Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

May 20 to October 15, 2008
Exhibited at the Archives’ Washington, D.C. Research Center

Ever wonder what unknown treasures exist in the Archives of American Art's collections?

This unique exhibition showcases a variety of collections and various types of materials, each chosen by Archives staff members, allowing the viewer to see the collection through the eyes of those who know it best.

View Items from This Exhibition

Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Diego Rivera holding a dog

Diego Rivera holding a dog, 194-

Creator: Guillermo Zamora

“I am drawn to this picture because, although the situation has a decidedly comic nature, it does not show in Diego's face. In fact, he resembles to me—because of his size, posture, and hat—a composed, standing Buddha figure. We are left with an image of an individual who does not take himself too seriously, but is also not overt in his humor.” - Toby Reiter, Information Technology Specialist

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Olive Rush and Corcoran School of Art class

Olive Rush and Corcoran School of Art class, ca. 1890

“Taking my position at the Archives of American Art last year was easy—I was, and still am, very excited about the opportunity to work with the collections and staff here. Leaving my previous job at the Corcoran, though, was somewhat difficult. I had been there my entire adult life and I worried that I would miss my Corcoran friends and the collections there. However, this great photograph of Olive Rush and her class at the Corcoran School of Art reminds me of what treasures I work with here and the wonderful history of the Corcoran. Olive, her chums, and two early Corcoran staff members are pictured with a few 'dogs': the painting Lost Dogs on the right; the terrible painting on the left, titled The Helping Hand; and an actual dog in the lap of one of her classmates in the front row.” -Marisa Bourgoin, Richard Manoogian Chief of Reference Services

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Artists Equity Ball advertisement and program of Artists Equity Association meeting

Artists Equity Ball advertisement and program of Artists Equity Association meeting, 1947 Apr. 30

Creator: Artists Equity Association

“First and foremost I am attracted to this piece because it has been created with a sense of humor and makes fun of itself in a simple, intelligent way; self-deprecation is a precious commodity, since many artists and art institutions alike take themselves way too seriously. Reinhardt’s playful appropriation of image and text, brings me back to his art work and writings time and time again. I am fairly certain that if I had had the pleasure of having a conversation with him, he’d make me laugh until I cried.” -Suzanne Bybee, Administrative Officer

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

William Christopher's journal describing the civil rights causes in Alabama

William Christopher's journal describing the civil rights causes in Alabama, 1965 Mar.

Creator: William R. (William Rodolphus) Christopher

“I picked this item because I was looking for something about the civil rights movement for another project and was surprised to find this. In March 1965, painter William Christopher (1924-1973) and his partner George Tooker, responded to Dr. Martin Luther King's appeal for support in the Selma-to-Montgomery, Alabama march for voting rights. On March 14, 1965, one week after “Bloody Sunday,” when peaceful black protesters in Selma, on their way to Montgomery, were beaten back by Alabama state troopers, Christopher, Tooker, and John Scotford, Jr., who taught with Christopher in the art department at Dartmouth College, arrived in Montgomery as official representatives of the all-white Dartmouth branch of the NAACP. Christopher's diary of his time in Alabama allows readers to experience a pivotal point in the American civil rights movement. He described what it was like to march in silence with Dr. King in Selma, on March 15, 1965:

We line up three abreast. I am on the outside—next to the church—John in the middle—George on his right—SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] gives us instructions—silence—the streets are filled with people—the head of the line reaches the barricades—chin to chin—nuns to troopers—all is silent except low whispers—twelve Southern Presbyterian ministers behind us are saying, “Can you believe what we are doing”...—we look ahead to the barriers—and see the troopers with machine guns, the cars filled—we look back and see black men, white men and women children—as far back as we see and the line turns the corner—the troopers are there too—we look to the right through the houses, the troopers are there too—we are silent—the moment has come—we are not afraid—we have all the dignity we posses at hand—we have our life on the line—each of us feels this in each our own way—as we move I pray—I thank so many for this moment, I walk now for the spirit—I remember souls who have touched me, I pay for them...We near the barricades the entry into a hell that men have erected to honor their guilt—the closeness of bodies, the raised clubs—the revolvers, the machine guns pointed at us. The silence broken only be feet walking, the spits and quiet curses, the two-way radios, the cameras of the troopers clicking, the ABC, NBC, CBS cameras whirring—the intense glare of hate-filled whites standing back, the eyes—never have I seen such eyes, consumed with fear that hates, the mirrors of souls that have damned themselves. We walk slowly purposefully—with full dignity.”
-Liza Kirwin, Curator of Manuscripts

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Honoré Sharrer, New York, N.Y. letter to Honoré Sachs

Honoré Sharrer, New York, N.Y. letter to Honoré Sachs, 1950 Apr. 14

Creator: Honoré Desmond Sharrer

“It is rare that one item from a collection of over 16 million has so many wonderful references. That is why this item is one of my favorites. Not only is it beautifully illustrated, but the illustration itself relates directly to the painting to which the artist refers in the letter. In this letter to her grandmother, Sharrer relates her frustration with the painstaking process of creating Tribute to the American Working People [1947-1951], arguably Sharrer’s most famous work. This is invaluable material for anyone studying Sharrer, her work, or Realist painting in general. The illustration, too, relates to the painting indirectly. It showcases the beautiful colors and textures of farm goods for sale—both jarred and fresh—which were also featured in Farm Security Administrations photographs. From other documents and photographs in Sharrer’s papers, we know she was looking to these photographs for inspiration and source material. Overall, the letter is a perfect combination of lively correspondence, important scholarly information, and beautiful illustration—a rare and important combination.” -Laura MacCarthy, Archives Specialist, Acquisitions

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Robert G. McIntyre, New York, N.Y. letter to J. Kwiat, Minneapolis, Minn.

