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Lester Burbank Bridaham papers, 1912-1986

Bridaham, Lester Burbank, 1899-1992

Curator, Art historian


Collection Information

Size: 7.4 Linear feet, (partially microfilmed on 2 reels)

Summary: Correspondence, writings, art works, scrapbooks, printed material, photographs, and files on Julio De Diego and Kimon Nicolaides and other topics, related to Bridaham's career as an artist and writer.
REEL 8: Printed material, including articles written by Bridaham for periodicals (1950-1957), 15 exhibition catalogs (1928-1968), clippings by and about Bridaham (1930-1959), 6 press releases (1956-1957), a transcript of a radio discussion which included Bridaham (1951), 2 advertisements, a lecture announcement (1957), instructions on using egg tempera for Bridaham's students, a guide book to the Louisiana State Museum (1956), brochures about Strathmont Museum (1958), and resumes.
REEL 3: Material related to Kimon Nicolaides, including a radio address given by him, 1933; publicity for his book THE NATURAL WAY TO DRAW; exhibition catalogs; clippings; press releases; and a photograph of one of his sculptures. [Microfilm title: Kimon Nicolaides papers]
UNMICROFILMED: Correspondence with Kimon Nicolaides and Henry Schnackenberg (1921-1923), Julio De Diego (1941-1952), Ethel Spears (1961), Isabel Bishop (1975), and George and Edith Rickey. Letters to Mamie Harmon concern a Nicolaides exhibition and book (1938-1941). Writings include nine v. of diaries (1946-1954) kept during his tenure at the Art Institute of Chicago, and notes and drafts for an unpublished book (1938-1982).
Subject files concerning Ivan Albright's poetry, the Colonial Craft Survey for Massachusetts (1935), Olof Krans (1939), the reorganization of the Metropolitan Museum's photographic department (1949), Romanesque and Gothic sculpture and the Society for Contemporary American Art. A file (1921-1983) on Julio De Diego contains Bridaham's research materials, sketches and drawings by the artist, a journal kept by De Diego in New York (1932) and photographs of De Diego, his family including third wife Gypsy Rose Lee, friends and art works. Kimon Nicolaides' file (1921-1986) contains his writings and drawings (1928), drawings by Vivian Gordon and Howard Ahrens (1923-1986), photographs and other research materials.
Printed materials consists of clippings (1930-1972), "The Chicago Artist" newsletter (1938), press releases, a book cover, Artists Equity publications (1952-1953), posters, exhibition catalogs and anouncements and membership cards. Photographs show Bridaham, friends, National Art Week activities with Macena Barton, Charles Biesel, Jules Eboli and Richard Florsheim, his studio and drawings (1928-1949). Other materials include over 150 prints and drawings (1927-1977) of Moroccan scenes, Colorado wildflowers and other subjects, resumes, an illustrated notebook of Bridaham's plans for art works (1931-1932) and a list of his works (1974).
ADDITION: Material concerning the latter part of Bridaham's life, including original works of art, photographs, a dream sketchbook (1945), a notebook devoted to Julio de Diego; Bridaham's letters to Jeanette Fowler, 1989-1990 and other correspondence, 1940s-1950s; and printed material.

Biographical/Historical Note

Museum director, art historian, painter, and printmaker; d. 1992. Bridaham received a degree in chemical engineering from M.I.T. and studied art history at Harvard's Fogg Museum from 1936-1937. He received a 1931 American Field Service fellowship for study in France and Morocco, and studied studio art at the Art Students League under Kimon Nicolaides and Kenneth Hayes Miller. Between 1938 and 1954, Bridaham was a staff officer at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was also the director of the Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, and of the Strathmont Museum, Elmira, N.Y. He is the author of Gargoyles, Chimeras and the Grotesque in French Gothic Sculpture.


Donated 1974-1987 by Lester Burbank and Dorothy Bridaham. In 1996, an additional 0.8 ft. was donated from the Jeanette Fowler estate.

Related Materials

Lester Bridaham photographs and papers relating to gargoyles, 1895-1987, are located at The Getty Research Institute Special Collections.

Language Note

Some material in Julio De Diego files are in Spanish.

Location of Originals

  • Writings by Kimon Nicolaides: Location of originals unknown.

How to Use This Collection

Alternative Forms Available

35mm microfilm reels 3 and 8 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Writings by Kimon Nicolaides are photocopies.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm.

How to Cite This Collection

Lester Burbank Bridaham papers, 1912-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.