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Robert W. White papers, 1889-2003, bulk circa 1920s-2003

Robert W. White papers, 1889-2003, bulk circa 1920s-2003

White, Robert W. (Robert Winthrop), 1921-2002

Sculptor, Educator

Collection Information

Size: 8.4 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of New York sculptor and educator Robert White measure 8.4 linear feet and date from 1889-2003, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1920s-2003. Extensive correspondence chronicles Robert White's relationships with family and friends, and his professional activities spanning over a seventy year period. The collection also includes biographical material, project files, personal business records, notes and writings, artwork, printed material, artifacts, and photographs.

Biographical materials include a curriculum vita, documentation relating to White's service in the U.S. Coast Guard, and a memorial card for White's daughter, Natalie Laura White.

Correspondence contains mostly incoming letters from family and friends, and from clients, galleries, museums, arts organizations, university administrators, and students. Letters from Robert White's parents, Lawrence Grant White and Bessie Chanler White, and from Claire Nicolas White and her family provide a detailed portrait of the White family and their extended circle of friends, artists, writers, and other prominent individuals in the arts. Other personal correspondence reflects White's long term friendships with Jim Harrison, Peter Matthiessen, and William Styron. Many of White's friends were also connected to the artist through professional ties and their letters can be found in family and friends correspondence, and in general correspondence: correspondents include Gil Franklin, Walker Hancock, Willard R. Huntington, Ben La Farge, Ward Lamb, Walker O'Cain, Mark and Katja Oxman, Frank C. Platt, Paul and Ellen Resika, Paul Russotto, and Sidney Simon.

General correspondence mainly centers on Robert White's exhibitions, commissioned projects, and his teaching positions. Included are letters from Amyas Ames, Theodore Cremer, Davis Galleries, Patricia Fleischman, Hugh Fosburgh, Rebekah Harkness Kean, David Garrard Lowe, Parsons School of Design, Laura Spencer Pope, S. Dillon Ripley, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Steuben Glass, and the Suffolk Museum and Carriage House. Robert White had a long term affiliation with several professional associations and there are letters from professional associations: American Academy in Rome, the Augustus Saint Gaudens Memorial, Century Association, National Academy of Design.

Project files mostly concern Robert White's exhibitions and his commissioned work. Exhibition materials relate to White's business dealings with galleries and museums, particularly with Davis Galleries, Graham Gallery, and Graham Modern. There are substantive files on several of White's public and private commissions: American Battle Monuments Commission, Peabody Museum, and Steuben Glass.

Personal business records are scattered in content. Files contain materials relating to Robert White's participation in professional associations. Also found are files concerning his teaching appointments and business transactions with foundries, particularly the casting done by Modern Foundry for some of White's commissioned sculptures.

Notes and writings by Robert White include diaries, artist's statements, notebooks, essays on art, and notes. Notebooks contain Robert White's notes or drafts of his classroom lectures.

Sketchbooks include White's studies for his drawings. Printed material contains newspaper clippings and periodicals; exhibition announcements, catalogs, brochures, and posters, press releases and newsletters; and miscellaneous printed material. Clippings provide an overview of Robert White's activities as an artist.

Photographs house portrait shots of Robert White, White in his studio, and photographs of his artwork. Also found are photographs of Claire Nicolas White.

Biographical/Historical Note

Robert W. White (1921-2002) was a sculptor and educator from New York, N.Y. and St. James, N.Y.


The Robert W. White Papers were donated in 2003 by Claire Nicolas White, widow of Robert White.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Robert W. White Papers,
bulk 1915-2003,
in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Robert Winthrop White (1921-2002) lived and worked in St. James, New York and was primarily known as a sculptor and educator.
He was the son of the architect, Lawrence Grant White (1887-1956) and Bessie Chanler White. Stanford White (1853-1906), Robert's grandfather, was one of the founding partners in the prominent New York City architectural firm, McKim, White, and Mead.
As a youth, Robert White traveled to Munich, Germany to study woodcarving, sculpture, and painting. In 1935, he entered Portsmouth Priory School in Rhode Island. From 1938-1942, he was enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design, where his mentors were Walter Raemisch in sculpture and John Howard Benson in calligraphy. In World War II, White served as chief boatswain's mate in the United States Coast Guard and later worked in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). At the end of the war, White continued his training in sculpture and painting. In 1947, Robert White married Clare Nicolas, daughter of the painter and stained glass master, Joep Nicolas and the sculptor, Suzanne Nicolas.
Robert White, influenced by the classical techniques of the Renaissance artists, worked in various media, such as bronze, stone, plaster, terra-cotta, and wood. His subjects included portrait, figure, and life studies; animals; and dancers. Robert White also was an illustrator. He illustrated works by Laura Spencer Pope, William Styron, and others. White also illustrated two collections of his own poems,
Casques and Dust
Palace: The Story of A Friendship
that were privately published before his death in 2002.
Robert White held teaching positions at several universities and schools, including the Suffolk Museum of Art, the Parsons School of Design, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. From 1967-1987, White was an associate professor at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
White exhibited his work in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad, including Artists Choice Museum, Artist's Gallery, Benson Gallery, Boston Athenaeum, Gallery North, Hartwick College Museum, Nassau County Museum of Fine Art, Patricia Fleischmann Gallery, Rijksakademie Van Beeldende, State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the Suffolk Museum and Carriage House, among others. Robert White was represented by the Davis Gallery, Graham Gallery, and Graham Modern in New York City.
Robert White's private and public commissions included works for the American Battle Monuments Commission, Amyas Ames, Theodore Cremer, John Marquand, Peabody Museum, State University of New York, William Styron, and Xerox Corporation. His work can be viewed in the collections of the Boston Athenaeum, Brooklyn Museum, Civici Musei 3 Gallerie di Storia e Arte, Heckscher Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design. Robert White was the recipient of the Laurel Gallery's "New Talent" exhibition prize, 1948; American Academy's Rome Prize, 1952-1954; and the Proctor Memorial Prize at the National Academy of Design, 1962, 1982. He was also awarded grants from the Tiffany Foundation, 1950 and the Fairfield Foundation, 1968. From 1952-1955, White was a fellow of the American Academy in Rome, where he also served as an artist-in-residence from 1969-1970. Robert White was a member of the American Academy in Rome, the Augustus Saint Gaudens Memorial, Century Association, and the National Academy of Design.
Robert White continued to work on the family estate in St. James, New York until his death in 2002.
The collection is arranged into ten series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1939-2002 (Box 1; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1923-2002 (Boxes 1-4; 3.8 linear feet)
Series 3: Project Files, 1952-2003 (Boxes 4-5, OV 10; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1889, 1946-2003 (Boxes 5-6, OV 10; 1.3 linear feet)
Series 5: Notes and Writings, 1915, circa 1946-2002 (Boxes 6-7; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 6: Sketchbooks and Sketches, circa 1965-1972 (Boxes 7, 9; 0.3 linear feet
Series 7: Printed Material, 1937-2003 (Boxes 7, 9; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 8: Audiovisual Material, 1973 (Box 7; 1 folder)
Series 9: Artifacts, circa 1965 (Box 7; 0.1 linear feet)
Series 10: Photographs, circa 1940s-2001 (Box 8; 0.5 linear feet)
The Robert W. White Papers were donated in 2003 by Claire Nicolas White, widow of Robert White.
Processing Information
The collection was fully processed by Joy Weiner in August 2008.

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 W. White papers, 1889-2003, bulk circa 1920s-2003. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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