The papers of modernist painter and activist Harold Weston (1894-1972) date from 1894 to 1978 and measure 24.3 linear feet. The papers focus on Weston's painting career and his involvement with humanitarian and artistic causes. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, personal business records, association and organization records, commission and project files, materials relating to Weston's book Freedom in the Wilds, writings, artwork, printed materials, two scrapbooks, and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of modernist painter and activist Harold Weston (1894-1972) date from 1894 to 1978 and measure 24.3 linear feet. The papers focus on Weston's painting career and his involvement with humanitarian and artistic causes. Found are biographical materials, correspondence, personal business records, association and organization records, commission and project files, materials relating to Weston's book Freedom in the Wilds, writings, artwork, printed materials, two scrapbooks, and photographs. The papers document his involvement with the Committee to Defend America, Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, Food for Freedom, the International Association of the Plastic Arts, National Countil on the Arts and Government, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Reconstruction Service Committee, and the YMCA in Baghdad.
Biographical materials include biographical sketches and resumes, including a short biography written by Faith Weston in 1969. There are records from his school years at Exeter Academy and Harvard University that include yearbooks, report cards, scholarship information, Harvard Lampoon materials, and a diploma from Harvard. Also found are materials relating to Faith Weston, membership cards, memorials information, passports and travel papers, and wedding wishes.
Correspondence from Harold Weston dates from his school years up until his death in 1972. In letters to his family, Weston discusses his education; his travel and activities in the Middle East during World War I; the Adirondacks; convalescense in France in the mid-1920s; his immediate family life; and exhibitions. Also found are holiday cards designed and printed by Weston. The majority of correspondence is with his father S. Burns Weston, mother Mary, sister Esther, brother Carl, Faith Weston and the Borton family, children Barbara, Bruce, and Haroldine, and others. Also found are letters between Weston and friend Theodore Sizer and Duncan Phillips of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.
Personal business and financial records relating to Weston's exhibitions include delivery receipts, agreements, hand-drawn gallery plans for exhibitions, lists of exhibitions, framing invoices, legal information, pricelists, records of sales, and lists of works of art. Galleries with which Weston held exhibitions, sold, or lent works of art include Boyer Galleries, Corcoran Gallery, the Gallery in Paoli, Montross Gallery, the Phillips Collection, and Studio House Galleries.
Records relating to Harold Weston's memberships and involvement with professional associations and service organizations are from the Adirondack Trail Improvement Society, the Committee to Defend America, Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, Food for Freedom, International Association of the Plastic Arts/International Arts Association, National Countil on the Arts and Government, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Reconstruction Service Committee, and the Young Men's Christian Association, Baghdad. The files include correspondence, financial records, meetings and membership information, notes, organizational history, photographs, printed materials, programs and activities records, speeches, and writings.
Files that document Weston's Building the United Nations and the Treasury Relief Project sponsored "Procurement Building Murals" are found within the Commissions and Project files series. The files include correspondence, financial information, legal documents, photographs of the works of art and research photos, and printed materials. Correspondence of note includes letters written by Lewis Mumford, Duncan Phillips, Eleanor Roosevelt on behalf of Weston's Building of the United Nations and letters from Leonard Carmichael, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Letters from Olin Dows of the Treasury Relief Art Project are within correspondence relating to the "Procurement Building Murals." Also found are preliminary sketches of the murals.
The Freedom in the Wilds series contains materials relating to the book which combined Weston's autobiography with a history of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. Additional writings and notes are by Harold Weston and others, and include articles, poetry, notes, speech notes and speeches, and lists. Harold Weston's articles include "Persian Caravan Sketches" published in 1921 discussing his travels throughout the Middle East. Other articles are written by Duncan Phillips, Paul Rosenfeld, Barbara Weston, and Faith Weston. Also found are postcards annoted with notes by Harold Weston about his travels.
Artwork inlcudes sketches, etchings, copperplates, and woodcuts. There are copperplates entitled "Shroud" and of the series Building the United Nations for the Harvard Alumni bulletin in 1957; an untitled etching by Weston; sketches including those from Baghdad and watercolor sketches; a woodcut of the 1924 Weston holiday card; and scattered unsigned sketches probably not by Weston.
Printed materials include calendars with notations; clippings; exhibition catalogs and announcements for Weston's exhibitions dating from 1922-1976 and for others; gallery tags or labels for paintings shown in exhibitions; reproductions of illustrations for the Harvard Lampoon and full issues from 1911-1916; materials relating to the Harvard production of Henry IV, for which Weston designed the sets; reproductions of works of art by Weston and by others; school seals; and various art related publications.
There are two scrapbooks compiled by Faith Weston about her husband. The first contains materials relating to Weston's activity with the International Association of the Plastic Arts Conference of 1963, including a letter and photograph of President John F. Kennedy. The second scrapbook dates from 1977 and consists of general clippings relating to Weston's career, dating from 1917 to 1952 with additional materials added by Faith in 1977.
