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John DeWitt papers, 1962-1979

John DeWitt papers, 1962-1979

DeWitt, John, 1910-1984

Military officer, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 1.4 linear ft.

Summary: The scattered papers of federal arts administrator John DeWitt date from 1962-1979, and measure 1.4 linear feet. The collection primarily documents 1970s arts programs organized by DeWitt while working for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Department of the Interior. Found within the papers are scattered correspondence concerning the department's art projects, including the Preservation of Endangered Species Art Program and activities of the Hereward Lester Cooke Foundation. There are letters from artists Vija Celmins, Lamar Dodd, and Ethel Magafan.

Files for the two exhibitions organized by DeWitt for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, The American Artist and Water Reclamation and America 1976, include a wide variety of materials. There are correspondence, lists of artwork, printed materials, a scrapbook, financial materials, audio recordings of interviews with DeWitt, audio recordings of a symposium on America 1976, and numerous photographs of exhibited artwork and participating artists. There are also additional photographs of DeWitt and his colleagues and artists Joseph Raffael and Ann Wyeth McCoy.

Biographical/Historical Note

John DeWitt (1910-1984) was a wood sculptor and federal arts administrator in Washingon, D.C. As art program director, Bureau of Water Reclamation, Department of the Interior, De Witt invited a number of artists, including Norman Rockwell, Fritz Scholder, and Ralston Crawford, to depict the majesty of reclamation projects in the American West. An exhibition, of their work, THE AMERICAN ARTIST AND WATER RECLAMATION, opened at the National Gallery of Art in 1973 and travelled around the country. For the Bicentennial, as Director of the Visual Arts Program for the Department of the Interior, he organized AMERICA '76, a similar undertaking, hiring some 45 realist painters to depict a diverse range of Americana.

Provenance

Donated 1987 by Miriam Hapgood DeWitt, wife of John DeWitt.

A Finding Aid to the John DeWitt Papers,
1962-1979
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.dewijohn
Biographical Note
John DeWitt was born in 1910 and was a wood sculptor and federal arts administrator in Washingon, D.C.
DeWitt began his career as a professional writer and was a wood sculptor connected with the Veerhoff Gallery in Washington, D.C. His wife, Miriam Hapgood DeWitt, was a painter. In the late 1960s, DeWitt was the Director of Art Programs for the Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Department of Interior responsible for water conservation in arid regions of the United States. At this time, the Bureau initiated a program to present its accomplishments to the public through arts commissions and exhibitions. Under the direction of DeWitt and Lloyd Goodrich of the Whitney Museum of American Art, some 40 artists including Ralston Crawford, Peter Hurd, and Norman Rockwell, were invited to depict the scope of reclamation projects in the American West. The artists were given a free hand to depict any scene in any medium as long as the subject matter pertained to the Bureau of Reclamation's program. The resulting artwork was displayed in an exhibition,
The American Artist and Water Reclamation
, that opened at the National Gallery of Art in April 1972, and then toured the country in a traveling exhibition sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution.
As the Director of the Visual Arts Program for the Department of the Interior, DeWitt celebrated the Bicentennial by organizing the exhibition
America 1976
, for which he hired over forty realist painters including Vija Celmins, Ralston Crawford, Alex Katz, Philip Pearlstein, and Wayne Thiebaud, to depict a diverse range of Americana. DeWitt was employed by the Department of the Interior until 1977.
John DeWitt died in 1984.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 3 series; each series is arranged chronologically.
Series 1: Correspondence, 1965-1979 (Box 1; 10 folders)
Series 2: Exhibition Files, 1962-1978 (Box 1, 2; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 3: Photographs, 1970-1974 (Box 2; 1 folder)
Provenance
Donated 1987 by Miriam Hapgood DeWitt, wife of John DeWitt.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

John DeWitt papers, 1962-1979. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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