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Maryette Charlton papers, circa 1890-2013

Maryette Charlton papers, circa 1890-2013

Charlton, Maryette, 1924-2013

Painter, Photographer, Printmaker

Collection Information

Size: 81 linear feet

Summary: The papers of filmmaker, photographer, painter, printmaker, teacher, and arts advocate Maryette Charlton measure 81 linear feet and date from circa 1890 to 2013. This particularly rich collection includes biographical materials, correspondence, writings, 30 diaries, teaching files, professional and project files, major film project files, artist research files, exhibition files, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork, 22 sketchbooks, extensive photographic materials, numerous sound and film recordings, and an unintegrated later addition to the papers containing additional biographical materials, journals, correspondence, subject files, printed materials, and scattered photographs.

Biographical materials consist of material on Maryette Charlton and her family. The subseries on Maryette Charlton includes a biographical chronology, passports, records of her marriage to Hall Winslow, information on studio spaces, school transcripts, and other material. Family files include genealogical charts and files of family members containing correspondence, writings, printed material, sound and video recordings, and photographs. The bulk of the family files are for Charlton's parents, Etna and Shannon, and her husband and son, Hall and Kirk Winslow.

Extensive correspondence is with family, friends, artists, and colleagues. Family correspondence is with her husband and son, parents, and extended family. Personal correspondence is with friends and colleagues, many of whom were famous artists. Named correspondence files and chronological correspondence files contain exchanges with Jo Andres, Elizabeth Bishop, Xenia Cage, Paula Court, Yasuo Fujitomi, Dimitri Hadzi, Margo Hoff, Sylvia Shaw Judson, Lillian Kiesler, Cindy Lubar, Loren MacIver, Pierre Matisse, Nimet (Saba Habachy), Henri Seyrig, Robert Wilson, and many others. There is also correspondence with colleges, museums, and universities.

Writings include academic papers and college class notes, titled essays, a notebook with sketches, and miscellaneous notes. Thirty diaries cover the period from 1943-2001 and cover a wide variety of topics, from film projects to travels to the art world in New York City. Some diaries are illustrated, including one illustrated by Alexander Calder at a party with Maryette, Ellsworth Kelly, and actress Delphine Seyrig. Journals from 1978-1979 tell of Charlton's experiences while appearing in films made by avant-garde director Richard Foreman. There is also one diary of Maryette's mother Etna Barr Charlton.

Teaching files document Charlton's career as an instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago and as the founder of and instructor at the American University of Beirut's art department. Files include appointment calendars, schedules, notes, lectures, news releases, printed material, and photographs.

Professional and project files consist of material related to Maryette Charlton's professional work at the University of Iowa Museum of Art and other locations. The University of Iowa Museum of Art subseries consists of correspondence with fellow co-founders Leone and Owen Elliott, files on art donations, museum administration, annual reports, printed material, photographs, and sound and video recordings. Additional professional and project files document Charlton's work as a lecturer at the Chicago Public School Art Society, color analyst at the Container Corporation of America, executor of the estate of artist Louise Medbery von Brockdorff, fellowships, conferences, organizations, and the filming industry in general. There are files for the screening of "Zen in Ryoko-In."

Artist research files consist of books, articles, and clippings collected by Charlton for research. Notable artists include Alexander Calder, James Purdy, Louise Nevelson, Kiki Smith, and Toshiko Takaezu.

Major film project files document Maryette Charlton's films about or with artists Frederick Kiesler ("Trienniale," "The Universal Theater," and "Kiesler on Kieseler"), Lenore Tawney, Dorothy Miller, Loren MacIver, and Jeanne Reynal. The files for Frederick Kiesler also contain materials about his wife Lillian Kiesler, with whom Charlton had a long relationship and collaborated with on film projects. Individual film project files contain a wide variety of research and production documentation, including correspondence, writings, printed material, research files, exhibition catalogs, photographic materials, sound recordings of interviews and lectures, and Charlton's documentation about the creation and production of each film, such as contracts, scripts, and distribution information. The film project files for Kiesler and Dorothy Miller are particularly rich, containing substantial amounts of primary source materials not found elsewhere. Sound and video recordings are found throughout the series, as well as 19 film reels.

Files documenting Maryette Charlton's group and solo exhibitions include catalogs and announcements, publicity, printed material, mailing lists, art inventory, sales lists, correspondence, and other material.

Printed materials include other exhibition catalogs, books, posters, magazines, and clippings. There are many books on color theory from Maryette Charlton's job as a color analyst and substantial printed material on Frederick Kiesler. Scrapbooks document Maryette Charlton's personal life from high school, college, and summer camp, as well as exhibitions of her own work, and miscellaneous subjects.

Artwork includes sketches and drawings by Maryette Charlton, some drawings by Lillian Kiesler and others, and mail art created by various artists. There are also 22 sketchbooks filled with pencil, ink, and crayon drawings and sketches with occasional annotations.

Photographic materials include photographs, slides, negatives, and photograph albums. There are photographs of Maryette Charlton, and her travels, family, friends, and artists. Photographs are also found throughout other series.

Sound and video recordings which could not be merged with other series were placed together in an audiovisual series. There are recordings of radio programs and performances Maryette Charlton attended or participated in as well as miscellaneous recordings of artists and events.

