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John Wilson papers, circa 1939-1993

Wilson, John Woodrow, 1922-

Painter, Printmaker, Sculptor, Educator, Illustrator


Collection Information

Size: 5 Microfilm reels; Sound recording: 1 Cassette, analog

Summary: This microfilm collection of the papers of African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator John Woodrow Wilson contains biographical material such as autobiographical notes, school records, personal documents, and a bibliography; personal and business correspondence, undated and 1938-1993; files on the New York City Board of Education, 1959-1965, regarding his teaching; and project files, including Wilson's submission for the competition for a Frederick Douglass statue, Eternal Presence, Father and Child Reading, and Wilson's monuments and bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Correspondents represented include the Albany Institute of History and Art, Atlanta University, Carnegie Institute, Ebony, David Porter of the G Place Gallery, the Institute of Moder Art, Alain Locke, Gloria May, the Museum of Modern Art, Frederick G. Rice, and Hale Woodruff.
Also included in the collection are files on exhibitions; notebooks, 1958-1960; lesson plans, 1959, 1963; notes, writings, and lectures, circa 1945-1993; transcripts of interviews of Wilson and related correspondence, 1978-1987; legal material, 1978; financial records 1944-1991, including a notebook of sales and expenses 1945-1950; photographs, 1940-1990, of Wilson, his work, sculpture, and exhibition installations; a scrapbook, 1939-1967; artwork, including sketchbooks, 1970-1992, life studies completed as a student, 1939-1947, and miscellaneous art work, 1939-1992; and printed material, 1939-1993, including exhibition catalogs, illustrated books and book jackets, and ephemera. The collection also includes a copy of a sound recording of an interview of Wilson conducted by Alan Trachtenberg, circa 1979 (untranscribed).

Biographical/Historical Note

John Woodrow Wilson (1922-2015) was an African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator in Boston, Massachusetts. Wilson studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston under Ture Bengtz and Karl Zerbe, graduating in 1945. He lived in Paris through the MFA fellowship and studied with modern artist Fernand Leger. He then attended Tufts University, graduating in 1947. Wilson received a John Hay Whitney fellowship and lived in Mexico for five years with his wife, Julie Kowtich. After his return from Mexico in 1956, Wilson made artwork for Chicago labor unions and taught in New York City before returning to teach at Boston University in 1964. During his career, Wilson won competitions to execute statues of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the city of Buffalo, New York and for the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.


Lent for microfilming 1993 by John W. Wilson, except for the 1979 sound recording which he lent for copying.

Language Note

English .

Location of Originals

  • Originals returned to John Woodrow Wilson after microfilming.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 4876-4880 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Microfilm portion must be consulted on microfilm. Use of untranscribed interview requires an appointment.

How to Cite This Collection

John Wilson papers, circa 1939-1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.