The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection includes photographic negatives, photo albums, lantern slides, journals, scrapbooks and other documents created and compiled by the Churchills over the course of Frank's career as a special agent and Indian Inspector for the Department of the Interior between 1899 and 1909. Initially assigned as a revenue collector to the Cherokee Nation and later as an Indian Inspector reviewing boarding schools, Frank's assignments took him all over the United States including Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Florida, North Carolina and Alaska. During this time the Churchills visited over 80 different Native communities shooting photographs and taking notes.
Scope and Contents:
The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection includes 1430 photographic negatives, 29 photo albums containing 3710 photographic prints, 325 lantern slides, and 3 linear feet of journals, scrapbooks, and other documents created and compiled by the Churchills over the course of Frank's career as a special agent and Indian Inspector for the Department of the Interior between 1899 and 1909.
Series 1: Photographs in Indian Territory (Oklahoma): Muskogee, Tahlequah, Sulphur Springs and Other Assignments, 1899-1903, includes 11 photo albums and 357 negatives from Frank Churchill's original assignment as revenue collector to the Cherokee Nation. Locations include Indian Territory (Oklahoma) [bulk], Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Arkansas, and Missouri. The Native communities visited and photographed in this series include— Oklahoma Cherokee, Oklahoma Muskogee (Creek), Quapaw, Osage, Miami, Wyandotte [Oklahoma], Tsitsistas/Suhtai (Cheyenne), Winnebago [Nebraska], Eastern Shawnee [Quapaw Agency, Oklahoma], Ponca, Chaticks Si Chaticks (Pawnee), Oto, Sioux [Crow Creek], Kaw (Kansa), Chickasaw, Modoc, Kiowa, Choctaw.
Series 2: Photographs in the Southwest and Midwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Califonia, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 1903-1907, includes 9 photo albums and 832 negatives from Frank Churchill's assignment as an Indian Inspector. Because the Churchills visited some of the same locations on multiple occasions, it has been hard to date some of the negatives. For that reason, all the negatives made in the Southwest have been included in this series, though there are two photo albums with Southwest photographs included in Series 4. Locations in this series includes Arizona, New Mexico, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Native Communities visited and photographed in this series include—A:shiwi (Zuni), Diné (Navajo), Acoma Pueblo, Akimel O'odham (Pima), Cahuilla, Chemehuevi, Cochiti Pueblo, Hopi Pueblo, Isleta Pueblo, K'apovi (Santa Clara Pueblo), Kumeyaay (Diegueño), Laguna Pueblo, Luiseño (Luiseno), Mescalero Apache, Mojave (Mohave), Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), Picuris Pueblo, Piipaash (Maricopa), Puye Pueblo, Quechan (Yuma/Cuchan), San Carlos Apache, Taos Pueblo, Tohono O'odham (Papago).
Series 3: Photographs in Alaska and Oregon, 1905-1910 (bulk 1905), includes four photograph albums and 71 negatives from Frank Churchill's appointment as special agent, by President Roosevelt, to investigate the condition of the school & reindeer service and other affairs in Alaska in the summer and fall of 1905. Two of the albums were not made by the Churchills. The first of these (Box 20) includes photographs by William Hamilton and the second (Box 21) includes photographs by W. T. Lopp. Locations in Alaska include St. Lawrence Island, Nuwukmiut/Point Barrow, Teller, Diomedes Islands, Nome, Kotzebue, Wrangell, Port Clarence Bay, Unalaska Island and Baranof Island. There are a number of photographs aboard the U.S. Cutter "Bear" and aboard the mailboat "Georgia." Native communities photographed include—Yuit (Siberian Yup'ik), Inupiaq (Alaskan Inupiat Eskimo), Bering Strait Inupiaq [Diomedes], Alutiiq (Pacific Eskimo), Tlingit.
Series 4: Photographs in Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Florida and Miscellaneous, 1907-1909, includes five photograph albums and 163 negatives from Frank Churchill's assignment at Indian Inspector. Because the Churchills visited some of the same locations in the Southwest (Arizona and Utah) on multiple occasions, it has been hard to date some of the negatives. For that reason, all the negatives made in the Southwest have been included in Series 3. Locations include Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota and Florida. Native communities visited and photographed include-Diné (Navajo), Hopi Pueblo, Kaibab Paiute, Quechan (Yuma/Cuchan), Eastern Band of Cherokee, Pikuni Blackfeet (Piegan), Wahpetonwan Dakota [Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe], Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Seminole. There is restricted material in Box 23 (Album P23380).
