The papers of printmaker and educator Fred Becker measure 3.4 linear feet and date from 1913 to 2004, with the bulk from 1940-2000. The collection documents Becker's work as a professional artist and educator through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, writings, interviews, personal business records, gallery and exhibition files, project files, photographic material, printed material, and artwork.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of printmaker and educator Fred Becker measure 3.4 linear feet and date from 1913 to 2004, with the bulk from 1940 to 2000. The collection documents Becker's work as a professional artist and educator through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, writings, interviews, personal business records, gallery and exhibition files, project files, photographic material, printed material, and artwork.
Biographical material includes a birth certificate and announcement, résumés and other biographical writings, as well as memorial materials and obituaries. Also included are letters and photographs concerning Becker's WWII appointment with the Office of War Information in China. Correspondence reflects relationships with colleagues and friends including Stanley William Hayter, Gail Singer, and Mona Van Duyn, professional organizations, museums and galleries, as well as family. The Writings series contains essays and artist statements written by Becker, articles and essays written about Becker by others, and writings by poets Ruthven Todd and Mona Van Duyn. Lectures are featured in written form, as well as audio recordings. Interviews include transcripts and audio and video recordings.
Personal business records include various studio artwork inventories and information regarding artwork donation and sale at auction, in addition to documents related to Becker's role as an art instructor. In the gallery and exhibition files are detailed records of gallery and museum exhibitions, as well as correspondence with specific galleries including the Mary Ryan Gallery. Project files include documentation of various residencies and government art programs Becker participated in, a symposium on Atelier 17, as well as significant bodies of work.
Photographic materials document Becker's artwork, including images of works by fellow artists S.W. Hayter and Paul Burlin. Photograph formats include slides, transparencies, negatives, and black and white prints. Printed material includes exhibition catalogs, clippings and invitations. Also found are various artworks including sketchbooks, loose sketches, prints, and a partial letterpress mock-up of Winter of Artifice, printed by author Anaïs Nin, with various etching illustrations by Ian Hugo.
The collection is arranged in 10 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1913-2004 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1940s-2001 (0.7 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1940s-1993 (0.1 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 4: Interviews, circa 1976-2004 (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 1-2)
Series 5: Personal Business Records, circa 1939-1990s (0.1 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 6: Exhibition and Gallery Records, circa 1950-2002 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 7: Project Files, circa 1957-1993 (0.1 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 8: Photographic Material, circa 1930s-1999 (0.3 linear feet; Box 2)
Series 9: Printed Material, circa 1930s-2002 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 2-3)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1940-1989 (0.6 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
Biographical / Historical:
Fred Becker (1913-2004) was a printmaker and art educator in Amherst, Massachusetts. Becker was born in 1913 in Oakland, California. He attended New York University beginning in 1933, where he enrolled in architecture coursework before focusing on printmaking and drawing. Becker was employed by the Works Progress Administration from 1935 to 1939. His early work of this period often incorporated nightclub scenes depicting jazz musicians. In 1940, Becker was one of the first students to enroll in classes at the New York iteration of Atelier 17, led by printmaker Stanley William Hayter. There Becker engaged with more abstract forms in his art-making, and arrived at an expressionist style by the 1950s. He served in the China Division of the United States Office of War Information (OWI) from 1945 to 1946.
Becker taught at the Tayler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, from 1946 to 1948; at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, from 1948 to 1968; and at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst from 1968 until his retirement in 1986. University of Massachusetts, Amherst's Herter Gallery was the site of his retrospective in 1999. Becker and his wife, painter Jean Morrison (1917-1995), had two children Carla and Anton. Fred Becker exhibited widely in print annuals and solo shows, as well as in the context of his participation in the Works Progress Administration and Atelier 17, New York. His prints are represented in a number of museum collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
The Fred Becker papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 2018 by Becker's daughter Carla Becker.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Fred Becker papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.