Whitney B. Halstead papers, 1920-1982

A Finding Aid to the Whitney Halstead Papers, 1920-1982, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Art historian, educator, critic, author, and artist Whitney Halstead was born in 1926. After receiving a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Halstead worked as an assistant in the Field Museum's anthropology department. He also taught art history at several Chicago-area universities, including the Art Institute, where he developed a series of courses on primitive art. Some historians have indicated that these courses were an important influence on the work of several artists of the "Chicago School" who studied with Halstead, including Roger Brown, Phil Hanson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Karl Wirsum, among others. Halstead also played a prominent role in the 1965 Art Institute's faculty strike that resulted in better working conditions for the instructors, and by 1967, he had become Chairman of the Division of Fine Arts. In 1970, he assumed the position of Graduate Advisor.

Halstead wrote critical reviews for Artforum, the Chicago Daily News, and numerous articles and essays promoting local and primitive art, including the work of Jim Nutt and naïve artist Joseph E. Yoakum. He also curated several exhibitions, including Made In Chicago and Ulu/Inua: Form and Fantasy in Eskimo Art. Halstead's own art work, exhibitied primarily during the 1950s and early 1960s, was in a variety of media and reflected his interest in Dadaism and Surrealism.

Whitney Halstead died in 1979.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Whitney Halstead papers measure 7.1 linear feet and date from 1920 to 1982. They document the career of art historian, educator, critic, author, and artist Whitney Halstead. Found within the papers are scattered biographical material; a diary and travel journals; writings and notes (almost one-half of the collection); scattered correspondence; miscellaneous records and printed materials documenting Halstead's tenure at the Art Institute of Chicago; audio-cassette recordings of African and native music; artists files for Jim Nutt and Joseph E. Yoakum; exhibition files; art work by Halstead and others; and photographs of Halstead, friends and colleagues, and art projects. Also found are numerous photographs, slides, and negatives depicting primitive art, mostly native American Indian art by Southwest tribes.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged into 11 series by either type of material or subject file, and chronologically within each series. Oversized material from various series has been housed in OV folder 8 and is noted in the Series Description/Container Listing Section at the appropriate folder title with see also/see references.

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms. People, families and organizations are listed under "Subjects" when they are the topic of collection contents and under "Names" when they are creators or contributors.


  • Nutt, Jim, 1938-
  • Yoakum, Joseph, 1886-1972
  • Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Art Institute of Chicago. School


  • Art critics -- Illinois -- Chicago
  • Art historians -- Illinois -- Chicago


  • Chicago (Ill.)

Types of Materials:

  • Journals (accounts)
  • Sketches
  • Drawings
  • Photographs
  • Sound recordings
  • Sketchbooks
  • Works of art


The Whitney Halstead papers were donated by Theodore Halkin, the executor of Halstead's estate in 1986.

Separated and Related Materials

Additional Whitney Halstead papers are held by the Art Institute of Chicago.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed in May 2004 by Jean Fitzgerald.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Whitney Halstead 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

Whitney Halstead papers, 1920-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1966-1977
(Box 1; 1 folder)

Biographical material consists of resumes and notes concerning Halstead's career.

1 Resumes and notes, 1966-1977

Series 2: Personal Correspondence, 1933-1978, undated
(Box 1; 6 folders)

Personal correspondence consists of letters concerning Halstead's activities outside of his tenure at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Included are three letters from Jim Nutt, one of which is illustrated.

1 Personal Correspondence, 1933-1978, undated
(6 folders)

Series 3: Diary and Travel Journals, 1957-1975
(Box 1; 3 folders)

The diary contains notes concerning Halstead's daily thoughts rather than a record of daily activities. It also contains references to Jim Nutt. The travel journals contain notes concerning his travels to Europe and to Peru.

1 Diary, 1970-1975
1 Travel Journal about Europe, 1957
1 Travel Journal about Peru, 1971

Series 4: School of the Art Institute of Chicago Files and Records, 1920-1982, undated
(Box 1-2; 1.1 linear feet)

This series contains records of Halstead's teaching activities at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, including inter-departmental correspondence, minutes of meetings, reports, a scrapbook concerning the 1965 faculty strike, clippings, school publications, exhibition catalogs, and photographs.

