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Stanton Macdonald-Wright papers, 1890-2018

Macdonald-Wright, Stanton, 1890-1973


Collection Information

Size: 14.5 linear feet

Summary: The papers of Southern California painter Stanton Macdonald-Wright measure 3.2 linear feet and date from 1907 to 1973. The collection contains correspondence with family, friends, and artists, including Morgan Russell, and his wife Suzanne Binon, Michel and Suzanne Seuphor, Ann and John Summerfield, and Bethany Wilson. Also found are writings, six diaries, travel journals, printed materials, and artwork. There is an 11.3 linear foot unprocessed addition to this collection donated 2019 that includes biographical material, personal and professional correspondence including illustrated letters, two scrapbooks, a diary by Stanton macDonald-Wright, works of art includind sketches in various media, photographs, scrapbooks, Jean's research and writing, Stanton's teaching materials, printed material, interviews on three cassettes, and files related to Stanton's estate.
Writings consist of drafts of essays, plays, and book manuscripts. There are drafts of "A Treatise on Color," with palettes and color wheels, "The Basis of Culture," and Macdonald-Wright's autobiography "Bittersweet: An Artist's Life."
There are six diaries and numerous travel journals. One diary was written in Paris in 1909 in which Macdonald-Wright muses over the aesthetics of art and his color theories. Five additional disbound diaries cover his life from 1939-1973. Travel journals date from 1959-1972 and cover trips to Italy, Japan, and Hawaii.
Printed material includes a copy of "Les Synchromistes" exhibition catalog, a newspaper clipping, and "The Future of Painting," by Willard Wright. Artwork consists of blueprints for Macdonald-Wright's Synchrome Kineidoscope, a color and light projecting machine first envisioned by Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell as early as 1913 and finally completed in the late 1950s.

Biographical/Historical Note

Stanton Macdonald-Wright (1890-1973) was the creator of a modernist style of painting based on pure spectral color known as chromatic abstraction or "Synchromism," who worked in New York and Los Angeles.


The bulk of the Stanton Macdonald-Wright papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by his widow, Jean Macdonald-Wright, in 2 installments in 1995 and then in 2019 as a bequest. The artist's unpublished autobiography was donated to the Archives by gallery owner David Nellis in 1978/

Related Materials

The Archives of American Art holds several collections related to the Stanton Macdonald-Wright papers. There is an oral interview of Stanton Macdonald-Wright conducted 1964 April 13-September 16, by Betty Hoag. There are also Stanton Macdonald-Wright Letters to Alan and Fanny Leslie, the Stanton Macdonald-Wright Collection of photographs, Stanton Macdonald-Wright Letters to Morgan Russell, Walter Houk Letters from Stanton Macdonald-Wright, and an Oral History of Stanton Macdonald-Wright by Jeanne M. Marshall for the Voice of America Conducted in 1967.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Frederick Hammersley Foundation.

Location of Originals

  • Portions of the collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels LA1 and LA5 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan.