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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 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/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.


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

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