Photographs are of Weston, family members, exhibitions and installations, and works of art by Weston and others. There are also numerous photographs of Weston's travel through the Adirondacks, the Middle East, Europe, and India. Also found are glass plate negatives of works of art painted in France between 1926-1930; scattered glass plate negatives of Baghdad and the Middle East; glass plates belonging to S. Burns Weston of the Adirondacks, circa 1900; and approximately 100 lantern slides of the various Middle Eastern cities and ruins - probably used by Weston to illustrate his talks given in the 1920s.
The collection is arranged as 11 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers:
Series 1: Biographical Information, 1896-1974 (Box 1, 38; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1894-1975 (Box 1-3, 38; 2.5 linear feet)
Series 3: Personal Business and Financial records, 1912-1977 (Box 4; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 4: Associations and Organizations records, 1916-1972 (Box 4-10, 37-38; 6.5 linear feet)
Series 5: Commissions and Project files, 1935-1965 (Box 10-12, 38, OV 39; 1.4 linear feet)
Series 6: -- Freedom in the Wilds -- records, late 1960s-1976 (Box 12-13; 1.8 linear feet)
Series 7: Writings and Notes, 1912-1975 (Box 13-14; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 8: Artwork and Artifacts, circa 1917-1967 (Box 14, 21; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 9: Printed Material, circa 1900-1978 (Box 15-18, 38; 2.5 linear feet)
Series 10: Scrapbooks, circa 1963-1977 (Box 17-18; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1900-1975 (Box 18-20, 22-36, 38; 4.8 linear feet)
Modernist painter and federal Treasury Relief Art Project artist Harold Weston (1894-1972) worked primarily in New York City and St. Huberts, New York in the Adirondacks. Weston was president of the U.S. Commission of the International Association of Art/Plastic Arts and the Federation of Modern Painters and Scultors. He was also chairman of the National Council on the Arts and Government and active with various political and humanitarian causes.
Harold Weston was born in 1894 in Merion, Pennsylvania into a privileged family. He attended school in Europe as a teenager, where he began to draw and sketch. In 1910, Harold contracted Polio which left him with a weak leg. After graduating from Exeter Academy, Harold entered Harvard University with the class of 1916 and was active in the Delta Upsilon Club and the Harvard Lampoon, for which he illustrated.
Despite his leg, Weston was determined to serve in some form during World War I. He traveled to Baghdad and volunteered with the YMCA. Here he started the Baghdad Art Club and organized exhibitions of soldier art. He remained in the Middle East until 1919 and served as the official painter for the British Army. The colors and the landscape of the region also inspired later works of art.
Upon returning to the United States, Weston built a one-room cabin in the Adirondack Mountains, where he lived and painted. He had his first one-man exhibtition at the Montross Gallery in 1922. In 1923, he married Faith Borton who moved with him to the Adirondacks. His wife inspired his series of "landscape nudes" which treated the body with different techniques that would typically be used in landscape painting. After suffering from a kidney infection in 1925, Weston and his wife moved to Ceres, France to recover. Weston continued to paint and started a family with Faith while in France. In 1930, the family moved back to the United States and lived in Greenwich Village, New York.
From 1936-1938, Harold Weston worked with the federal Treasury Relief Art Project and painted murals in the Procurement Building in Washington, D.C. The murals represent the growth of public buildings during the Great Depression. He took on a second major project to document the contruction of the United Nations in a series of six paintings. Later, the Smithsonian Instution received the paintings as gifts through an independent committee.
In addition to painting, Harold Weston devoted himself to public service by becoming involved in humanitarian causes, artist professional organizations, and federal government support of the arts. Weston served as president or chairman of three different organizations including the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, the International Association of Art/International Association of the Plastic Art, and the National Council on the Arts and Government. Before the start of World War II, Harold Weston was named the Chairman of Essex County Committee to Defend America, which argued for financial support of the allied forces in World War II. After the start of the war, he helped form the Food for Freedom movement which urged American aid for European and Asian refugees. Similarly, Weston served as Executive Secretary for the Reconstruction Service Committee which was established to assist the rebuilding of Europe.
Later in life, Weston wrote a book Freedom in the Wilds, which combined his own autobiography with a history of the Adirondack Mountain Reserve. Harold Weston died on April 10th, 1972 in New York City.
The Archives of American Art also holds material lent for microfilming (reel N69-76) including biographic notes, exhibition material, clippings, a presentation album, and commemorative stamps.
Some, but not all, of these papers were included in later donations. Materials not donated remain with the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Syracuse University also holds circa 14 linear feet of Harold Weston's papers.
Harold Weston lent the Archives of American Art materials for microfilming in 1969. Faith Borton Weston, Harold Weston's widow, donated the papers in several increments between 1972-1980 and lent materials for microfilming in 1977.
Use of original papers requires an appointment.
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Harold Weston papers, 1894-1978. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Glass plate negatives in this collection were digitized in 2019 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Women's Committee.