1 Correspondence, 1951-1982, undated
(20 folders)
1 Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws, 1981
1 Faculty Handbook, 1982
1 Minutes of Meetings, 1957-1960
1 Miscellaneous Reports, 1957-1968
(7 folders)
1 Self-Study Reports, 1980-1982
(3 folders)
1 Faculty Report in Response to Self-Study Reports, 1982
1 Scrapbook on the Faculty Strike, 1962-1965
(4 folders)
1 Notes on the Curriculum, 1958-1982
(2 folders)
1 Catalogs of Courses, 1920-1982
(4 folders)
2 Student Handbook, 1980-1982
2 Clippings, 1958-1977, undated
2 Exhibition Catalogs from the Art Institute of Chicago, 1952-1982
(3 folders)
2 Graduation Programs, 1959-1966
2 Booklets on the M.F.A. Candidates, 1968-1969
2 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1954, undated
2 Photographs of Protest Marches, 1965
2 Photographs of Art Work, undated
2 Photographs of Fellowship Exhibition, 1968

Series 5: Notes and Writings, 1923-1978, undated
(Box 2-5; 3.4 linear feet)

Notes include notebooks pertaining to various art history topics, including the art of primitive cultures, Impressionism, Dadaism and Surrealism, American art, collage and assemblage, ceramics, and photography. Other notebooks contain reproductions of examples of late 19th century art and illustrations of primitive art styles. An index card file contains notes for art history lectures and bibliographic entries. Also found are six audiocassettes recordings of African, Native American, and Oceanic music. Writings include typescripts on various art history topics written for publications, including Artforum and the Chicago Daily News. There are also typescripts concerning individual artists, including Roger Brown, Ed Paschke, Kerig Pope, Christina Ramberg, and Barbara Rossi.

2 Notebooks on Art History, 1923-1978, undated
(18 folders)
3 Notebooks on Art History, 1923-1978, undated
(8 folders)
3 Notebook of Reproductions of Paintings and Drawings, undated
(4 folders)
3 Notebook of Illustrations of Primitive Art, 1954, undated
(3 folders)
3 Notes on Chicago Art, 1971-1974
3 Miscellaneous Notes, undated
4 Index Card File of Lecture Notes and Bibliographies, undated
(1.0 linear feet)
5 Audiocassettes of African Music, undated
5 Audiocassettes of Native American Music, undated
5 Audiocassette of Oceanic (Maori) Music, undated
5 Miscellaneous Typescripts, 1950-1974, undated
(8 folders)
5 Typescript "Distortion and Proportion" for Delphian Charter Extension VII Program Fifteen, 1963-1964, undated
(6 folders)
5 Typescripts for Artforum, 1965-1969
(15 folders)
5 Typescripts for Chicago Daily News, 1967-1973
(7 folders)
5 Miscellaneous Typescript Fragments, undated

Series 6: Artist Files, 1967-1977
(Box 5-6, OV 8; 36 folders)

Artist files contain biographical material, correspondence primarily discussing exhibitions and sales of art work, notes, writings, printed material, and photographs pertaining to painters Jim Nutt and Joseph E. Yoakum.

5 Jim Nutt
5 Typescripts for Museum of Contemporary Art Exhibition Catalog, 1973-1974
5 Miscellaneous Typescripts about Jim Nutt, 1973-1974
(4 folders)
5 Clippings, 1974-1975
5 Press Release and Exhibition Catalogs, 1974
5 Joseph E. Yoakum
5 Biographical Material, 1972-1975
5 Correspondence, 1968-1977
(5 folders)
5 Miscellaneous Notes, 1972-1976
(3 folders)
5 Typescript for Whitney Museum Exhibition Catalog, 1972
5 Drafts of a Manuscript, 1975
(8 folders)
6 Drafts of a Manuscript, 1975
(5 folders)
6 Typescript "Joseph E. Yoakum" by Philip H. Hanson, 1969
6 Photographs of Yoakum, 1967-1969, undated
6 Photographs of Art Work and an Exhibition, undated
6 Slides of Art Work, undated
6 Clippings, 1971-1972
6 Exhibition Announcements, 1968-1976
(see also OV 8)
OV 8 Oversize Exhibition Poster for Yoakum, 1968
OV 8 Oversize Exhibition Poster for Yoakum, 1976

Series 7: Hyde Park Art Center File, 1960-1977, undated
(Box 6; 4 folders)

Miscellaneous printed material documenting the exhibitions and art-related activities of the Hyde Park Art Center of Chicago.