Robert G. McIntyre, New York, N.Y. letter to J. Kwiat, Minneapolis, Minn., May 14, 1948

Creator: Robert G. (Robert George) McIntyre

“This letter from Robert G. McIntyre to Kwiat, in response to a request for information on the lives and works of The Eight, is a favorite of mine because it is written in McIntyre's engaging style, is rich in detail, and provides a firsthand account of his memories of these men whom he knew ‘intimately.’ You can just tell by the way it is written that McIntyre enjoyed writing it and recalling this period in his life and his relationship with these men. The entire letter makes for an entertaining read, and contains many amusing and insightful observations, such as the paragraph in which McIntyre describes ‘the roustabout Luks who could drink any professional drunk under a roomful of tables’ and, by comparison, William Glackens, ‘a gentle soul who also loved life but in its brighter side, without its tragedy, and sordidness.’” -Stephanie Ashley, Processing Archivist

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Peace, an Ellis Island Madonna

Peace, an Ellis Island Madonna, 1905

Creator: Lewis Wickes Hine

“The raw humanity captured in Lewis Hine’s work has always invoked an array of emotion in me. His work captures issues of global significance yet impacts the viewer on such a personal level.” -Susan Cary, Registrar

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Alberto Giacometti and artists' model Carmen Damedoz

Alberto Giacometti and artists' model Carmen Damedoz, 1922

Creator: Marion Walton

“Marion Walton took this photograph of her classmate Alberto Giacometti while studying sculpture under Antoine Bourdelle at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris. Bourdelle had been an assistant and colleague of Rodin. I love that this casual snapshot captures not only two remarkable individuals, but an important transitional period in the history of sculpture.” -Jean Fitzgerald, Processing Archivist

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Marcel Breuer, Mercedes Matter, Konrad Wachsmann, Alexander Calder and others

Marcel Breuer, Mercedes Matter, Konrad Wachsmann, Alexander Calder and others, ca. 1950

“This just reminds me of the kind of party I would have...I mean seriously, really look at Alexander Calder (far right).” -Wendy Hurlock Baker, Reference Services

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Paul Cadmus, Weston, Conn. letter to Webster Aitken

Paul Cadmus, Weston, Conn. letter to Webster Aitken, 1951 Jan. 10

Creator: Paul Cadmus

“After reading Cadmus’s letters to the pianist Webster Aitken, I felt an immediate kinship in his attitudes toward music. As he asks Aitkin in one letter, ‘So are you breaking, or by this time have broken the back of Eliot’s [sic] sonata: How pleased I am; it implies a back and a bone to break. How rare! In these days when the anatomy of the worm is body enough for most composers.’ In this letter, written on the program for a recital by the French pianist Alfred Cortot, he describes a piece by Chopin: ‘This was a wild sketch but exciting. If he had been a young American debuting in New York, his carreer [sic] would have been ruined. Whole pages of approximate notes—but—it all sounded like music, which no critic would have noticed.’ In an age where airbrushing is the norm and recording technology can produce note–perfect recordings, I would still prefer Cortot’s soulful approximations to a cool perfection achieved at the cost of the music.” -Elizabeth Botten, Reference Services

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Benson Bond Moore drawing of a bulldog head

Benson Bond Moore drawing of a bulldog head, between 1895 and 1974

Creator: Benson Bond Moore

“I came across this dog by accident while looking for something to put on the next cover of the Archives of American Art Journal. He reminded me of those famous advertising mascots of the last century, with a face that belongs on a tote bag or card. Star power!” -Darcy Tell, Editor, Archives of American Art Journal

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Walter Gropius's 80th birthday

Walter Gropius's 80th birthday, 1963

“I love the colorful outfits on the partygoers in this photo. Look at the one-man band, how he is holding the camera’s gaze—he seems to be pouting. Does he wish he were the one surrounded by women, waving a glass of champagne, instead of playing the accordion in an undignified hat? I have fond feelings about this photograph because it was one of the Archives’ first images that I noticed had been blogged about. It made me realize how fun it is for people to find our collections online. Knowing that our website can help spark conversations about art and design really inspires me in my job.” -Sara Snyder, Webmaster

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Pollock family eating watermelon in Arizona

Pollock family eating watermelon in Arizona, circa 1914

“I like this photograph because when I processed the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers I enjoyed looking through all of the photographs. I thought this one was funny and unique.” -Erin Corley, Processing Archivist

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Staff Favorites from the Archives of American Art

Frederick S. (Frederick Stuart) Church letter to Emma Louise Klotz

Frederick S. (Frederick Stuart) Church letter to Emma Louise Klotz, 1904 Aug. 12

Creator: Frederick S. (Frederick Stuart) Church

“Frederick Stuart Church wrote at least 77 letters to one of his patrons, Miss Emma Louise Klotz. The missives are filled with whimsical illustrations, some of which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, Century Magazine, and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. While Church’s humorous drawings and comments may not be the stuff of serious scholarship, their levity is sure to refresh all.” -Jenifer Dismukes, Managing Editor, Archives of American Art Journal

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