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Cady Wells papers, 1913-1968

Wells, Cady, 1904-1954


Collection Information

Size: 4.3 Linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Cady Wells measure 4.3 linear feet and date from 1913 to 1968. The collection provides a range of documentation of Wells' life and career, namely as a landscape artist in New Mexico and as a servicemember of the United States Army during World War II. Among these materials are twenty-two personal journals; correspondence with friends, family, and art organizations; preliminary sketches and watercolors; fourteen sketchbooks; photographs; printed material; biographical material; and documents related to his professional affiliations.
Biographical material consists largely of documents and awards pertaining to Wells' military service in the 1940s. A large collection of correspondence provides a broader perspective of Wells' personal and professional affiliations, including a number of letters from his friend and painter Georgia O'Keeffe. Writings feature twenty-two nearly uninterrupted personal journals from the age of thirteen to his death at age 49, providing candid insight to Wells' upbringing, family and friends, creative pursuits, and life during wartime. A variety of printed material includes exhibition announcements and brochures, art periodicals, and news clippings from his lifetime. A small amount of documents outline his professional affiliations, highlighting his support of both established and emerging art organizations of the 1930s-1950s. Fourteen sketchbooks and a variety of loose preliminary drawings and watercolors trace Wells' development as an artist during his time in New Mexico. Photographs feature images of Wells throughout his life, along with his personal photos of family and friends, including one photo each of Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe. A scrapbook provides additional printed material pertaining to Wells' exhibitions and the greater Sante Fe arts community.

Biographical/Historical Note

Cady Wells (1904-1954) was a painter and a patron of the arts, most associated with the Santa Fe, New Mexico, landscape artists of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Southbridge, Massachusetts, Wells was raised in an affluent family, and pursued music as a concert pianist before discovering his passion for painting. Upon moving to New Mexico in 1932, Wells quickly gained rapport with regional modernist painters Andrew Dasburg and Georgia O'Keeffe. His artistic career was interrupted in the first half of the 1940s while he served in the United States Army during World War II. Returning to New Mexico in the mid-1940s, his innovative command of pattern and color earned him a reputation as a significant landscape painter of the American Southwest. Along with his original contributions, Wells was an avid supporter of his local arts community, assisting in the development of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society and the Museum of New Mexico.


The papers were donated in 1975 by Mason B. Wells, brother of Cady Wells.