The papers of Woodstock area painter, muralist, and designer, Anton Refregier (1905-1979) date from circa 1900 to circa 1990 and measure 35.9 linear feet. The collection records Refregier's early commercial work and murals for the Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) and documents his career through to the 1970s with records of commissions for many public and private buildings, exhibitions in the United States and abroad, teaching positions, essays and publications, and extensive travel, particularly to the Soviet Union and Mexico. The collection contains scattered biographical material, personal and business correspondence, notes and writings, 15 diaries and journals, mural and tapestry files, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, 10 scrapbooks, artwork including sketches and cartoons for murals, and photographs of Refregier, his friends, family and travels.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of Woodstock area painter, muralist, and designer, Anton Refregier (1905-1979) date from circa 1900 to circa 1990 and measure 35.9 linear feet. The collection records Refregier's early commercial work and murals for the Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) and documents his career through to the 1970s with records of commissions for many public and private buildings, exhibitions in the United States and abroad, teaching positions, essays and publications, and extensive travel, particularly to the Soviet Union and Mexico. The collection contains scattered biographical material, personal and business correspondence, notes and writings, diaries and journals, mural and tapestry files, exhibition files, personal business records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork including sketches and cartoons for murals, and photographs of Refregier, his friends, family and travels.
Biographical material contains legal records such as Refregier's will and marriage and death records, passports, resume material and 2 interview transcripts.
Correspondence, both chronological and alphabetical, constitutes almost a third of the collection and documents all aspects of Refregier's career including his work for the WPA, private commissions, representation by ACA Galleries, his involvement with groups such as the Woodstock Artists Association and his teaching work for institutions such as Bard College. Also documented are his involvement with local political groups and international organizations such as the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship and the World Peace Council, and travels including visits to the Soviet Union. Notable correspondents include Henry Dreyfuss, Philip Evergood, Rockwell Kent, Emmy-Lou Packard, and Byron Randall. Correspondence also includes family letters written primarily by Refregier to Lila Refregier, in addition to greeting cards received by the Refregier family, many of which contain original arwork.
Writings are primarily by Refregier and include drafts of many essays and autobiographical writings, in addition to copies of published works including Natural Figure Drawing, An Artists Journey and Sketches of the Soviet Union.
The collection contains diaries and journals from 12 years in various formats including published and handmade day planners and typed and handwritten journal entries. They include sketches and primarily record travel and daily activities including specific projects such as the New York World's Fair mural (1938-1939).
Mural and Tapestry files document individual commissions bid on and/or completed by Refregier. The creation of the Rincon Annex Post Office mural and subsequent controversies over its subject matter are well-documented here, as are many of Refregier's commissions for banks, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers, and schools.
Exhibition files document at least 15 of Refregier's exhibitions, including his first one-man show at ACA Galleries (1942) and his exhibition of paintings at the Hermitage Museum (1967) in what was then Leningrad.
Personal business records contain addresses of contacts. Scattered records referencing market values for Refregier's work can be found throughout the series in records such as bills and receipts, financial notes and tax records.
Printed material provides extensive coverage of Refregier's entire career through announcements, invitations, catalogs, and news clippings. His interests in art, literature, music, theater and politics are also well-represented in these files.
The collection contains 10 scrapbooks, mostly in fragmented condition, which contain a mixture of photographs, sketches and other artwork, notes and fragments of writings, and printed material. The scrapbooks document a variety of subjects including Refregier's family life, travels to Guatemala and the Soviet Union, and the artist at work.
Artwork consists primarily of artwork by Refregier in the form of mural design sketches and cartoons in various media, including pencil, ink and pastel, in addition to 21 sketchbooks, many of which also contain journal entries and notes. Also found here are prints and reproductions of Refregier's "Peace card" block engravings for every year from 1950-1973, with the exception of 1970.
Photographs document all phases of Refregier's career and include family photographs dating from circa 1900, photos of Refregier in the studio including work for the WPA, Refregier and other artists and individuals at events and parties from the 1940s-1970s, travel snapshots probably taken in Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, and the Soviet Union, and photographs of artwork and installations. Individuals pictured include Julio de Diego, Marion Greenwood, Rockwell Kent, Pablo O'Higgins and David Siqueiros; also, a series of press photographs by Albert A. Freeman pictures Refregier with Howard Fast, Norman Bel Geddes, Marion Greenwood, John Kingsbury, Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Harry Stockwell. One photograph by Eliot Elisofon, 2 by Eugene Morley and 4 by Max Yavno can also be found here.
The collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1925-1980 (Box 1; 0.25 linear ft.)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1912-circa 1990s (Boxes 1-11, 36, OVs 38, 45; 10.2 linear ft.)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1930s-circa 1970s (Boxes 11-14, OV 45; 3.3 linear ft.)
Series 4: Diaries and Journals, 1923-1979 (Box 15; 0.6 linear ft.)
Series 5: Mural and Tapestry Files, circa 1930s-circa 1970s (Boxes 15-18, 36, OVs 38, 45, 46, RD 42; 3.65 linear ft.)
Series 6: Exhibition Files, 1942-1981 (Boxes 18-19; 0.6 linear ft.)
Series 7: Personal Business Records, 1920s-1980s (Boxes 19-20; 1.8 linear ft.)
Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1920s-1980s (Boxes 21-28, 36; 7.4 linear ft.)
Series 9: Scrapbooks, 1930s-1960s (Boxes 28, 37, BV 47; 1.1 linear ft.)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1930s-circa 1970s (Boxes 28-30, 36, OVs 40, 41, RDs 42-44; 3.5 linear ft.)
Series 11: Photographic Material, ca. 1900-1980s (Boxes 31-35, 39; 4.5 linear ft.)
Russian-born Woodstock painter Anton Refregier (1905-1979) immigrated to the United States in 1920. Refregier was well-known for his sometimes controversial social realist murals for the WPA.
After an apprenticeship to the sculptor, Vasilief, in Paris, Anton Refregier attended the Rhode Island School of Design from 1920-1925 and studied with Hans Hofmann in Germany in 1927. He had his first one-man show at ACA Galleries in New York City in 1942 and settled in Woodstock, New York, with his wife, Lila, and three children Anton, Jr., Brigit and Aleksandre, where he became a prominent member of the artist community.
Refregier completed several social realist murals for the federal Works Progress Adminstration (WPA) program, including one at the New York Worlds Fair in 1939 and the controversial Rincon Annex Post Office mural in San Francisco begun in 1941. He also completed interior design installations for businesses such as the nightclub, Cafe Society Uptown, and the restaurant, The Cookery, in New York City. In addition to being an easel and mural painter Refregier worked in tapestry, mosaic, ceramic, and collage, and completed many commissions for hotels, banks, hospitals, restaurants, synagogues, supermarkets and deparment stores throughout the country.
Refregier taught at various institutions including Stanford University, the University of Arkansas, and Bard College and his publications inlcude Natural Figure Drawing (1948), An Artist's Journey (1965), and Sketches of the Soviet Union (1978). He traveled regularly to the Soviet Union to explore and exchange ideas about art and culture and as a representative of the World Peace Council.
Anton Refregier died in Moscow in October 1979 while visiting the Soviet Union. His work can be found in many museums including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Also found in the Archives of American Art are an oral history interview with Anton Refregier, 1964, Nov. 5 by Joseph Trovato; and Papers regarding Anton Refregier mural controversy, 1953.
Donated 1983 by Lila Refregier, widow of Anton Refregier, and in 1992 by Brigit R. Sutton, Refregier's daughter.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
The Anton Refregier papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. They may be used for research, study and scholarship. Authorization to quote or reproduce for purposes of publication must be obtained from: Brigit R. Sutton, Box 344D, Woodstock, New York, 12498.
Correspondence relating to Billings' position as an officer of the National Council for U.S. Art and related photographs, among them one of Roland L. Redmond (President of the Council) with Dag Hammarskjold and Robert Cronbach in front of a sculpture by Cronbach and Jose de Rivera, 1960, and one photo each of works by Jacob Lawrence, Concetta Scaravaglione, and Nathaniel Kaz; a photograph (copyprint made from slide) of Billings seated on a platform among others listening to an unidentified speaker, photographer unknown; and a photograph of Billings seated on a stage near an unidentified speaker, photographed by Eliot Elisofon.
Biographical / Historical:
Henry Billings (1901-1985) was a painter, illustrator, and teacher, from Sag Harbor, N.Y. Born in 1901 in Bronxville, N.Y.; studied at the Art Students' League; lives in Sag Harbor, N.Y.
Donated by Henry Billings, 1965.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.