Scope and Contents
The papers of contemporary Color Field painter and educator Sam Gilliam measure 7.9 linear feet and date from 1957 to 1989. The papers include biographical material, correspondence, writings, business records, printed material, subject files, a scrapbook, artwork, and photographic material that document Gilliam's life beginning as a student, through to his teaching, professorial, and artistic career based in Washington D.C. The collection highlights Gilliam's close involvement with the art institutions, racial politics, and artistic innovation from the 1960s through the 1980s, and particularly showcases the planning and creation of Gilliam's large-scale three-dimensional paintings, often associated with the Washington Color School.
Biographical material includes résumés, passports, exhibition lists, artists' statements and essays, interview transcripts and recordings. Also included are audio recordings of conversations between Sam Gilliam and artist Benny Andrews, between Gilliam and artist Rockne Krebs, as well as recordings of a 1968 interview conducted by Dorothy Gilliam.
Correspondence spans over 20 years and includes letters to and from museums and galleries such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Carl Solway Gallery, collectors, artists including David Driskell, friends, family, students, and fans.
Writings include notes, statements, and essays by and about Gilliam, writings by university students of Gilliam, and writings related to Gilliam's artwork and public commissions including measurements for artworks, material research, and information regarding prints created for the private home of Walter Mondale.
Business records primarily include the daily records of activities kept by Sam and Dorothy Gilliam's secretary, Debby, from 1973 to 1978. Also present are resumes for a studio assistant for Gilliam, certificates of originality, legal documents, receipts and invoices, a record of donated paintings, financial records, ledgers, contracts, records and paperwork for the Gilliam's company Enterprise 101, and miscellany.
Printed materials include photocopies, exhibition announcements, magazines, and clippings regarding exhibitions, specific artworks, and commissions, and Gilliam and/or his then-wife, Dorothy Gilliam.
The subject file series contains letters, photographic material, business records, sketches, and printed materials concerning specific galleries, public art commissions, arts organizations, workshops, teaching positions, Gilliam's studio, art suppliers, and other topics.
A disbound scrapbook contains photographs, notes, and printed material related to Gilliam and his studio practice.
The artwork series includes sketches, personal notes, and small preparatory drawings by Gilliam.
Photographic material includes negatives, slides, and transparencies of artworks, Gilliam in his studio, and Gilliam and staff preparing museum and gallery exhibition spaces. Also included are records of student artwork, and photos and slides of artwork sent to Gilliam by students and aspiring artists.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Sam Gilliam papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Sam Gilliam in 1989.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are two oral history interviews with Sam Gilliam, one conducted by Kenneth Young, September 18, 1984, and the other by Ben Forgey, November 4-11, 1989.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
The collection received a preliminary level of processing and was catalogued by O. Evans in 1991. The collection was minimally reprocessed and a finding aid prepared by Ashley Boykins, supervised by Rayna Andrews with funding from The Henry Luce Foundation, in 2018.