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Roi Partridge papers, 1909-2003, bulk 1909-1984

Roi Partridge papers, 1909-2003, bulk 1909-1984

Partridge, Roi, 1888-1984


Collection Information

Size: 1.0 linear ft.

Summary: The papers of California printmaker and educator Roi Partridge measure 1.0 linear foot and date from 1909-2003, with the bulk of the material dated 1909-1984. Found here are scattered correspondence, notes and writings, a scrapbook, printed material, and photographs. Several of the documents date from the time Partridge was married to photographer Imogen Cunningham, particularly family correspondence and a travel log of family car camping trips to the west. The same travel log documents one sketching trip Partridge made with Eugen Neuhaus.

General and family correspondence consists largely of incoming letters with some copies and drafts of outgoing letters. General correspondence is mainly professional in nature and documents exhibitions, commissions, teaching, memberships in artists' organizations, and participation in the WPA Public Works of Art Project. A small number of letters from friends concerning personal and social matters are scattered throughout. Among the correspondents are Ansel Adams, Sherwood Anderson, John Taylor Arms, Hollywood Riviera Galleries, Dard Hunter, the Estate of Bertha Jacques [Elizabeth Linsky, executor], National Academy of Design, and Print Makers Society of California. Family correspondence includes letters to Roi Partridge from family members. Letters to Gryffyd's family are from Imogen Cunningham and Roi Partridge; letters from others about family members are also included.

Among the notes and writings are a travel log that documents car camping trips through California and New Mexico taken by Roi Partridge, Imogen Cunningham, and their three sons between 1924 and 1926. The volume also includes Roi's account of a 1926 sketching trip taken with Eugen Neuhaus along the California coast.

A scrapbook contains clippings and feature articles about Roi Partridge, along with exhibition announcements and reproductions. Additional printed material is about or mentions Roi Partridge and his family, Ansel Adams, and Imogen Cunningham. There are also family Christmas cards with reproductions of etchings and drawings by Roi Partridge.

Photographs are of people and art work, including photographs of Roi and May Ellen Partridge, and Donald Bear, the first Director of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (Janet Lineberger - later Mrs. Gryffyd Partridge - served as his assistant in the early 1940s). There are numerous photographs and negatives of art work by Roi Partridge (with appraisal and catalog information), and a photograph of Peter Blos' portrait of Partridge.

Biographical/Historical Note

Roi Partridge (1888-1984) was a printmaker and educator in Oakland, Calif. Prominent West Coast etcher, born in Centralia, Wash., married to photographer Imogen Cunningham, divorced, 1934. Taught at Mills College, Oakland, Calif. He also illustrated several important books including Creative Art, English Studio, Art and Archeology, Prints, and Aesthetic Judgment.


Gryffyd Partridge donated his father's papers to the Archives of American art in 1992 and 1995. A final gift was received from Janet [Mrs. Gryffyd] Partridge in 2003.

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds the papers of Imogen Cunningham, Partridge's first wife, which contain additional Partridge family correspondence and photographs. An untranscribed oral history interview of Roi Partridge conducted by Steve Steinberg in 1980 is also available.