Series 5: Non-Native Photographs: Colorado Vacation, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and other Materials, 1898-1913, includes four photograph albums from vacations and other visits made by the Churchills unrelated to Frank's activities as Indian Inspector.
Series 6: Manuscripts: Journals, Documents and Scrapbooks, 1880-1928 (bulk 1899-1909), includes three linear feet of materials arranged in three subseries. Subseries 6.1, Clara Churchill, includes 16 journals, 12 scrapbooks and various other manuscript materials written and accumulated by Clara Churchill during their travels. Many of the journals include personal writings as well as several photographs that are duplicated in the photograph albums. The journals and scrapbooks encompass the full range of the Churchills' travels and include notes from Indian Territory, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, Plains and Alaska. Subseries 6.2, Colonel Frank C. Churchill, includes official documents around Churchill's assignments as well as the reports Frank submitted back to the Secretary of the Interior (Box 41 and 42). Subseries 6.3, Churchill Museum and Miscellaneous, includes catalogs and other notes related to the large collection of Native American objects amassed by Frank and Clara. Clara also collected other items such as shells, minerals, and sand.
Series 7: Lantern Slides for Lectures, 1899-1909, includes 325 hand colored glass lantern slides. These were made by the Churchills from existing negatives and used for lectures. Lantern slides #1-#121 include views photographed in Alaska in 1905. Sldes #122-#325 include an assortment of views from Oklahoma (Indian Territory), Nebraska, Montana, Minnesota, California, Arizona and New Mexico photographed between 1900 and 1909.
The Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill collection has been arranged in seven series by material type and then chronologically. The first five series are then divided into subseries by "Photo Albums" and "Negatives." These include--Series 1: Photographs in Indian Territory (Oklahoma): Muskogee, Tahlequah, Sulphur Springs and Other Assignments, 1899-1903; Series 2: Photographs in the Southwest and Midwest: Arizona, New Mexico, California, Minnesota and Wisconsin, 1907-1907; Series 3: Photographs in Alaska and Oregon, 1905-1910 (bulk 1905-1905); Series 4: Photographs in Arizona, Utah, North Carolina, Montana, North Dakota, Florida and Miscellaneous, 1907-1909; Series 5: Non-Native Photographs: Colorado Vaction, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and other Materials.
Series 6: Manuscripts: Journals, Documents and Scrapbooks, 1880-1928, is arranged in three subseries. Subseries 6.1: Clara G. Churchill, Subseries 6.2: Frank C. Churchill, and Subseries 6.3: Churchill Museum and Miscellaneous. Series 7: Lantern Slides for Lectures, 1899-1909, is arranged in orginal number order from the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.
Biographical / Historical:
Frank Carroll Churchill was born August 2, 1850 to Benjamin P. Churchill and Susanna Thompson in West Fairlee, Vermont. Frank was educated at Thetford Academy in Thetford, VT and worked as a clerk for D.C. Churchill & Co. in Lyme, NH between 1869-1870. Between 1870 and 1877, Churchill was employed by H.W. Carter as a wholesale merchant in Lebanon, New Hampshire. During this time, Churchill met Clara Corser Turner and they were married on June 11, 1874.
Clara G. (Turner) Churchill was born December 16, 1851, to Colonel Francis H. Corser and Sarah Hook (Perkins) Corser. Colonel Corser and his wife died young, and Clara was adopted by George and Abby H. Turner of Concord, New Hampshire.
In 1877, in association with William S. Carter, Frank Churchill opened the business "Carter & Churchill" which was in this business for 21 years. Churchill held various political offices from 1879-91. He served as chairman of the Republican town committee of Lebanon and of the Republican State committee in 1890 and 1891. He served on the staff of Governor Natt Head in 1879 and 1880, with the rank of Colonel. He was chairman of the New Hampshire delegation at the Republican National Convention which nominated President Harrison and represented the Fourth District in the Executive Council in 1889-1890 during the administration of Governor David. H. Goodell.
In 1899 Frank was appointed revenue inspector for the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory and was later appointed a special agent for the Interior Department to formulate a system of public schools in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and across the Southwest. In 1905, he was appointed special agent, by President Roosevelt, to investigate the condition of the school & reindeer service and other affairs in Alaska and was reappointed Indian Inspector between 1905-1909. In 1909, Churchill resigned due to failing health and died November 5, 1912. Clara accompanied Frank on all his travels between 1899 and 1909 (see below chronology for full details) maintaining journals and writing articles for publication in "WHAT." Clara was also a painter, producing watercolors and hand-painting many of the photographs she and Frank made on their travels. Following Frank's death, Clara maintained their collection of Native artifacts and photographs in their home in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Clara died April 16, 1945, bequeathing the full collection to Dartmouth College.
Frank Churchill's assignments as Special agent and Indian Inspector from 1899-1909 took him all over the United States including Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), Missouri, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, California, Florida, North Carolina and Alaska. During this time the Churchills visited over 80 different Native communities. For more details, see the chronology below.
Travels in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and other assignments, 1899-1903
1899, June 29 -- Churchills arrive in Muskogee, Indian Territory (Oklahoma).
1899, July-October -- Visit to Fort Gibson, Tahlequah, Sallisaw, and Vinita (Indian Territory/Oklahoma). Visit to Noel and South west City, Missouri. Visit to Chelsea and Coffeyville, Kansas. Visit to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
1899, November -- Visit Tahlequah while the Cherokee Nation legislature was in session.
1899, December -- Travel in Colorado.
1900, March -- Return to Muskogee and Fort Gibson.
1900, Sept 17-Oct 5 -- Dawes Commission in Vinita.
1901, Mar-Apr 3 -- Visit to the Quapaw Agency, Wyandotte Reservation and school, Modoc reservation and the town of Miami.
1901, April -- Visit to Denison, Texas. Visit to Checotah, Eufaula, South McAlester (Choctaw nation).
1901, Summer -- Visit to Pawhuska, Osage Nation.
1901, October -- Visit to Tishomingo, seat of government of the Chickasaws.
1902, January -- Trip to the Chickasaw Nation Visit to Anadarko, Indian Agency of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache, Fort Sill, Wichita Mountains, and Lawton.
1902, May -- Frank is dispatched to Sioux City, Iowa.
1902, July -- Visit to St. Paul, Minnesota and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, (Chippewa Falls). Frank is sent to Sulphur Springs, Texas, to author a report.
1902, August -- Churchills return to Muskogee, IT.
1902, September-October -- Trip to White Eagle, Ponca Agency for a month. Visit to Otoe school, Pawnee School, Shawnee, Sac and Fox reservations.
1902, November-December -- Visit to Crow Creek Agency.
1903, January -- Return to Sulpher Springs, Texas.
1903, March -- Visit to Pawhuska, Osage Nation.
1903, April -- Visit to Colorado.
1903, May-October -- Visit to 23 towns in Oklahoma (IT) with the Secretary of the Interior.
Travels in New Mexico, Arizona and California, 1903-1905
1903, November -- Frank receives orders to proceed to Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico.
1903, December 9 -- Visit to Zuni, followed by Canyon de Chelly, Hubbell's Ranch, Keams Canyon.
1903, December 21 -- Visit to Hopi Pueblo. Walpi, Polacca Day School, Oraibi, Shumopavi (Shungopavi/Songoopavi), Shipaulovi (Supawlavi) and Mishongnovi (Musungnuvi).
1903, December 28 -- Visit to Fort Defiance.
1904, January -- Travel in New Mexico. Visit to Gallup, Laguna Pueblo, Acomita, Paraje, Acoma, Albuquerque, Isleta Pueblo, Santa Fe, Ohkay Owingeh (San Juan Pueblo), K'apovi (Santa Clara Pueblo).
1904, February -- Visit to Sacaton, Akimel O'odham (Pima) Reservation and Casa Grande ruins in Arizona.
1904, March -- Visit to Lehi Day School, Salt River Day School, Phoenix Indian School, Gila River Crossing Day School and Maricopa Day School, Arizona.
1904, March 10-26 -- Visit to Fort Mojave and Chemehuevi.
1904, March 30-April -- Visit to Riverside, California, Sherman Institute and Perris School. Side trip to Yuma, Arizona.
1905, January-February -- Visit to Sulphur, IT.
1905, March -- Visit to Mescalero Apache Agency, San Carlos Apache Agency, Geronimo Settlement, Rice Station School at Talkalai.
1905, April 10-20 -- Return to Sherman Institute in Riverside, California. Visit to San Jacinto, Perris, Saboba, Cahuilla, San Manuella (Band of Mission Indians), Coachella, Torres Reservation, Martinez Reservation Day School, Cabazon Reservation, Protrero Reservation and Day School.
1905, April 22-May -- Visit to Temecula, Pechanga Day School, Pala Mission, Campo Reservation, Mission of San Luis Rey, Rincon Day School, Mesa Grande School, Santa Ysabel (Diegueno), Volcan Mountain Day School.
Travels in Alaska, 1905
1905, June -- Frank receives an assignment in Alaska.
1905, July -- Board the U.S. Revenue Cutter "Bear" in Nome. Visit to Reindeer Station in Teller, Cape Prince of Wales, Kotzebue Sound, Cape Thompson, Point Hope and Point Barrow.
1905, August -- Visit to Wainwright Inlet, return to Nome. Visit to Anvil Creek, Gologin (Golovin) Bay, St. Lawrence Island, Pribilof Islands (Seal Islands), St. George, Dutch Harbor and Unalaska.
1905, September -- Board the "Dora" anchored near Belkofski, Cold Bay, Karluk, Afgonak, and Kodiak. Stop in Homer, Seldovia and Seward. Visit to Sitka.
1905, September 28 -- Board the steamer "Georgia" to Juneau and Skagway via Hoonah.
1905, October -- Return to Lebanon, NH.
Travels in Arizona, New Mexico, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California and Utah, 1906-1907
1906, March-April -- Re-assigned to Southwest and arrive in Tucson, Arizona. Visit to San Xavier Mission, Tohono O'odham (Papago) reservation, Casa Grande, Sacaton, Maricopa, Gila Crossing, Salt River and Phoenix schools.
1906, May -- Return to New Mexico to visit Gallup and Zuni Day School.
1906, June -- Visit to St, Paul, Minnesota and the White Earth (Ojibwe) reservation and Wild Rice River School in Boliere.
1906, July -- Visit to Ashland, Wisconsin, Lac Courte Oreilles, Hayward, and Lac de Flambeau (La Pointe Agency.
1906, July-September -- Return to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1906, September -- Visit to Fond du Lac (Winnebago Lake), Wabeno, and Carter, Wisconsin.
1906, October -- Visit to Phlox, Wausau, Minocqua, Star Lake, Bark River and Wausaukee, Wisconsin.
1906, November-December -- Visit to Keshena (Green Bay Indian School), Menominee Reservation and Ashland, Wisconsin.
1906, December-January -- Stay in Washington, DC.
1907, February -- Return to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1907, March -- Visit to Santa Fe and various Pueblos (Cochiti, Tesuque, San Ildefonso, Ohkay Owingeh [San Juan], Toas and Picuris).
1907, April -- Return to Albuquerque, visit to Pueblos (Isleta, Laguna, Mesita, Acomita, Paraje, Acoma, Seama).
1907, April -- Visit to Phoenix, Arizona (Phoenix Indian School), Fort McDowell and Salt River Day School.
1907, May -- Visit to Sacaton, Maricopa, Casa Grande, and Yuma, Arizona.
1907, June -- Visit to Riverside (Sherman Institute), and Pomona, California.
1907, June-July -- Travel to Salt Lake City, Utah. Visit Panguitch, Orton, Kanab, Escalante and Marysvale, Utah.
1907, July-August -- Return to Arizona. Visit Flagstaff, Tuba Indian School, as well as Hopi Pueblo (Walpi, Moencopi, and Oraibi).
1907, September-October -- Return to Lebanon, NH.
Travels in North Carolina, Montana and Florida, 1907-1909
1907, October 22 -- Assigned to Cherokee, North Carolina, to make a new roll of the Eastern Band of Cherokee.
1907, November -- Arrive in Cherokee, North Caolina.
1908, February -- Visit to Robbinsville and Big Cove
1908, April -- Cherokee council meeting regarding Churchill's new roll.
1908, May -- Completes assignment in North Carolina.
1908, June-September -- Return to Washington, DC and Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1908, September-October -- Trip to Montana. Visit to Browning, Blackfeet Reservation, Harlem, Fort Belknap and Fort Peck.
1908, November -- Visit to Spirit Lake (Devil's Lake) and Wahpeton, and Fort Totten, North Dakota.
1908, December -- Visit to Morris, Minnesota.
1909, January -- Trip to Washington, DC for the inauguration of President Taft.
1909, February -- Visit to Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
1909, March-April -- Trip to Florida. Visit to Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg, Gainesville, and St. Augustine.
1909, May -- Visit to Soco Creek and Cherokee, North Carolina.
1909, July -- Return to Lebanon, New Hampshire.
1909, August -- Resignation as Indian Inspector.
A large collection of Native American cultural objects and archaeology bequeathed by Clara Churchill can still be found at the Hood Museum at Dartmouth College.
Frederick Dockstader, former director of the Museum of the American Indian (MAI), Heye Foundation, illegally removed the majority of the photographs (photo albums, negatives) and manuscript material (journals, reports) from the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in 1955, before depositing them at the MAI. Those materials were officially gifted to NMAI in 2018 by the Hood Museum. Additional materials from the Churchill collection that remained at the Hood Museum (lantern slides, photographs, scrapbooks, journals) were donated in 2020. These materials have been noted in the finding aid.
Access to NMAI Archives Center collections is by appointment only, Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 4:30 pm. Please contact the archives to make an appointment (phone: 301-238-1400, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish or broadbast materials from the collection must be requested from National Museum of the American Indian Archives Center. Please submit a written request to email@example.com.
The Cleve Gray papers, 1933-2005, measure 9.2 linear feet. Papers include biographical material, alphabetical files, writings, artwork, audio/visual records, artifacts, printed material, and photographs. Extensive alphabetical files contain personal and professional correspondence as well as subject files relating to projects and interests. Especially well-documented are: Gray's involvement with the Vietnam protest movement; and Threnody, his best-known work composed of fourteen large panels lamenting the dead of both sides sides in Vietnam, commissioned by the Neuberger Museum of Art.
Scope and Content Note:
The Cleve Gray papers, 1933-2005, measure 9.2 linear feet. Papers include biographical material, alphabetical files, writings, artwork, audio/visual records, artifacts, printed material, and photographs. Extensive alphabetical files contain personal and professional correspondence as well as subject files relating to projects and interests. Especially well-documented are: Gray's involvement with the Vietnam movement; and Threnody, his best-known work composed of fourteen large panels lamenting the dead of both sides sides in Vietnam, commissioned by the Neuberger Museum of Art.
Among the biographical material are award and membership certificates, biographical notes, and personal documentation.
The alphabetical files contain Cleve Gray's personal and professional correspondence, as well as subject files relating to projects and interests. Correspondence is with friends and family, colleagues, publishers, museum curators and directors, art dealers, collectors, and fans. Among the correspondents of note are: Jacques Barzun, James E. Davis, Naum Gabo, Louise N. Grace, Hans and Fridel Richter, and Jacques and Gaby Villon. Other substantial correspondence includes: Berry-Hill Galleries, Betty Parsons Gallery, Connecticut Commission on the Arts, Jacques Seligmann and Co., Neuberger Museum of Art, Pratt Institute, Princeton University, and Rhode Island School of Design. Subject files mostly consist of correspondence, but include printed material and some photographs. Among the subject files are: Art Collection of Cleve and Francine Gray, Artist-Dealer Consignments and Visual Artists' Rights Act of 1989, Artists' Tax Equity Act of 1979, Promised Gifts to Museums, Threnody, Vestments, and Vietnam Protest. Of particular interest are files relating to the Estate of Hans Richter (Cleve Gray, executor), and Gray's research correspondence and illustrations for his Cosmopolitan article "Women-Leaders of Modern Art."
Writings are manuscripts and drafts, research materials, notes, and miscellaneous writings by Cleve Gray and other authors. Those by Gray include articles and catalog introductions on a wide range of art-related topics, as well as book and exhibition reviews. Also found are a book proposal, texts and notes for lectures and talks, miscellaneous notes, poems, political statements, and student papers. Of particular interest are autobiographical notes in the form of a chronology that his biographer, Nicholas Fox Weber, cited as an "autochronology."
Among the writings by other authors are pieces about Cleve Gray including Nicholas Fox Weber's manuscript Cleve Gray. A significant amount of material relates to three books edited by Gray: David Smith by David Smith: Sculpture and Writings, Hans Richter, and John Marin. Research material survives for an unpublished volume, Naum Gabo. Also included are notes relating to his translation of A l'Infinitif by Marcel Duchamp. Jane Daggett Dillenberger is represented by a lecture, "The Resurrection in Art." The remaining items by other authors are unsigned; of particular interest is a small notebook of reminiscences and notes about Jackson Pollock.
Artwork by Cleve Gray consists mostly drawings and sketches, and a small number of paintings, prints, and watercolors. Works by other artists consist are an unsigned mobile of paper cut-outs, possibly by Alexander Calder, and a pencil drawing signed Dick (probably Richard Avedon).
Audio recordings are a radio broadcast featuring Cleve Gray, several lectures by Gray on John Marin, and a lecture titled "Meaning in the Visual Arts." Other recordings are of Hans Richter and an interview with Jimmy Ernst conducted by Francine du Plessix Gray. Also found is a videocassette of "Glenville School Students at SUNY (Lincoln Center Activity)."
