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William Christopher papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973

William Christopher papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973

Christopher, William R. (William Rodolphus), 1924-1973

Painter

Collection Information

Size: 7.9 linear feet

Summary: The William Christopher papers measure 7.9 linear feet and date from circa 1920s to circa 1973. Materials include biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, five diaries, subject/project files, printed materials, photographs, numerous sketches and eleven sketchbooks, and five unidentified motion picture films. The subject/project files include correspondence, printed materials, and two additional diaries about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Biographical materials include address books, annotated memorabilia, awards and certificates, curriculum vitae and resume materials, and identification materials. Correspondence is with friends and fellow artists, including actress Osceola Archer and Henry Crapo, galleries, and others. Writings and notes include eleven notebooks, miscellaneous undated notes and papers, annotated drafts and writings by William Christopher, and writings by others. There are five diaries written by William Christopher from the 1940s to the 1960s.

Subject files document miscellaneous projects in which Christopher was involved and/or interested, and include several about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. containing correspondence, printed material, and two diaries written by Christopher during his attendance of the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

Scattered personal business papers concern artwork sold and loaned and personal finances. Printed materials include clippings, exhibition catalogs and materials, magazines and programs, and posters. Photographs are of William Christopher, Henry Crapo, Margaret French, Charles Howard, Bernard Perlin, George Tooker, male models and figures, furniture, landscapes, buildings, and artwork.

Christopher's papers include over one hundred sketches and watercolors, eleven sketchbooks, an artwork by Dimitri Von Mohrenshildt, and one sketch by George Tooker. Also found among the papers are five unidentified film reels made by Christopher for an unfinished project.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Christopher was a painter, art instructor, and Civil Rights activist living and working in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

Provenance

William Christopher donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in 1972.

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fun.

A Finding Aid to the William Christopher Papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973, in the Archives of American Art
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Finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel
Scope and Contents note
The William Christopher papers measure 7.9 linear feet and date from circa 1920s to circa 1973. Materials include biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, five diaries, subject/project files, printed materials, photographs, numerous sketches and eleven sketchbooks, and five unidentified motion picture films. The subject/project files include correspondence, printed materials, and two additional diaries about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Biographical materials include address books, annotated memorabilia, awards and certificates, curriculum vitae and resume materials, and identification materials. Correspondence is with friends and fellow artists, including actress Osceola Archer and Henry Crapo, galleries, and others. Writings and notes include eleven notebooks, miscellaneous undated notes and papers, annotated drafts and writings by William Christopher, and writings by others. There are five diaries written by William Christopher from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Subject files document miscellaneous projects in which Christopher was involved and/or interested, and include several about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. containing correspondence, printed material, and two diaries written by Christopher during his attendance of the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
Scattered personal business papers concern artwork sold and loaned and personal finances. Printed materials include clippings, exhibition catalogs and materials, magazines and programs, and posters. Photographs are of William Christopher, Henry Crapo, Margaret French, Charles Howard, Bernard Perlin, George Tooker, male models and figures, furniture, landscapes, buildings, and artwork.
Christopher's papers include over one hundred sketches and watercolors, eleven sketchbooks, an artwork by Dimitri Von Mohrenshildt, and one sketch by George Tooker. Also found among the papers are five unidentified film reels made by Christopher for an unfinished project.
Biographical/Historical note
William Christopher was a painter, art instructor, and Civil Rights activist living and working in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. He was born in Columbus, Georgia on March 4, 1924, and served in the U. S. Navy from 1941 to 1943.
Aided by grants and scholarships, Christopher studied in France at the Sorbonne, Academie Julian, and the Ecoles d’Art Americaines between 1946-1948. While there, he also studied with Ossip Zadkine. He returned to New York and studied with Amedee Ozenfant and Hans Hofmann between 1948 and 1950.
Christopher's paintings was greatly influenced by his time spent in Paris and New York, and his later involvement with the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the march in Selma in 1965. His first U. S. solo exhibition was in 1952 at the Roko Gallery in New York, and he exhibited widely in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. at the Nexus Gallery, the Boston Arts Festival, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Joan Peterson Gallery, Galeria Juana Mordo, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. In 1964, Christopher was invited to present his paintings to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the presentation of Dr. King’s papers to Boston University. This is where Christopher met King.
Christopher moved to Hartland, Vermont in 1960, with his partner painter George Tooker. He remained there for the rest of his life. Christopher died in 1973.
Arrangement note
This collection is arranged as 10 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1940s-circa 1973 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1947-circa 1973 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-1970 (0.4 linear feet; Box 3)
Series 4: Diaries, circa 1940s-circa 1960s (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
Series 5: Subject Files, 1943-1972 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 4, 9)
Series 6: Personal Business Records, circa 1950-circa 1972 (0.3 linear feet; Box 4)
Series 7: Printed Material, circa 1950s-circa 1972 (1.4 linear feet; Boxes 4-5, 9, OV12)
Series 8: Photographs, circa 1920s-circa 1970s (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 6, 8, MGP 4)
Series 9: Artwork and Sketchbooks, circa 1940s-circa 1970s (1.6 linear feet; Boxes 6-8, OV10-11, 13-18)
Series 10: Unidentified Project, Motion Picture Films, 1961 (0.2 linear feet; Box 7)
Provenance
William Christopher donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in 1972.
Processing Information note
Multiple accessions were merged and archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2015 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution’s Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator’s original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.

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. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.

How to Cite This Collection

William Christopher papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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