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John Wilson papers

Creator:
Wilson, John, 1922-2015  Search this
Interviewer:
Trachtenberg, Alan  Search this
Extent:
5 Microfilm reels
1 Cassette (Sound recording, analog)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Microfilm reels
Cassettes
Drawings
Interviews
Scrapbooks
Sound recordings
Date:
circa 1939-1993
Scope and Contents:
This microfilm collection of the papers of African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator John Woodrow Wilson contains biographical material such as autobiographical notes, school records, personal documents, and a bibliography; personal and business correspondence, undated and 1938-1993; files on the New York City Board of Education, 1959-1965, regarding his teaching; and project files, including Wilson's submission for the competition for a Frederick Douglass statue, Eternal Presence, Father and Child Reading, and Wilson's monuments and bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. Correspondents represented include the Albany Institute of History and Art, Atlanta University, Carnegie Institute, Ebony, David Porter of the G Place Gallery, the Institute of Moder Art, Alain Locke, Gloria May, the Museum of Modern Art, Frederick G. Rice, and Hale Woodruff.

Also included in the collection are files on exhibitions; notebooks, 1958-1960; lesson plans, 1959, 1963; notes, writings, and lectures, circa 1945-1993; transcripts of interviews of Wilson and related correspondence, 1978-1987; legal material, 1978; financial records 1944-1991, including a notebook of sales and expenses 1945-1950; photographs, 1940-1990, of Wilson, his work, sculpture, and exhibition installations; a scrapbook, 1939-1967; artwork, including sketchbooks, 1970-1992, life studies completed as a student, 1939-1947, and miscellaneous art work, 1939-1992; and printed material, 1939-1993, including exhibition catalogs, illustrated books and book jackets, and ephemera. The collection also includes a copy of a sound recording of an interview of Wilson conducted by Alan Trachtenberg, circa 1979 (untranscribed).
Biographical / Historical:
John Woodrow Wilson (1922-2015) was an African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator in Boston, Massachusetts. Wilson studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston under Ture Bengtz and Karl Zerbe, graduating in 1945. He lived in Paris through the MFA fellowship and studied with modern artist Fernand Leger. He then attended Tufts University, graduating in 1947. Wilson received a John Hay Whitney fellowship and lived in Mexico for five years with his wife, Julie Kowtich. After his return from Mexico in 1956, Wilson made artwork for Chicago labor unions and taught in New York City before returning to teach at Boston University in 1964. During his career, Wilson won competitions to execute statues of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the city of Buffalo, New York and for the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C.
Provenance:
Lent for microfilming 1993 by John W. Wilson, except for the 1979 sound recording which he lent for copying.
Restrictions:
Microfilm portion must be consulted on microfilm. Use of untranscribed interview requires an appointment.
Occupation:
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Sculptors -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Educators -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Topic:
Painting, Modern -- 20th century -- United States  Search this
Sculpture, Modern -- 20th century -- United States  Search this
African American artists  Search this
Genre/Form:
Drawings
Interviews
Scrapbooks
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.wilsjohn
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-wilsjohn