Artifacts are a Chinese scroll representative of those that hung in Cleve Gray's studio, two of his paintbrushes, Aberdeen-Angus Breeders' Association blue ribbon, and Neuberger Museum of Art Lifetime Achievement Award.
The vast majority of printed material - articles, clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, reproductions of art work, etc. - are about or by Cleve Gray. Miscellaneous items and publications mentioning Gray consist of annual reports, brochures, calendars, newsletters, programs, etc. Clippings about Vietnam and Vietnam protest memorabilia reflect his passionate involvement in the anti-war movement; a small number of these items mention Gray or were written by him.
Photographs are of artwork, events, people, places, and miscellaneous subjects. Most of the art work appearing in the photographs is by Cleve Gray and includes images of destroyed paintings. Also found is an original print of Photo Abstraction by Gray, circa 1934. Of particular note are photographs of Threnody, among them preparatory drawings and views of the work in progress. Photographs of artwork by other artists include Louise N. Grace, Jacques Lipchitz, John Marin, Hans Richter, and Jacques Villon.
Photographs of people are mainly portraits of Gray, and views of him with his wife and sons. Other individuals appearing in photographs are Hans Richter and some of Richter's descendants. Pictures of places consist of Gray's studio.
Events are an unidentified exhibition opening. Miscellaneous subjects are mostly exhibition installations. Illustrations consist of photographs published in David Smith by David Smith: Sculpture and Writings. Also found are small number of negatives and color transparencies.
The collection is organized into 8 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1943-circa 2001 (Box 1; 0.1 linear ft.)
Series 2: Alphabetical Files, 1936-2005 (Boxes 1-5, 9; 4.3 linear ft.)
Series 3: Writings, 1935-2000 (Boxes 5-6; 0.85 linear ft.)
Series 4: Artwork, circa 1933-1987 (Boxes 6, 9, OV 12; 0.45 linear ft.)
Series 5: Audio/Visual Records, 1971-1989 (Box 6; 0.25 linear ft.)
Series 6: Artifacts, 1957-1999 (Box 6, RD 11; 0.45 linear ft.)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1933-2005 (Boxes 7-8; 1.25 linear ft.)
Series 8: Photographs, circa 1934-2002 (Boxes 8-10; 1.15 linear ft.)
Abstract Expressionist painter, sculptor, and writer Cleve Gray (1918-2004) lived and worked in Connecticut where he was politically active in the Vietnam protest movement and other liberal causes.
Born Cleve Ginsberg in New York City (the family changed its name to Gray in 1936), he attended the Ethical Culture School and at a young age developed a fascination with color and paint. At the urging of friends, Cleve's parents allowed him to accompany a school friend for lessons with George Bellows' student Antonia Nell. She encouraged and inspired the young artist, and a still life he painted in her class was shown at the National Academy of Design's 1932 annual exhibition. Miss Nell also introduced him to Louise N. Grace, an artist who became a good friend and had a lasting influence on him. While a student at Phillips Academy, Cleve studied painting with Bartlett Hayes and aspired to paint in France. Upon his graduation in 1936, he was awarded the Samuel F. B. Morse Prize for most promising art student.
Gray's mother was always supportive of his career choice. His businessman father, who didn't understand his son's desire to be an artist, insisted on a college education. Cleve chose Princeton, where he majored in art and archaeology, and studied painting with James E. Davis. His senior thesis was on Chinese landscape painting; both Eastern philosophy and art were long-term influences on Gray's work and outlook. He graduated summa cum laude in 1940, and then spent several months painting while living at the farm of a family friend in Mendham, New Jersey.
When a doctor suggeted that a dry climate might relieve sinus and asthma problems, Gray moved to Tucson, Arizona. Once settled in the desert, he contacted Louise N. Grace, whom he had met as a young teenager through his art instructor. Miss Grace, an artist and daughter of the founder of W. R. Grace and Co., was a highly cultured and independent woman older than his parents. The summer before Gray entered Phillips Academy, she had hired him to brush ground color onto canvases for murals she was painting for "Eleven Arches," her home in Tuscon then under construction. Miss Grace invited Gray to visit "Eleven Arches" to see the completed murals, and despite the substantial age difference, their friendship deepened; Gray found in her intellectual and spiritual guidance that was lacking in his own family. He remained in Tucson until enlisting in the U. S. Army in 1942, and they corresponded frequently during the the war. When a stroke in 1948 prevented Miss Grace from participating in the extensive tour of Europe she was arranging for a small group of friends, including Gray, she provided sufficient funds and insisted he make the trip on his own. Another stroke, suffered while Gray was traveling, left her in a coma; he was not permitted to see her again. Upon her death in 1954, Gray inherited "Eleven Arches."
