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Weir family papers, 1809-circa 1961

More Information

Stephanie Ashley
Scope and Contents
The papers of the prominent New York and Connecticut Weir family of artists measure 0.8 linear feet and date from 1809-circa 1961, with the bulk of the material dating from 1830-1920. The papers are a collection of correspondence and photographs that constitute a small but vivid record of the influence and relationships of this family of Hudson River School, landscape, and miniature painters. Correspondence consists primarily of letters to painter John Ferguson Weir when he was director of the Yale School of Fine Arts, with scattered letters to his daughter Edith Weir (Perry), and a small amount of correspondence of Robert Weir, his daughter Carrie M. Mansfield, son-in-law Lewis William Mansfield, and Julia Bayard. Letters to John F. Weir are from many late-19th century artists, as well as actors, poets, lawyers, scholars, and clergymen, often concerning arrangements for visiting lectures at the school. Photographs are of Robert Walter Weir, Susan Bayard Weir, Julian Alden Weir, and artwork.
There are approximately 275 letters to John Ferguson Weir, some of which enclose sketches, photographs, and printed writings. The letters of Hudson River School artists including Frederic Edwin Church, Thomas Cole, Sanford Robinson Gifford, Jervis McEntee, and Worthington Whittredge, capture a sense of the intense ties those artists felt to the landscape and to each other. Often the correspondents mention their fellow artists in their letters in personal as well as professional terms, writing of family, friendships, visits to each other's homes, practical arrangements for delivering, retrieving, and exhibiting artwork, and their shared artistic aspirations, successes, and disappointments.
Many of the letters are responses from lawyers, scholars, clergymen, writers, and educators in reply to Weir's requests to speak at the Yale School of Fine Arts. Taken together the letters, which often go beyond routine matters to extend to more personal affairs, reveal the warm esteem in which Weir was held, not only in his capacity as director of the school but as an artist and a friend. The letters, such as those from Laura Hills, Lucia Fairchild Fuller, Adele Herter, and Candace and Dora Wheeler, also document the Weir family's friendships with and encouragement of women artists, at a time of limited support for women in the arts. Also of note are letters from actors Edwin Booth and Joseph Jefferson, who were both friends of John F. Weir.
Letters of Robert Weir and extended Bayard and Mansfield family members relate primarily to family affairs. Photographs of Julian Alden Weir, Robert W. Weir, and Susan Bayard Weir include professional portraits and candid family shots, as well as photographs of two sketches of Julian Alden Weir and two miscellaneous photos of artwork.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Photographs were given to the Archives of American Art in 2019 by Mary and John McGuigan, Jr. Letters to John Ferguson Weir were donated by Harold O. Love in 1961. Material on reels 529-531, 533, 565, 936 and 949 was lent for microfilming 1973-1975 by Rev. DeWolf Perry, grandson of John F. Weir. He also donated two photographs in 1975. The donor and date of acquisition of the manuscript draft of Julian Alden Weir's biography are unknown.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming by Reverend DeWolf Perry. Included on reels 529-531 are correspondence of John Ferguson Weir, much of it with his brother Julian Alden Weir, with his future wife which he wrote while serving in the Civil War, and with artists; 77 letters, 1823-1881, of Robert W. Weir with members of the Congress and War Dept. regarding commissions, and with artists and others, including Horatio Greenough, William Page, Thomas Cole, William Cullen Bryant, and George P. Morris; a pocket diary of John F. Weir, 1860, with occasional poems and sketches; 2 sketchbooks, and 71 drawings, watercolors, and oils by John F. Weir; 3 sketchbooks and 165 original drawings, lithographs, watercolors and oils by Robert Weir; 4 portraits of John F. by others; sheet music with words and lithograph on the cover by Robert; 81 photographs of John and Robert, family, and work; exhibition material of Robert; a list of John F. Weir's paintings with prices; drafts of Robert W. Weir, Artist by Irene Weir (1947); and a typescript of a biography of John F. Weir by his daughter, Edith Weir (Perry); genealogical material; and clippings. Reel 533 includes a typescript of "The Story of My Life: The Inner Life of a Human Soul," by Mary French Weir, ca. 1920 (94 p.), and a typescript of a biography of her mother, Clara Miller-French, ca. 1920 (28 p.). Reel 565 contains family correspondence, 1866-1927, of Mary French Weir; an excerpt from the French family genealogy; and an obituary of Mary French Weir written by her daughter Edith Weir Perry. Reel 936 contains a sketchbook, 1826, by Robert Weir, of figures, statues, and buildings in Rome done while a student. The drawings are in pencil, ink wash, and pen and ink. (111 p.); reel 949 contains three sketchbooks, 1869-1902, by John F. Weir, done in watercolor, pencil and ink wash. (69 p.), of landscapes, figures, and heads of individuals in Italy, Switzerland, Dordricht, Holland, and France.
Loaned materials were returned to the donor and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Related Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds the microfilm (Reels 70-71, 125-126, 577) for the Julian Alden Weir papers, 1869-1966, including correspondence (mostly typed transcripts); scrapbooks; photographs; sketches; notebooks and scrapbooks and clippings compiled by Dorothy Weir Young in preparation for her book, The Life and Letters of J. Alden Weir (1960, Yale University Press).
Additional Weir family records are held by the Yale University Archives. The records form part of the material previously lent to the Archives of American Art for microfilming by Reverend DeWolf Perry, and described above as separated materials.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Processing Information
The photographs donated by Mary and John McGuigan were merged with letters to John Ferguson Weir, the manuscript draft of J. Alden Weir's biography, and Robert W. Weir letters transferred from the Mary K. McGuigan and John F. McGuigan, Jr. artists' letters collection. All accessions were fully processed and a finding aid written by Stephanie Ashley in 2019. The collection was digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.