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Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2010

Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2010

Stewart, Jack Thomas, 1926-2005

Muralist, Art teacher, Art historian, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 9.9 linear feet

Summary: The Jack Stewart papers are dated 1926-2010 and measure 9.9 linear feet. A significant portion of the collection concerns Stewart's dissertation, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989), related research, writings, and exhibitions on the subject. Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, printed material, artwork, sketchbooks, and photographic materials document his career as a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator.

Biographical materials include a "Video Archive" (DVD) consisting mainly of Jack Stewart being interviewed on several occasions by Nancy Gold for her television show, "What It Takes." In addition to discussions about Stewart's career, the shows include examples of his paintings and murals along with views of him at work.

Correspondence mostly documents Stewart's artistic career and work as an educator and administrator; there is some personal correspondence, as well. Of particular note are letters to Rodman Townsend who commissioned a mural about the human brain; they discuss the details of the project and its evolution, brain research, and subsequent exhibitions of related paintings. Illustrated letters and greeting cards with original artwork are from Violet Baxter, Lorrie Goulet, Wolf Kahn, Clare Romano, Anthony Toney, and Sam Weiner. Herbert Brooks Walker sent several pieces of mail art and, while in Italy, collected graffiti information for Stewart. Letters Stewart wrote to his mother span decades; the best represented periods are the years he served in the U.S. Army and studied at Yale University.

Writings and notes consist of Stewart's dissertation ("Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway"), miscellaneous writings and notes, and art and architecture notebooks. Dissertation documentation includes the manuscript, drafts, and related records. Among the miscellaneous writings and notes - published and unpublished - are shorter pieces, articles, student papers, and teaching notes. Of particular interest are notes/instructions for a performance piece titled "Endless Subway," "Memories of Steffan Thomas" and "My Recollection of Charles Egan." Also found are minutes of Cooper Union adjunct faculty meetings (1965-1966), and reports written when provost of the Rhode Island School of Design. Art and architecture notebooks (5 volumes) were compiled while at Yale University.

Research files on graffiti contain many sound recordings and some transcripts of interviews with graffiti writers, voluminous lists of graffiti writers' names/tags, correspondence, notes, photographs, and a wide variety of printed material. Stewart began collecting these materials as his interest in graffiti developed. They were used for his dissertation and material continued to be added after the dissertation was completed.

Printed material mentioning Stewart or containing reproductions of his work includes exhibition catalogs, posters, and newsletters.

Artwork by Jack Stewart consists of drawings, paintings, and one etching; also found are designs and plans for tables, murals, and other projects. Drawings include figure studies, heads, and landscapes; most are in pencil and some in ink. The small number of paintings are oil on canvas (removed from stretchers), and gouache on paper and board. Sketchbooks (44 volumes) contain mostly pencil drawings and sketches, and a few studies for paintings and murals. Two volumes include writings about travels and events; of particular interest are "Notes on Kline's funeral May 1962," "Visit to Roman Bronze Art Foundry," and "Notes on My Development."

Photographic materials consist mainly of photographs, but also include digital images and 35-mm color slides. Images of Stewart include views of him with paintings and working in his studio. Identified individuals with whom he appears are: Regina Stewart (wife), Brandon Stewart (son), Lil Stewart (mother), Ninalee Craig, Irving Sandler, and students in Urbino, Italy. Photographs of artwork document murals such as Raw Material (composed of shirt labels), and Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach; among the paintings documented are State of the Union, Icons of Western Art and Revelation XVI-16 (both with keys to individuals portrayed). Exhibition openings and installations are shown in photographs, color slides, and video recordings. Also found are photographs of the World Trade Center site taken by Stewart in December 2001.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jack Stewart (1926-2005) was a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator in New York City.


Donated 2010 by Regina Stewart, Jack Stewart's widow.