Between 1943 and 1946, Gray was stationed in England, France, and Germany, serving in Army Signal Intelligence. Most of his work was performed at night, and he spent his free time drawing. While in London, Gray produced many colored pencil drawings of buildings that had been bombed. In France, a Red Cross volunteered to introduce him to Jacques Villon; although unfamiliar with the artist, Gray knew of Villon's brother, Marcel Duchamp, and accepted the invitation. Jacques and Gaby Villon lived near Gray's billet and he became a frequent visitor. Their friendship was important to his development as an artist. After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Gray remained in France to work with Villon who introduced him to the study of color and the concept of intellectual quality in painting. Gray also studied informally with André Lhote, Villon's former teacher. "American Painters in Paris," an exhibition presented in 1946 at Galerie Durand-Ruel, included work by Cleve Gray.
He returned to New York City in 1946. In the tight post-war rental market Gray managed to find a small room upstairs from a grocery store on East 106th Street for use as a studio. He commenced painting the London Ruins series based on drawings he had made during the war, and began thinking about exhibiting in New York. Gray secured introductions to Pierre Matisse, Curt Valentin, and Dorothy Miller. They encouraged him, but no opportunities came his way until Germain Seligmann, whose gallery was expanding its scope to include contemporary art, followed the advice of Curt Valentin and looked at Gray's work. Gary's first solo exhibition, held at Jacques Seligmann and Co., included selections from the London Ruins series, paintings done in Maine and Arizona, and a few portraits. The New York Times called it "an auspicious first," and one of the London Ruins series was selected by Edward Alden Jewell for the "Critic's Exhibition" at Grand Central Gallery.
Gray found New York City too frenetic. In 1949 he bought a large, old house in Warren, Connecticut, and lived and worked at "Graystones" for the remainder of his life. Half of a 6-car garage was converted to a studio; many years later, his studio moved to a barn, its renovation and design planned by sculptor and architect Tony Smith.
He married Francine du Plessix in 1957. Always interested in literature and philosophy, in the 1960s Francine du Plessix Gray began contributing articles to The New Yorker and is still affiliated with the magazine. Her reviews and articles appeared in prominent publications, and she wrote several award-winning novels and biographies. Their sons, Thaddeus and Luke (now a painter), were born in 1959 and 1961. Francine's mother, Tatiana du Plessix (the hat designer Tatiana of Saks), and step-father, the sculptor Alexander Liberman (also former art director of Vogue and later editorial director of Condé Nast publications) became Cleve Gray's closest friends.
The paintings and drawings of Cleve Gray - first consisting of figures and portraits, and then abstract compositions - were often produced in series. The earliest series, London Ruins, grew from the colored pencil drawings made while stationed in London during World War II. Travels to France, Italy, Greece, Morocco, Hawaii, Spain, Egypt, Japan, and Czechoslovakia, inspired many series, among them: Etruscan, Augury, Ceres, Demeter Landscape, Hera, Morocco, Hawaii, Ramses, Perne, Hatshepsut, Roman Walls, Zen, and Prague. His hometown, the Holocaust, and musicians inspired other series: Warren, Sleepers Awake!, Bela Bartok, and Four Heads of Anton Bruckner. Some series were works on paper, others were collage canvases, and a few series later spawned prints. Gray began using acrylics in the 1940s. Although the medium offered many benefits, he did not always like its appearance and frequently returned to oils. Around 1966 Gray was painting almost exclusively with acrylic, and eventually developed a technique of thinning the paint and applying successive layers of color (sometimes by pouring or with a sponge) on cotton duck rather than traditional canvas.
Gray was attracted to sculpture, too, working in that medium at different points in his career. His first sculpture, in plaster, was completed in 1959. In the early 1960s he visited a commercial sand-casting foundry and became excited about learning to cast in bronze. He made about a dozen sculptures to cast in sand, but due to too much undercutting, their casting became too difficult a problem. Lava flows seen while in Hawaii during 1970 and 1971 inspired a return to sculpture. This time, he used wood, papier maché, and metal. Gray then decided these pieces should be cast in bronze, and he was determined to do it himself. Friends taught him the lost wax process and he began working at the Tallix Foundry in Peekskill, New York where, over the next year, he cast about forty bronzes.
