Skip to main content

Ethel Edwards papers, circa 1929-1999

Ethel Edwards papers, circa 1929-1999

Edwards, Ethel, 1914-1999

Muralist, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 11.2 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter, illustrator, and educator Ethel Edwards (1914-1999) measure 11.2 linear feet and date from circa 1929 to 1999. The papers are comprised of biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, business records for the Wellfeet Art Gallery that she operated with her husband Xavier Gonzalez along with records for Edwards' personal business activities, printed materials, three scrapbooks, photographic materials, artwork, and 32 sketchbooks.

Biographical materials consist of address, awards, membership documents, obituaries, resumes, and scattered teaching files for the Art Students League and the Truro Center for the Arts. Correspondence is with Xavier Gonzalez, galleries, and friends and colleagues including Franklin Backus, Sally Knudson Reynolds, Hall Groat, and Immi Storrs.

Writings and notes include a travel journal; various writings, essays, and notes about art by Edwards; a few writings about Edwards by others; and a speech transcript by Nelson A. Rockefeller. Business records consist of files for Wellfleet Art Gallery and Studio; documents concerning painting commissions for the Department of Interior Bureau of Reclamation; records of sales, inventory, and artwork donations; scattered exhibition files; and funding applications.

Printed materials include printed reproductions of artwork, brochures and clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, magazines and journals, posters, and press releases. There are three scrapbooks containing exhibition announcements, clippings, and photographs of artwork.

Photographs are of Edwards, her studio, family and friends, students, works of art, photographer Elaine Croce, and travel in Asia. Artwork includes sketches by Edwards, Ulrich Erben, and unidentified artists, as well as 32 sketchbooks by Edwards.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ethel Edwards (1914-1999) was a painter, illustrator, and educator active in New Orleans, Louisiana, New York City, Provincetown, Rhode Island, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts.


The collection was donated in 1999 by the estate of Ethel Edwards Gonzalez.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

A Finding Aid to the Ethel Edwards Papers, circa 1929-1999, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Ethel Edwards (1914-1999) was a painter, illustrator, and educator active in New Orleans, LA, New York City, Provincetown, RI, and Wellfleet, MA.
Ethel Edwards was born in New Orleans in 1914 and attended Newcomb College in 1933 on scholarship. Her instructor for life drawing, watercolor, and portrait drawing was painter Xavier Gonzalez, whom she married in 1936 in Texas, where Gonzalez ran a summer school. She studied in Paris from 1937 to 1938. She returned to Alpine, Texas where, in 1939, she won a national mural competition to paint a mural in the U.S. Post Office in Lampasas, Texas. In 1942 she completed a second post office in Lake Providence, Louisiana.
In 1942, Edwards and Gonzalez moved to New York City, where Edwards continued to paint, working with powdered color and egg-oil emulsion and experimenting with line in various media and surfaces. She also worked as a fashion illustrator for
Town and Country
magazines in 1944 and 1945. In 1946, her illustrations for Oscar Wilde's
The Happy Prince
were shown at the Museum of Modern Art. She regularly exhibited in New York City, Provincetown, and Wellfleet, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, where she and Gonzalez also operated the Wellfleet Art Gallery which served as a gallery, studio, and art school. For many years, she taught at the Art Students League and Truro Center for the Arts.
Edwards died in New York in 1999.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 9 series.
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1936-1999 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1940s-1990s (2.0 linear feet; Box 1-3)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1937-1980s (0.5 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 4: Business Records, 1949-1994 (0.5 linear feet; Box 3-4)
Series 5: Printed Materials, circa 1940s-1990s (2.0 linear feet; Box 4-6, 13)
Series 6: Scrapbooks, 1940s-1960s (0.2 linear feet; Box 6, 13)
Series 7: Photographic Materials, 1937-circa 1992 (3.0 linear feet; Box 6-9, 13)
Series 8: Artwork, circa 1929-1980s (0.2 linear feet; Box 9)
Series 9: Sketchbooks, circa 1936-circa 1994 (2.3 linear feet; Box 9-12, 14)
The collection was donated in 1999 by the estate of Ethel Edwards Gonzalez.
Processing Information note
This collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Mundy in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.

How to Cite This Collection

Ethel Edwards papers, circa 1929-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available