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William Page and Page family papers, 1815-1947, bulk 1843-1892

William Page and Page family papers, 1815-1947, bulk 1843-1892

Page, William, 1811-1885


The papers of William Page in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 15,514 images.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 8.5 linear ft.

Biographical/Historical Note

William Page (1811-1885) was a portrait and figure painter in New York. Page studied with the painter/engraver James Herring in 1825 and under Samuel F.B. Morse, at the National Academy of Design in 1826, the year it was formed. Page was married three times; the first two, to Lavinia Twibill and Sara A. Dougherty respectively, ended in divorce. He had three daughters with his first wife. His third wife was Sophia Candace Stevens Hitchcock, daughter of Henry Stevens, with whom he had six children. The couple stayed in Rome until 1860. Sophia's three brothers, all businessmen, helped to promote Page's artwork in Europe and America. His paintings of this period include several Venus subjects, one of which was championed by his most loyal patrons, who raised $3000 by subscription to buy the painting for the Boston Athenaeum. A later Venus painting was rejected from the Paris salon for indecency, a controversy that was later leveraged for publicity in a touring exhibition in the United States. Page worked on series of portraits of Civil War heroes. Photographs played a consistent part in Page's technique of portraiture, and he is known to have worked with the photographer Matthew Brady. Page was elected the president of the National Academy of Design, a post he held until 1873. He completed a portrait of General Grant, an idealized portrait of the president based on early photographs and Charles Sumner. He also became interested in portraiture of William Shakespeare around this time, and his studies resulted in a book, Shakespeare's Portraits, a bust based on existing portraiture, and a full-length portrait entitled "Shakespeare Reading," based on Page's measurements of a supposed death mask in Darmstadt, Germany, which he went to inspect in 1874. A series of collapses in the 1870s left him incapacitated until his death in 1885.


A portion of the collection was donated to the Archives of American Art by Mrs. Lesslie S. (Pauline Page) Howell, William Page's grandaughter, in 1963. William S. Page, Pauline Page Howell's nephew, donated additional papers in 1964 and 1973. Mrs. Howell's son, William Page Howell, donated material in 1980. Letters of Charles F. Briggs to James Russell Lowell (Series 2.2) were a part of Pauline Page Howell's 1963 donation to the Archives of American Art. They had been given to Mrs. Howell by Charlotte Briggs, daughter of Charles F. Briggs, because of her father's lifelong friendship with William Page. Letters from Lowell to Briggs are in the James Russell Lowell papers in Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Reel 1091: Originals returned to William S. Page and Mrs. Pauline Page Howell after microfilming.

Scope and Contents

The papers of the painter William Page and the Page family measure 8.5 linear feet and date from 1815 to 1947, with the bulk of papers dating from 1843 to 1892. Papers contain records related to the life and career of William Page, president of the National Academy of Design from 1871 to 1873 and prominent portraitist and art theorist of his day. Also found are records related to his wife's career as a writer and records documenting their personal lives and the lives of their family members. Types of documents found include personal documents and artifacts, correspondence, essays, lectures, diaries, poems, notes and notebooks, financial records, legal records, published works, clippings, catalogs, photographs, and artwork.

Correspondence includes the personal and professional correspondence of William and Sophia Page, and their parents, siblings, and children. Significant correspondents include Thomas Hicks, Enoch Wood Perry, William Stark, Theodore Tilton, Lemuel Wilmarth, Wendell Phillips, William Walker Scranton, Francis G. Shaw, James Russell Lowell, Charles Frederick Briggs, George W. Curtis, Charlotte Cushman, Thomas K. Beecher, Mary Olmsted, and Bertha Olmsted.

Writings include the essays and lectures of William Page, as written by him and revised by Sophia Page in the late 1870s, as well as Sophia's writings as a columnist in Europe in the 1850s. Notes, notebooks, diaries, and poems are also found. Personal Business Records include business records related to the sale and exhibition of artwork as well as financial and legal documents. A small number of memoranda and documents related to Page's work at the National Academy of Design are also found. Printed Materials include exhibition catalogs, published works by William and Sophia Page, and clippings and articles about Page.

Photographs consist mainly of portraits, most of them mounted cabinet photographs or cartes-des-visites, some of which appear to have been used as studies for Page's painted portraits. Among those pictured are William Page, James Russell Lowell, Henry Ward Beecher, Reuben Fenton, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, William R. O'Donovan, and William Lloyd Garrison. Many of the photographic portraits are unidentified. Artwork includes sketches, drawings, prints, and a small number of notes made by Page in the course of painting portraits.

The bulk of the collection has been digitized and is available via the Archives of American Art's website.

Separated materials: microfilm reel 1091 available for use at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

The papers of William Page in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2007. The bulk of the papers have been scanned and total 15,514 images.

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

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