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Alexander Robertson James papers, 1893-1983, bulk 1914-1946

James, Alexander, 1890-1946

Portrait painter


Collection Information

Size: 3.6 Linear feet, (on 7 microfilm reels)

Summary: Family and professional correspondence; exhibition and sales records; sketches; sketchbooks; photographs and printed materials documenting the career and activities of Alexander James.
A marriage certificate; a genealogy of the James family; autobiographical notes; passports for James and his wife Frederika Paine James; a diary with entries by both James (1907) and his mother (1921); loose pages from diaries kept by James and his wife (intermittent, 1917-1939). Correspondence to and from James family members, including eight letters from his father, William James; letters to and from colleagues, friends, museums, galleries, clients, and posthumous exhibition correspondence. Correspondents include Abbott Handerson Thayer, Rockwell Kent, and Eric Gugler.
There are also biographical notes on Abbott Handerson Thayer; a notebook containing James' description of his gesso techniques; Frederika James' notes on her husband's paintings and her account of a family trip to France; reminiscences of James by Barry Faulkner and Thornton Wilder; exhibition files containing correspondence, lists of works, address lists, guest books, clippings and catalogs (1937-1978); commission files; a card file with information on James' paintings, exhibitions and sales; sketches of landscapes and people including sketches of his father and John Singer Sargent.
Five sketchbooks (one too faint to film); an oil study of his father; three watercolors of Giverny, France; three pigment studies (unfilmed); 12 woodcuts by Julius J. Lankes; and a sketch of James by his brother, William James; expense journals; bank records; tax returns; insurance figures for paintings; a notebook of sales' records; price lists; invoices and receipts for materials; deeds; a will; certificates of name changes; photos of James, his studio and his work; photos and a photo album of William James and other family members; two albums of exhibition photos; photos of two sketches of James, one by John Singer Sargent, and the other by Barry Faulkner.

Biographical/Historical Note

Portrait painter. The younger son of psychologist William James (1842-1910), brother of painter William James (1882-1961), and nephew of novelist Henry James, Alexander James was actually christened Francis Temple Tweedy James in 1890. In 1925 he had his name officially changed to Alexander Robertson James. Later in life he dropped the Robertson and became Alexander James. He studied with Abbott Handerson Thayer and was a close friend of John Singer Sargent and Rockwell Kent.


Donated 1986 by Michael James, the son of Alexander James, except for the bound volume on reel 3828 which was lent for microfilming.

Related Materials

Also found in the Archives on microfilm only (reel 3828) is a bound volume containing 37 letters from William James to his youngest son, Alexander James, one letter from his mother, Alice Howe Gibbens James, and 11 postcards.

Language Note

English .

Location of Originals

  • Original letters from William James (1842-1910) to Alexander (reel 4195) retained by the donor, Michael James.
  • Bound volume, reel 3828: Original in the Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 3828 and 4195-4201 available at all Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Letters from William James (1842-1910) to Alexander (reel 4195) are photocopies.

Restrictions on Use

Reel 3828: Authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce requires written permission from Alexander R. James, Glandore, County Cork, Ireland. Contact Reference Services for more information.

The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.

How to Cite This Collection

Alexander Robertson James papers, 1893-1983, bulk 1914-1946. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.