70 Photographs of Miscellaneous Locations, 1949, undated
1 71-72 Photographs of Artwork by Margaret Casey Gates, 1976, undated
(2 folders)
1 73 Miscellaneous Photographs, undated