Skip to main content

Margaret Casey Gates papers, 1934-1988

Gates, Margaret Casey, 1903-1989


Collection Information

Size: 1.0 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of Washington, D.C. painter Margaret Casey Gates date from 1934-1988, and measure 1.0 linear foot. Gates' papers document her work as a painter, her projects for the New Deal Federal Arts programs, the Phillips Memorial Gallery and its art school, where she attended school and later worked as secretary and where her husband Robert Franklin Gates was a teacher, and the Washington, D.C. arts scene. Found are scattered correspondence, seven sketchbooks by Gates and two sketchbooks of her divorced husband Robert Franklin Gates; miscellaneous notes and writings, a scrapbook, printed material, and photographs of Gates, her husband, friends, artwork, and views of the Virgin Islands.
Twelve folders of scattered correspondence include letters from the Federal Works Agency and one or two letters each from friends and individuals that reflect Gates' wide range of interests and activities. Correspondents include Betty Jean Clark, Arthur G. Dove, D. R. Fitzpatrick, Alice Garrett, John Gernand, Karl Knaths, John L. Lewis, a Brazilian artist named Portinari, Julian Lee Rayford, Alfred Stieglitz, and Prentiss Taylor.
Artwork consists of seven of Margaret Casey Gates' sketchbooks and two of Robert Franklin Gates' sketchbooks of both abstract and figural sketches. Margaret's sketchbooks contain landscapes that illustrate her travels to Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Virgin Islands. Sketchbook #2 contains pencil, ink, and pastel drawings of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and an intimate drawing of Robert Franklin Gates, Mitchell Jamieson, and Prentiss Taylor asleep on a ship. Artwork also includes a caricature of Robert Franklin Gates by Karl Knaths.
Notes and writings primarily consist of scattered notes and brief descriptive accounts of Gates's experiences at the Phillips Gallery, and at the Colorado Springs Art Center. Her extensive descriptions of her travels to the Virgin Islands are also illustrated.
A scrapbook primarily contains clippings, but also includes an award certificate, letters concerning various topics including Pepsi-Cola's annual art competition and Federal Works Agency projects, brochures for the Phillips Gallery Art School and for the McLean Art Club, and a photograph of the mural at the Mebane, North Carolina post office.
Printed material consists of clippings including copies of the rare magazines The Washington Spectator and the American University publication Right Angle, announcements and catalogs for exhibitions of Gates's work, and miscellaneous booklets and brochures. There is also printed material concerning the Armory Show including a copy of the booklet The Story of the Armory Show by Walt Kuhn.
Photographs are of Margaret Casey Gates, Robert Franklin Gates, friends including Prentiss Taylor, her home, and her artwork. Photographs of Margaret and Robert Gates and their artist friends during their visits to the Virgin Islands in the 1930s are of primary interest, offering unique glimpses of that culture during the 1930s. These photographs include aerial photographs of St. Thomas and photographs by Prentiss Taylor.

Biographical/Historical Note

Margaret Casey Gates (1903-1989) was a painter from Washington, D.C. Gates studied art in the studio of Bertha Perry, and from 1924 to 1926 at the Corcoran Art School. She later studied under Henry Varnum Poor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center and with C. Law Watkins at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in 1931. There, she met her husband, painter Robert Franklin Gates. She spent some time (1933-1946) as a secretary for the Phillips Gallery Art School. In 1939, Margaret Gates won honorable mention in a national mural competition held by the Section of Fine Arts of the U. S. Public Buildings Administration and was subsequently commissioned by the Federal Works Agency to execute a mural for the Post office at Mebane, N.C During the late 1940s and early 1950s, Margaret Gates wrote articles on art for Washington, D. C. publications including the column "The People vs. Art" for American University's Right Angle, and for the magazine The Washington Spectator.


Donated 1994 by Margaret Casey Gates estate via Joyce Svedberg, executrix.

Related Materials