6 Brochures and Announcements, 1960-1977, undated
6 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1962-1977, undated
(2 folders)
6 Newsletters, circa 1966

Series 8: Exhibition Files, 1966-1975
(Box 6, OV 8; 17 folders)

Exhibition files contain correspondence, notes, writings, photographs, and printed material pertaining to miscellaneous exhibitions. The file for the "Two Artists" exhibition contains a photograph of Pauline Simon.

6 "Bauhaus,", Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, undated
(2 folders)
6 "Object Poems," Something Else Gallery, New York City, 1966
6 "Famous Artists," Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1969
(see also OV 8)
6 "Two Artists," Pauline Simon and Joseph E. Yoakum, Wabash Transit Gallery, Chicago, 1971
6 "Illinois Painters II," Illinois Arts Council, Chicago, 1971-1972
6 "Chicago Imagist Art," Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1972
(see also OV 8)
6 "Made in Chicago," Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1973-1975
(4 folders)
6 "Ulu/Inua: Form and Fantasy in Eskimo Art," Casino Gallery, Chicago, 1974
(5 folders)
6 "Pauline Simon Retrospective," Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago, 1974
OV 8 Oversize Exhibition Poster for "Famous Artists," Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1969
OV 8 Oversize Exhibition Poster for "Chicago Imagist Art," Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 1972

Series 9: Art Work, 1932-1970, undated
(Box 6, OV 8; 21 folders)

Art work includes sketchbooks, loose sketches, collage books, and prints by Halstead, several antique engravings, and miscellaneous drawings and art photographs by others. Art photographs are by Jerome Aronson, Ken Josephson, Ceil London, Tom Palazzolo, Charles Reynolds, and Roger Vail.

6 Sketchbooks by Halstead, 1950, undated
(3 folders)
6 Loose Sketches by Halstead, 1932-1949, undated
(9 folders; See Also OV 8)
6 Collage Books by Halstead, 1949, undated
(3 folders)
6 Loose Collages by Halstead, undated
6 Prints by Halstead?, 1947, undated
(see also OV 8)
6 Antique Engravings, undated
6 Miscellaneous Drawings and Cut-Out Designs by Others, undated
(see also OV 8)
6 Art Photographs by Others, 1965-1970, undated
(2 folders)
OV 8 Oversize Sketch, undated
OV 8 Oversize Prints, undated
OV 8 Oversize Cut-Out Design, undated

Series 10: Photographs, 1949-1976, undated
(Box 7; 0.9 linear feet)

Photographs are of Halstead, his friends and colleagues including Jack Burnham, Claes Oldenburg and Karl Wirsum, Arts Club exhibitions, works by Chicago artists, and artists from primitive times through the 20th century including Al Boutin, Christo, John Henry, David Reif, and Marguerite Weber. There are also several hundred slides of Halstead, art work, miscellaneous activities with friends and students, subjects for art work including plants and animals, exhibitions, and views of Chicago and New York.

7 Photographs of Halstead and the Halstead Cemetery Plot, 1968, undated
7 Photographs of Family and Friends, 1968-1969, undated
7 Photographs of Miscellaneous Exhibitions at the Arts Club, undated
7 Negatives of Native American Pottery, undated
7 Color Transparencies of Paintings by Master Artists, undated
7 Color Transparencies of Jewelry and Sculpture by Master Artists, undated
7 Photographs of Work by Chicago Artists, undated
(7 folders)
7 Photographs of Work by Miscellaneous 20th Century Artists, undated
(17 folders)
7 Photographs of Karl Wirsum and his Studio, 1971
7 Photographs of the Hancock Building, Chicago, undated
7 Photographs of Miscellaneous Houses, 1963
7 Miscellaneous Photographs, undated
7 Slides of Miscellaneous Subjects, 1949-1976, undated
(0.5 linear feet)

Series 11: Printed Material, 1966-1975
(Box 7; 5 folders)

Printed material consists of clippings and booklets written by Halstead about the Japanese prints and the culture of the American Southwest as it pertains to the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago.

7 Clippings, 1966-1975
7 Booklets written by Halstead, undated
(4 folders)