The 2014 addition to the Maryette Charlton papers consists of biographical materials, journals, correspondence, subject files, printed materials, and a small number of photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

Maryette Charlton (1924- 2013) was a painter, printmaker, photographer, and film maker in Chicago, Illinois and New York, New York. Charlton studied in Chicago with Moholy-Nagy at the Institute of Design, and received her B.F.A. at Pratt Institute and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. She has made several films about American artists. She was the cameraman for set designer Frederick Kiesler's "Kiesler's Universal Theater" for CBS in 1962 and collaborated with Kiesler's widow, Lillian, on various projects, especially the film "Kiesler on Kiesler" (housed at the Museum of Modern Art Video and Film Department).


The Maryette Charlton papers were donated in multiple accretions from 1998-2011 by Maryette Charlton, and in 2013-2014 by the Maryette Charlton estate via Jo Andres, executor.

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art also has the papers of Frederick and Lillian Kiesler, a portion of which was donated by Charlton.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by Smithsonian Institution Collections Care Preservation Fund.

A Finding Aid to the Maryette Charlton papers, circa 1890-2013, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Maryette Charlton (1924-2013) was a painter, printmaker, photographer, filmmaker and arts advocate based in Chicago, Illinois, and New York, New York.
Maryette Charlton was born in Manchester, Iowa on May 18, 1924. Her parents were Shannon and Etna Charlton and she had 2 siblings. Charlton pursued her undergraduate studies at Monticello College and Northwestern University in Illinois, Antioch College in Ohio, and the University of Colorado before receiving a B.F.A. from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1947. She continued her studies in Chicago, Illinois with Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Hugo Weber at the Institute of Design and Art Institute of Chicago. From 1948 to 1952, she was a Department of Education lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago museum galleries and also gave talks at schools for the Chicago Public School Art Society.
Between 1942-1951, Maryette Charlton worked as a color analyst for the Container Corporation of America. In 1952, Charlton founded the Art Department of the American University of Beirut and taught there as an assistant professor until 1956. While in Beirut, Charlton married photographer Hall Winslow in 1953 and their only child Kirk Winslow was born in 1955. Winslow and Charlton later divorced in 1973.
Charlton moved to New York City in 1955. She began a master’s program at Columbia University and graduated with a M.F.A in film and printmaking in 1958.
Charlton made numerous documentary films, mostly about American artists including Alexander Calder, e. e. cummings, Jeanne Reynal, Dorothy Miller, Pierre Matisse, Lenore Tawney, and Loren MacIver. She also worked tirelessly to promote the work of sculptor, architect, and set designer Frederick Kiesler. She was the camera woman for Kiesler’s
Kiesler’s Universal Theater
which aired on CBS in 1962. She became close friends with Kiesler’s widow, Lillian, and they collaborated on the film
Kiesler on Kiesler
and numerous other film and art projects, supporting the work of young artists. Charlton also worked on commissioned films, including
The Mosaics of Jeanne Reynal
Zen in Ryoko-in
. Charlton befriended many artists in the visual, literary, and film worlds, including Elizabeth Bishop, Dimitri Hadzi, Margo Hoff, James Purdy, and Delphine Seyrig.
A performer in her own right, Charlton appeared in the works of Richard Foreman, Jo Andres, and others. She also played the part of Helen Keller in the film
An Iowa native, Charlton founded the University of Iowa Museum of Art together with Leone and Owen Elliott. She maintained a close relationship with the Iowa Museum over many years as a donor and chronicler.
Charlton died in New York City on November 25, 2013.
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged as 16 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1896-2005 (3.4 linear feet; Boxes 1-4, 80)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1930-2010 (23.3 linear feet; Boxes 4-27, 80)
Series 3: Writings, 1942-1999 (1 linear feet; Boxes 27-28)
Series 4: Diaries, 1943-2001 (2.1 linear feet; Boxes 28-30)
Series 5: Teaching Files, 1946-1997 (3.6 linear feet; Boxes 30-33, 80)
Series 6: Professional and Project Files, 1923-1998 (7.6 linear feet; Boxes 34-41, 81, OV 87)
Series 7: Artist Research Files, 1949-circa 2000 (1.8 linear feet; Boxes 41-43)
Series 8: Major Film Projects, 1904-2007 (18.8 linear feet; Boxes 43-61, 81-82, OV 87, FC 88-91)
Series 9: Exhibition Files, 1950-2000 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 61-62)
Series 10: Printed Material, 1924-2000 (3.2 linear feet; Boxes 62-65, 82, OV 87)
Series 11: Scrapbooks, 1939-2010 (0.8 linear feet; Box 65, 82-83)
Series 12: Artwork, 1950-1998 (0.9 linear feet; Boxes 65-66, 84)
Series 13: Sketchbooks, 1949-1996 (0.5 linear feet; Box 66)
Series 14: Photographic Materials, circa 1890-circa 2010 (7.8 linear feet; Boxes 67-74, 84-86)
Series 15: Sound and Video Recordings, circa 1953-2008 (1.2 linear feet; Boxes 74-75, 86)
Series 16: Addition to Maryette Charlton papers, 1951-2013 (3.7 linear feet; Boxes 75-79, 86)
The Maryette Charlton papers were donated in multiple accretions from 1998-2011 by Maryette Charlton, and in 2013-2014 by the Maryette Charlton estate via Jo Andres, executor.
Processing Information note
Multiple accessions were merged and archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Rihoko Ueno in 2015 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The 2014 addition of 3.1 linear feet was minimally processed by volunteer Harriet E. Shapiro, and the finding aid updated to include the additional materials.
The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Additional Forms Available

Some of the video and sound recordings in this collection have been copied for research access and are available in the Archives of American Art offices.

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

Maryette Charlton papers, circa 1890-2013. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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