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Richard Dempsey papers, 1929-1989, bulk 1960s-1980s

Dempsey, Richard W., 1909-1987

Painter, Educator

Collection Information

Size: 2.9 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Richard W. Dempsey measure 2.9 linear feet and date from 1929 to 1989, with the bulk of the papers dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. The papers contain biographical material, correspondence, writings, project and exhibition files, printed material, photographs, and artwork and notes related to planning artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

Richard W. Dempsey (1909-1987) was a painter known primarily for his abstract works and his portraits of prominent African American individuals including Ethel Waters, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, and Adam Clayton Powell. Recipient of the Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1946 to paint 100 portraits of "Outstanding American Negroes". Invited by the government of Haiti in 1951 to visit and paint "People and Scenes". He was a lecturer and instructor at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. His work was handled by the Franz Bader Gallery in Washington, D.C.


The papers were originally lent for microfilming in 1990 by Vonja Kirkland Dempsey, Richard Dempsey's widow. After the collection was microfilmed, Vonja Kirkland Dempsey donated the bulk of the collection in 1990.

Related Materials

Language Note

Several letters, clippings, exhibition catalogs, and announcements are in Spanish and French.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.

Location of Originals

  • 2 photograph albums returned to the lender, Mrs. Vonja Kirkland Dempsey, after microfilming.