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Maxine Seelbinder Merlino papers, 1928-2003

Maxine Seelbinder Merlino papers, 1928-2003

Merlino, Maxine Ollie Seelbinder, 1912-

Painter, Author, Illustrator, Arts administrator

Collection Information

Size: 1.1 linear ft.

Summary: Correspondence; newspaper clippings and reviews of artist's work; sketches for stage and set designs and mural decorations; federal commission contracts; exhibition brochures; theater playbills and announcements; photographs; original art work, including watercolor sketches; original lithographs; and material on the dedication of the Merlino Gallery at California State University, Long Beach.

Documenting Merlino's work on New Deal federal government programs are letters sent to her in the early 1940s from the Public Buildings Administration and the Section of Fine Arts of the Federal Works Agency in Washington, D.C. as well as three photographs of a mural executed by Merlino for the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C. that depicts Benjamin Banneker, a pioneering African-American surveyor, inventor, and astronomer.

Representing Merlino's early New York period are brochures of group exhibitions and her one-woman show in a theater gallery. Among the original works of art are two original lithographs: Franco's Destruction, which was reproduced in a 1938 issue of New Masses, and Hearst's Empire, which appeared in the April 1938 edition of The Fight magazine.

Biographical/Historical Note

Arts administrator, painter, muralist, lithographer, illustrator, writer; Long Beach, Calif.; Born in Portland, Or. in 1912.


Donated 2003 by Maxine Seelbinder Merlino.

A Finding Aid to the Maxine Seelbinder Merlino Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Maxine Ollie Seelbinder Merlino was born in Portland, Oregon in 1912. She trained at the Portland Art Museum School before venturing to New York City where she took classes at the Art Students' League with, among others, Will Barnet, Anton Refregier, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, and Harry Sternberg. Maxine Merlino worked in New York from 1936 to 1943 as a free-lance illustrator, muralist, and theatrical set designer.
In 1940 and 1942, Merlino won mural commissions for the United States Department of Interior Section of Fine Arts program. She designed and executed murals for the
S.S. Garfield
, and painted a mural that graced the Recorder of Deeds Building in Washington, D.C., one of seven murals in the building celebrating the contributions of African Americans.
Relocating to Long Beach, California in 1943, she worked as a scientific illustrator for the Army Air Force during the Second World War and subsequently as a stage, set and costume designer for theater and film producer Preston Sturges. From the early 1950s until her retirement in 1976, she was affiliated with California State University, Long Beach where she served as a Professor of Art and Theater Design and then as Dean of the Art Department. In recognition of Dr. Merlino's contributions to the department, the university dedicated an art gallery in her name, in February 2003.
The collection is arranged as five series:
Series 1: Biographical, 1929-2003 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 2: Letters, 1936-2001 (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 3: Projects, 1927-2002 (Box 1-2; 26 folders)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1939-1969 (Box 1-2; 13 folders)
Series 5: Works of Art, 1932-1957 (Box 1, 3, OV 4; 21 folders)
Donated 2003 by Maxine Seelbinder Merlino.
Processing Information
The papers were processed in December, 2004 by Pamela Conway.

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

Maxine Seelbinder Merlino papers, 1928-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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