The Archives of American Art Presents “Words cannot express, Death in the Archives”

Released: 11/14/11

Words cannot express, Death in the Archives” is on display until Dec. 31 in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery at the Smithsonian’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.

For those experiencing the death of a friend, family member, loved one or an admired figure, words are often inadequate to give voice to the intense emotions involved. When an artist dies, his or her life’s work is complete, and the building of a legacy begins. The Archives of American Art is part of that legacy-building process, preserving the remnants of artists’ lives in letters, diaries, sketchbooks, scrapbooks and other primary records. Among these documents are countless examples of people responding to death in the art world—from letters of condolence and drafts of eulogies, to firsthand accounts of artists’ funerals and expressions of personal loss. The death of an artist evokes powerful emotions in the living, even as it crystallizes the deceased’s contributions to the art world. This exhibition presents the power of people speaking from their hearts about American art and artists.

The Archives of American Art is the world’s pre-eminent resource dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and primary records of the visual arts in America.

Visit the Archives' Blog

Sign up for our Newsletter

Latest News

Announcing Winners: Dedalus Foundation Visiting Scholars at the Archives of American Art

In honor of Robert Motherwell’s centenary, the Dedalus Foundation has selected three scholars to conduct new research focused on Motherwell and his contemporaries. 

Read More

Public Reading of Diaries at the Archives of American Art

Join us on Saturday, January 3, 2015 at 4 p.m. in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery for a public reading of diaries from the Archives of American Art. 

Read More

Call for Proposals for Symposium on Mixed-media Archives and Contemporary Art History

The Archives of American Art announces an upcoming symposium, “The Multi-Media Archive: Stewardship and Use of Audiovisual Media Documenting Contemporary Art History,” to be held at the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, in Washington D.C., on Friday, March 27.

Read More

Past articles: News Archive