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Robert Franklin Gates papers, 1910-1988, bulk 1928-1988

Robert Franklin Gates papers, 1910-1988, bulk 1928-1988

Gates, Robert Franklin, 1906-1982

Muralist, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 2.3 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of Washington, D.C. area painter and art instructor Robert Franklin Gates date from 1910-1988, bulk 1928-1988, and measure 2.3 linear feet. Found are biographical materials; letters from government agencies, museums, galleries, and colleagues; business records primarily concerning transactions with the Jack Rasmussen Gallery; artwork including scattered drawings by Gates and block prints by Joe Goethe and D. Neufeld; two scrapbooks; printed materials; and photographs of Gates, family members, models, artwork, and exhibition installations. There are also photograph albums and miscellaneous photographs documenting a 1936 voyage to the Virgin Islands commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert Franklin Gates (1906-1982) was a painter and instructor in Washington, D.C. Gates studied under C. Law Watkins at the Phillips Gallery Art School in Washington, D.C., later becoming an instructor in life drawing and painting there. He held teaching position in many other places, including at the Studio House in Washington, D.C. (1934-1938), as a guest instructor at the University of Florida, at Hood College in Frederick, Md., the Washington County Museum of Art in Hagerstown, Md., and in the art department at American University (1946-1976), serving as chair from 1953-1957. Between 1929-1940, Gates received a commissions from the U.S. Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts to create a series of watercolors of Charles Gardens, S.C., and murals for post offices in Bethesda and Oakland, Md., and Lewisburg, W. Va. During World War II, Gates worked as a civilian technician for the Navy Department doing model making and camouflage design, receiving the Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his work. From 1966 to 1967, Gates was Artist-in-Residence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, under the Department of State Educational and Cultural Exchange Program.

Provenance

The Robert Franklin Gates papers were donated in 1995 by Sarita W. Gates, the artist's widow, via legal representative Bradford G. Weekes III.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Robert Franklin Gates Papers,
1910-1988,
bulk 1928-1988
, in the Archives of American Art
AAA.gaterobe
Finding aid prepared by Jean Fitzgerald
Scope and Content Note
The papers of Washington, D.C. area painter and art instructor Robert Franklin Gates date from 1910-1988, bulk 1928-1988, and measure 2.3 linear feet. Found within the papers are biographical materials; letters from government agencies, museums, galleries, and colleagues; business records primarily concerning transactions with the Jack Rasmussen Gallery; artwork including scattered drawings by Gates and block prints by Joe Goethe and D. Neufeld; two scrapbooks; printed materials; and photographs of Gates, family members, models, artwork, and exhibition installations. There are also photograph albums and miscellaneous photographs documenting a 1936 voyage to the Virgin Islands commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Biographical material includes resumes, biographical accounts, award certificates, records for employment through a State Department Specialists Grant, address lists, teaching notes, writings about Gates, and a guest book signed by colleagues celebrating Gates' forty years at American University. There is a also a group of Navy Department records documenting Gates' employment designing three-dimensional photo-surfaced topography models for use by troops during World War II.
Letters are primarily from the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Works Agency discussing commissions, including the painting of post office murals in Maryland and West Virginia, and from various museums and galleries discussing exhibitions and other art-related activities. There are one or two letters each from colleagues Alice Acheson, Adelyn Breeskin, Charles Burchfield, Alida Conover, John Gernand, Duncan Phillips, Henry Varnum Poor, and Prentiss Taylor. Some letters are Christmas cards decorated with original block prints.
Business records primarily document Gates' interaction with the Jack Rasmussen Gallery in Washington, D.C., but also include miscellaneous sales records and pay stubs from American University.
Artwork consists of scattered drawings of modern houses by Gates and abstract sketches by others, and small block prints by Joe Goethe and D. Neufeld. Two Scrapbooks contain clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and scattered letters.
Additional printed material includes clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs for Gates and others, prospectuses for art exhibitions, press releases, calendars of events, booklets about color and lenses, brochures for art schools and books, and an unannotated calendar containing a reproduction of one of Gates' paintings.
Photographs are of Robert Gates, various family members including Gates with his first wife photographed by Prentiss Taylor, models, artwork, and exhibition installations. There are two photograph albums and unbound photographs documenting a 1936 voyage to the Virgin Islands commissioned by the U.S. Treasury Department. Images of this trip are of Gates and colleagues including Mitchell Jamieson, the ship Doris Hamlin, the crew, markets, a cock fight, miscellaneous buildings, town squares, and the countryside of the Virgin Islands.
Biographical Note
Robert Franklin Gates was born on October 6, 1906 in Detroit, Michigan. He studied at the Detroit School of Arts and Crafts, and from 1929 to 1930 attended the Art Students' League in New York. Between 1930 and 1932, Gates studied under C. Law Watkins at the Phillips Gallery Art School in Washington, D.C., later becoming an instructor in life drawing and painting there. During this time, he met fellow student Margaret Casey, and they married on January 7, 1933. Between 1934 and 1938, Robert Gates was an art instructor at the Studio House in Washington, D.C.
In 1934, Gates received a commission from the U.S. Treasury Department Section of Fine Arts to create a series of watercolors of Charles Gardens, South Carolina, and from 1929-1940, murals for post offices in Bethesda, Maryland, Oakland, Maryland, and Lewisburg, West Virginia. In 1936, the Treasury Department also commissioned Gates and fellow artists Mitchell Jamieson and Prentiss Taylor to create series of watercolors of the Virgin Islands, arranging for several voyages there.
Between 1937 and 1942, Gates was a guest instructor at the University of Florida, taught art classes at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland and at the Washington County Museum of Art in Hagerstown, Maryland. He also taught at the Phillips Gallery Art School in Washington, D.C. while his wife was employed as the school secretary. In 1938, Gates received a summer scholarship to study under Henry Varnum Poor at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
During World War II, Gates worked as a civilian technician for the Navy Department doing model making and camouflage design, receiving the Distinguished Civilian Service Award for his work.
After the war, and the closing of the Phillips Gallery Art School, Gates attended classes taught by Bill Calfee at American University. In 1946, he joined the faculty and eventually becane chairman of the Art Department in 1954. Robert and Margaret Gates were divorced sometime in the mid-1950s. From 1966 to 1967, Gates was Artist-in-Residence at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, under the Department of State Educational and Cultural Exchange Program. In 1967, he married his second wife, Sarita, while in Baghdad.
Gates is represented in the permanent collections of the American University, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Dumbarton Oaks collection, the Phillips Collection, and the Lewisshon collection.
Robert Franklin Gates died on March 11, 1982 in Alexandria, Virginia.
Arrangement
The collection is arranged into 7 series. Each series is arranged chronologically:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1928-1975 (Box 1, OV 4; 34 folders)
Series 2: Letters, 1930-1988 (Box 1; 25 folders)
Series 3: Business Records, 1961-1982 (Box 1; 5 folders)
Series 4: Artwork, circa 1962 (Box 1; 6 folders)
Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1932-1939 (Box 1-2; 4 folders)
Series 6: Printed Material, 1916-1988 (Box 2; 48 folders)
Series 7: Photographs, 1910-1982 (Boxes 2-3, OV 4; 20 folders)
Provenance
The Robert Franklin Gates papers were donated in 1995 by Sarita W. Gates, the artist's widow, via legal representative Bradford G. Weekes III.
Processing Information
The Robert Franklin Gates papers were processed in December 2007 by Jean Fitzgerald.

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

Robert Franklin Gates papers, 1910-1988, bulk 1928-1988. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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