Gray's best known work is Threnody, a lament for the dead of both sides in Vietnam. In 1972, Gray received a commission to fill a very large gallery of the soon-to-open Neuberger Museum of Art (State University of New York, College at Purchase) designed by Philip Johnson. Friends of the Neuberger Museum paid his expenses and Gray, who was enormously excited about the project he considered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, donated his time. Developing plans for the execution of Threnody consumed most of his time during 1972 and 1973. Composed of a series of fourteen panels, each approximately twenty feet square, the piece presented a number of technical challenges. It was constructed and painted in situ during the summer and early fall of 1973. Since then, Threnody has been reinstalled at the Neuberger Museum of Art on several occasions.
Gray was commissioned to design liturgical vestments for two Episcopal churches in Connecticut in the 1970s. A chasuble, stoles, and a mitre were commissioned by the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut in 1984.
He won the "Outdoor Art at the Station Competition," for Union Station, Hartford, Connecticut. His very large porcelain enamel tile mural, Movement in Space, was installed on the façade of the transportation center in 1988.
Gray began writing occasional articles and exhibition reviews in the late 1940s. His concern with rational structure in art led him to question Abstract Expressionism and write "Narcissus in Chaos." This article, published in 1959 by The American Scholar, drew considerable attention. In 1960, Cosmopolitan published "Women - Leaders of Modern Art" that featured Nell Blaine, Joan Brown, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gretchoff, Grace Hartigan, Ethel Magafan, Louise Nevelson, and Georgia O'Keeffe. Between 1960 and 1970, Gray was a contributing editor of Art In America, producing numerous articles (a few co-authored with Francine) and reviews for the periodical. He edited three books, David Smith by David Smith: Scupture and Writings, Hans Richter, and John Marin, all published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, and translated Marcel Duchamp's A l'Infinitif.
During the early 1960s, Gray became intensely focused on the situation in Vietnam. His first artistic response came in 1963 with Reverend Quan Duc, painted to commemorate a Buddhist monk who had immolated himself. Francine, too, felt strongly about the issue and over time the couple became increasingly active in the anti-war movement. They joined a number of organizations and helped to found a local chapter of Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam. The years 1968 and 1969 were an especially intense and active period for the Grays. They protested, wrote and spoke out against the war, raised funds to support anti-war political candidates, and on a few occasions were arrested and jailed. Writing for Art in America, editing the book series, and anti-war activities left little time for his art. In 1970 Gray refocused his attention on painting.
Beginning in 1947, Gray was always represented by a New York Gallery: Jacques Seligmann and Co. (1947-1959), Staempfli Gallery (1960-1965), Saidenberg Gallery (1965-1968), Betty Parsons Gallery (1968-1983), Armstrong Gallery (1984-1987), and Berry-Hill Galleries (1988-2003). He was represented by galleries in other cities, as well, but not as consistently or for such long periods.
He exhibited extensively in group and solo exhibitions throughout the United States and internationally. In addition to numerous solo exhibitions presented by the dealers who represented Gray, there were retrospective exhibitions at: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Brooklyn Museum, Columbus Museum of Art, Krannert Art Museum (University of Illinois, Champaign), Princeton University Art Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, and Wadsworth Atheneum.
Many museums' permanent collections include the work of Cleve Gray, among them: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Butler Institute of American Art, Columbus Museum of Art, Neuberger Museum of Art (SUNY, College at Purchase), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Newark Museum, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Phillips Collection, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery (University of Nebraska, Lincoln), Smithsonian Institution, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Yale University Art Gallery.
Cleve Gray served as artist-in-residence at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 1963 and at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1970, both sponsored by Ford Foundation programs. In 1980, he was appointed an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, where Francine concurrently served as a writer-in-residence; they returned for shorter periods during each of the subsequent seven years. Cleve Gray was presented the Connecticut Arts Award in 1987, and the Neuberger Museum of Art Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Hartford in 1992, and was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998. In addition, he was a trustee of the Neuberger Museum of Art, New York Studio School, Rhode Island School of Design, and Wadsworth Atheneum.
Cleve Gray hit his head and suffered a massive subdural hematoma after falling on ice outside of his home. He died the following day, December 8, 2004.
Exhibition catalogs and announcements and two scrapbooks donated to the Archives in 1967 and 1968 were microfilmed on reels D314-D315. Items on reel D315, transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum Library in 1975, are not described in this finding aid.
The Cleve Gray papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by Mr. Gray in 1967 and 1968. The bulk of the collection was given by his widow, Francine du Plessix Gray, in 2007 and 2008.
Use of original material requires an appointment. Use of archival audiovisual recordigs with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.