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Lowell Nesbitt papers, 1903-1993, bulk 1950-1993

Lowell Nesbitt papers, 1903-1993, bulk 1950-1993

Nesbitt, Lowell, 1933-1993

Sculptor, Painter, Photographer

Collection Information

Size: 48.8 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter, photographer, and sculptor Lowell Nesbitt measure 48.3 linear feet and date from circa 1903-1993 (bulk 1950-1993). The collection documents Nesbitt's career through biographical material, correspondence, subject files, business and financial records, source material, artwork, printed matter, photographs and audiovisual records, and scrapbooks.

Biographical Material includes documentation of Nesbitt's education and other personal documents. Plans and designs for Nesbitt's properties on West Twelfth Street, New York City, and Kent, N.Y. are arranged in the series for architectural records for homes and studios.

Correspondence and Subject Files are voluminous and record Nesbitt's interaction with individuals, businesses and organizations, and includes personal and family correspondence in addition to correspondence relating to galleries, exhibitions, commissions he undertook, and committees on which he served.

Artwork by Nesbitt includes a small collection of collages, drawings, paintings, prints, and sketchbooks. Source material comprises approximately 11 linear feet of material, primarily newspaper and magazine clippings and photographs, relating to a large variety of subjects that inspired Nesbitt, such as flowers, fruits and vegetables, dogs and other animals, and the studios of other artists including Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol.

Photographs are of Nesbitt, his friends, family, colleagues, and his pets, as well as subjects of interest to him in his work. Also of note are twenty-seven folders of photographs taken by photographer Jack Mitchell of Nesbitt and others.

Printed Material contains publicity material and documents exhibitions of Nesbitt's work. Additional photographs and printed material are found in the Scrapbooks.

Biographical/Historical Note

Lowell Nesbitt (1933-1993) was a painter, photographer, and sculptor from New York, N.Y.


Donated 1984 by Lowell Nesbitt and 1994 by the estate of Lowell Nesbitt.

A Finding Aid to the Lowell Nesbitt Papers, circa 1903-1993 (bulk 1950-1993), in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Painter, photographer, and sculptor Lowell Nesbitt worked primarily in New York City.
Lowell Nesbitt was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1933. In college he studied stained glass and printmaking, graduating from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia in 1955 and attending the Royal College of Art in London from 1955 to 1956.
After serving for several years in the United States Army in the mid 1950s, Nesbitt received his first exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1958. By 1963 he had moved to New York City and by the 1970s had emerged as one of the most well known artists in the United States. Nesbitt was frequently grouped with the photo realists and was best known for more than four hundred works he created with the flower as his central theme. In addition to flowers, Nesbitt's subjects included studio interiors, dogs, fruits and vegetables, bridges and buildings in New York, and male nudes. He began experimenting with printmaking in the 1960s and produced more than a hundred original prints in the course of his lifetime, primarily in the medium of dry point engraving. In 1963 he began a series of x-ray inspired paintings and was credited with being the first artist to produce a body of work of this kind. During the same period he began a long-standing relationship with the Howard Wise Gallery in New York, a space known for it's devotion to art and new technology.
In 1969 and 1970 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration named Nesbitt the official artist of the Apollo 9 and Apollo 13 missions. In 1980 the United States Postal Service released a series of four postage stamps based on his floral paintings.
Following a major one-man show at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC in 1964, Nesbitt's work was exhibitied widely in Europe and the United States. In New York City he was represented by the Stable Gallery, the Robert Stefanotti Gallery and the Andrew Crispo Gallery. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Nesbitt taught at Towson State and Morgan State Colleges in Maryland, and the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Nesbitt was active in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society from the early 1980s until his death, serving as co-chairman on the Society's annual juried
Project Rembrandt
exhibition for artists with multiple sclerosis. He was also actively involved in fundraising for artists with HIV/AIDS.
Nesbitt's work is represented in many major museum collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, Baltimore Museum of Art, Bibliotheque Nationale (Paris), Corcoran Gallery, Detroit Institute of Art, Hirshhorn Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and the National Gallery.
Lowell Nesbitt died in 1993 at the age of 59.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1932-1988 (Boxes 1, 40, OV 58; 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 2: Architectural Records for Homes and Studios, 1977-1992 (Boxes 1-2, 40; 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 3: Notes and Writings, 1981-1990 (Boxes 2-3; 1.0 linear ft.)
Series 4: Calendars and Addressess, 1973-1993 (Boxes 3-5; 1.25 linear ft.)
Series 5: Correspondence and Subject Files, 1940-circa 1990s (Boxes 5-12, 40, OV 51; 8.0 linear feet)
Series 6: Business and Financial Records, circa 1910-1993 (Boxes 12-14; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1948-1989 (Boxes 15-16, 41-42, OVs 52, 55; 2.0 linear ft.)
Series 8: Source Material, 1965-circa 1990s (Boxes 16-26, 43-45, OV 53; 12.0 linear ft.)
Series 9: Photographs and Audiovisual Records, 1965-circa 1990s (Boxes 16-26, 43-46, OV 53; 12.0 linear ft.)
Series 10: Printed Material, circa 1960s-circa 1990s (Boxes 37-39, 45, OVs 48-50, 54, 56, 60; 3.05 linear feet
Series 11: Scrapbooks, 1964-1992 (Boxes 61-75; 6.6 linear feet)
Donated 1984 by Lowell Nesbitt and 1994 by the estate of Lowell Nesbitt.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed to a preliminary level by Ambika Sankaran in 2006. The finding aid was completed by Stephanie Ashley in 2007.

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

Lowell Nesbitt papers, 1903-1993, bulk 1950-1993. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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