A Finding Aid to the Roi Partridge Papers,
(bulk 1909-1984)
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Roy George Partridge (later known as Roi) was born in Centralia, Washington, in 1888, the son of a newspaper publisher and a pianist mother who accompanied silent films in Seattle movie houses. His mother enrolled him in a drawing and painting course at age 10. By 1907, the family had moved to Kansas where Partridge enrolled in studio courses at the newly established Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City. From there he then went to New York City to study at the school of the National Academy of Design during 1909 and 1910.
In 1910, with an art student friend from Seattle and enough cash to last a month, Partridge traveled to Europe and through a severe economy and by selling his etchings, managed to stay for four years. Between 1910 and 1914, he studied etching with Brockhoff in Munich, and rented a studio in Paris from 1911-1914. Once he had produced a sufficient number of prints, his friends John Butler and Clare Shepard arranged for an exhibition of his work in Seattle. They were assisted by Imogen Cunningham who sent her photo to Partridge and began corresponding with him.
The outbreak of World War I forced Partridge's return to Seattle where he and Imogen Cunningham finally met face to face. They were married within a matter of months. In their early years together, Roi managed to earn a living selling his prints and Imogen worked for Edward S. Curtis, whose photographs of American Indians had not yet achieved recognition. The couple soon produced three sons, Gryffyd and twins Padraic and Rondal. The family soon moved to San Francisco where Partridge worked as an artist in an advertising agency that also employed Maynard Dixon. During this time, he became friendly with the young Dorothea Lange who worked at the shop where Partridge had his film developed. After their marriage, Dixon and Lange established a close, long term friendship with the Partridge family.
In 1920, Partridge joined the faculty of Mills College as an art instructor, teaching design, painting, printmaking, lettering, and photography for 26 years. Partridge was such a popular teacher that the number of art students rose sharply and, for a time, art became the institution's most popular major. He was named chairman of the Art Department in 1923, and served as the first director of the college's art gallery from 1925 through 1935.
While teaching, Partridge remained an active artist and participated in exhibitions throughout the country at venues such as the Honolulu Art Academy, de Young Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Toronto Art Gallery, and the Museum of Modern Art. Among the prizes and medals awarded him were: Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle (1909), National Academy of Design (1910), Panama Pacific Exposition (1915), Art Institute of Chicago (191), Brooklyn Museum (1921), San Francisco Museum (1921), Los Angeles Museum of Art (1922, 1925, 1929), California Society of Print Makers (1929), and Library of Congress (1943). Partridge is represented in the permanent collections of many museums, colleges, and libraries, among them: Walker Art Gallery, Honolulu Academy of Art, San Diego Fine Arts Society, Milwaukee Art Gallery, Mills College, Scripps College, New York Public Library, and Library of Congress. Partridge also illustrated several books, and
The Graphic Art of Roi Partridge: a Catalogue Raisonné
by Anthony R. White was published in 1988.
Imogen Cunningham and Roi Partridge, both strong-willed and not given to compromise, divorced in 1934. They reconciled in the 1960s and remained on friendly terms until her death in 1976. Partridge's second wife, Marian Lyman, died in 1940. The following year, he married May Ellen Fisher, a teacher, who survived him.
In addition to his professional activities, Partridge pursued a wide variety of other interests. During the 1920s, he, Imogen, and their boys took numerous camping trips throughout California and New Mexico. With his third wife, May Ellen, he became an avid folk dancer and enthusiastic gardener, raised chickens and chinchillas, and kept bees. They had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii and Japan. In Japan, Partridge expanded his Japanese print collection which was eventually donated to the Mills College Art Gallery.
Roi Partridge died in Walnut Creek, California, on January 25, 1984.
The collection is arranged into 5 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, circa 1909-1993 (Box 1; 0.3 linear ft.; reel 5028)
Series 2: Notes and Writings, 1924-1964 (Box 1; 5 folders.; reel 5028)
Series 3: Scrapbook, 1922-1977 (Box 1; 0.1 linear ft.)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1913-2003 (Box 1; 0.25 linear ft.; reel 5028)
Series 5: Photographs, 1940-1987 (Box 1; 0.3 linear ft.; reel 5028)
Gryffyd Partridge donated his father's papers to the Archives of American art in 1992 and 1995. A final gift was received from Janet [Mrs. Gryffyd] Partridge in 2003.
Processing Information
The 1992 accession was processed and microfilmed on reel 5028 in 1995. Two additions were merged and the collection was processed and described by Catherine S. Gaines in 2007.

Additional Forms Available

A portion of the collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reel 5028 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Note that the arrangement of re-processed papers may not match the microfilm.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Roi Partridge papers, 1909-2003, bulk 1909-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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