A Finding Aid to the Jack Stewart Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Jack Stewart (1926-2005) was a painter, muralist, designer, educator and administrator in New York City. After developing an interest in graffiti in the 1970s, Stewart eventually wrote a dissertation on the subject, "Subway Graffiti: An Aesthetic Study of Graffiti on the Subway" (New York University, 1989) and was recognized as an expert on mass transit art.
Jack Stewart began studying art at the High Museum School in his hometown of Atlanta when he was 10 years old. At age 14, he began a 4 year apprenticeship with painter and sculptor Steffen Thomas. After serving in World War II, he enrolled at Yale University (B.F.A. 1951) as a sculpture student, but soon switched to the painting department where he studied with Josef Albers and Willem de Kooning. After graduation, Stewart began receiving mural commissions and enrolled in classes at Columbia University School of Architecture (1951-1953). His interest in architecture was tied to understanding how to work effectively with architects on mural projects. Later, Stewart developed an interest in graffiti which he pursued through graduate study at New York University (M.A., 1975 and Ph.D., 1989).
Stewart created murals in ceramic tile, mixed media and stained glass. In addition to mosaic murals, he designed tables with mosaic tops. As an outgrowth of his mosaic work, Stewart developed a technique for laminating stained glass onto plate glass that, by eliminating the need for lead, opened new design possibilities. Mural commissions included work for Hamilton Hotel in Chicago, Versailles Hotel in Miami Beach, Public School 28 in New York City, and several ocean liners. The most unusual mural,
Raw Material
commissioned by Cluett Peabody and Company, was composed of shirt labels embedded in acrylic.
Beginning in 1950 Stewart participated regularly in group shows and enjoyed solo exhibitions mainly in the New York City area. He also showed in Philadelphia, Georgia, Rhode Island, Mexico and Italy, and was included in exhibitions circulated by the American Federation of Arts.
Stewart taught at the college level for nearly thirty years, including: The New School (art and architecture, 1953-1958); Pratt Institute (interior architectural design, 1955-1960); The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (painting, drawing, human anatomy, art history, 1960-1976; Art Department Chairman, 1971-1976); International Center of Mythymna, American Division, Lesbos, Greece (summer school, 1962-1965); Columbia University (M.F.A. program instructor, 1966-1976); and New York University (drawing, 1967-1975). In 1976 he was appointed Vice President and Provost of the Rhode Island School of Design.
Stewart was active in several professional organizations. He served as New York Artists Equity Association Secretary (1986-1987) and President (1987-1989); President of the National Society of Mural Painters (1996-2000); member of the advisory board of the Steffen Thomas Museum and Archives, Buckhead, GA (1997- 2000s); and President of the Fine Arts Federation of New York (2003-2004). The National Academy of Design elected Jack Stewart an Academician in 1995.
Jack Stewart and Margot Schwarzhaupt, an artist, were married in 1947; they had one son, Brandon. Painter and arts administrator, Regina Serniak, became Jack Stewart's wife in 1976.
Jack Stewart died in New York City in 2005.
The collection is arranged as 9 series:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1926-circa 2009 (Boxes 1,11; 0.6 linear foot)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1944-2009 (Boxes 1-2; 0.7 linear foot)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-2003 (Boxes 2-5; 3.1 linear foot)
Series 4: Research Files on Graffiti, 1972-2010 (Boxes 5-7,11; 2.8 linear foot)
Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1945-2002 (Boxes 8, 11, OV 13; 0.7 linear foot)
Series 6: Scrapbooks, circa 1990-2003 (Box 8; 0.2 linear foot)
Series 7: Artwork, 1946-2000 (Boxes 8, 11, OV 12; 0.3 linear foot)
Series 8: Sketchbooks, 1951-2004 (Boxes 8-9; 1.3 linear foot)
Series 9: Photographic Materials, circa 1950s-2010 (Boxes 10-11; 0.4 linear foot)
Donated 2010 by Regina Stewart, Jack Stewart's widow.
Processing Information
The collection was processed to a minimal level by Catherine S. Gaines in 2012.
The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics, when possible, in order to increase access to more of our collections. Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. Generally, items within folders were simply verified with folder tiles and dates, but not arranged further. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders. Staples and other fasteners were not removed, but materials were removed from binders or damaged bindings.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. This collection is copyright restricted.

Restrictions on Use

The donor, Regina Serniak Stewart, has retained copyright. AAA has been given a non-exclusive license to reproduce and display.

How to Cite This Collection

Jack Stewart papers, 1926-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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