Oral history interview with John Wilson

Interviewee:
Wilson, John, 1922-2015  Search this
Interviewer:
Brown, Robert F.  Search this
Names:
Boston University. School of Fine and Applied Arts  Search this
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. School  Search this
Aronson, David, 1923-2015  Search this
Bengtz, Ture, 1907-1973  Search this
Gaither, Edmund B.  Search this
Hurwitz, Sidney, 1932-  Search this
Kay, Reed  Search this
Kramer, Jack  Search this
Lewis, Elma  Search this
Léger, Fernand, 1881-1955  Search this
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957  Search this
Siqueiros, David Alfaro  Search this
Zerbe, Karl, 1903-1972  Search this
Extent:
497 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Sound recordings
Interviews
Date:
1993 March 11-1994 August 16
Scope and Contents:
An interview of John Woodrow Wilson conducted 1993 March-1994 August, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art.
Wilson discusses his childhood as a member of a family of middle class blacks from British Guiana (now Guyana); his father's grave disappointments in the face of racial discrimination; his parents' push for their children to succeed; early urge to read and draw; encouragement by School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston students who taught at the Roxbury Boys Club; his secondary education; and friends.
He talks about his education at the MFA School, Boston, and comments on such teachers as Ture Bengtz and Karl Zerbe and compares their exacting methods with those of Fernand Leger, his teacher in Paris.
His work of the 1940s prior to going to Paris; the importance of early awards and sales received while still a student at the MFA School; the excitement of sharing a studio with fellow students, Francesco Carbone and Leo Prince; and encouragement to stay in school during WW II with the promise of a European study fellowship after the war.
The great impact of his years in Paris (1948-49); the lack of racial prejudice; the liberating effect of Leger's teaching; his awe of the work of Masaccio and Piero della Francesca during a trip to Italy; and the deep impression made on him by seeing tribal art in the Musee de l'Homme, Paris.
Continued discussion of Leger; his teaching methods; and influences on his work.
His first teaching position at the MFA School; his involvement in civil rights in Boston; his gregariousness and the use of his studio as a meeting place for artists and political activists; his involvement with socialism in Boston and New York; and working in a socialist children's camp. He remembers meeting Paul Robeson, Charles White, Elizabeth Catlett, and Bob Blackburn, who was then setting up his printmaking atelier in New York; marriage to a fellow socialist (June 1950); move to Mexico on a fellowship to study with Jose Orozco on the advice of Leger, only to find that Orozco had died; terrors of travel as an interracial couple through the U.S.; and different racial attitudes in Mexico and the U.S.
Living in Mexico (1950-56) and anecdotes of David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera; his wife's meeting with Frieda Kahlo and seeing her collection of folk art; their free and cosmopolitan, if impoverished, life in Mexico; his work in a printmaking atelier and on the production of frescoes, and a lengthy aside about his brilliant brother, Freddie, who because he was black was not allowed to pursue his first love, geology, for many years.
Continued discussion of his experiences in Mexico; the dreary year (1957) he spent doing commercial art for a meatpackers' union in Chicago, a city he disliked; his move to New York in 1958, taking on commercial work to support his family, and teaching anatomy at the Pratt Institute.
Teaching art at a junior high school in the Bronx, and his gaining respect of students through special projects; teaching drawing at Boston University (1965-86), his approach to teaching including his demanding standards, the seriousness of the students, his opposing rigid attendance and grading rules, and colleagues, such as David Aronson who had created the School, Reed Kay, Jack Kramer, Sidney Hurwitz, and the University president, John Silber.
Working with the black arts entrepreneur, Elma Lewis, in setting up a visual arts program for the Boston black community (late 1960s-1970s), including the selection of a curator, Edmund Barry Gaither, a young art historian, who eventually established a museum of African-American art; his participation in various black art exhibitions, despite his belief that art should be seen regardless of the ethnic origins of artists; his move toward sculpture, beginning in the early 1960s, as a medium most expressive of black persons, culminating in the 1980s in a series of colossal heads and a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the U.S. Capitol (1985-86); and why he makes art and will so long as he is able.
Biographical / Historical:
John Wilson (1922- ) is an African American painter, sculptor, illustrator, printmaker, and educator from Boston, Massachusetts. Full name John Woodrow Wilson.
General:
Originally recorded on 11 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 22 digital wav files. Duration is 16 hr., 2 min.
Uneven transcription reflects Wilson's unusual speech pattern.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for the transcription and microfilming of the interview provided by the Newland Foundation.
Occupation:
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Educators -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Printmakers -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Sculptors -- Massachusetts -- Boston  Search this
Topic:
African American artists  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Interviews
Identifier:
AAA.wilson93
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-wilson93

Crosscurrents U.S.A. artists' statement : sound recording

Creator:
Detroit Institute of Arts  Search this
Names:
Bearden, Romare, 1911-1988  Search this
Bell, Leland  Search this
Cunningham, Ben, 1904-1975  Search this
De Kooning, Elaine  Search this
Greene, Balcomb, 1904-1990  Search this
Hirsch, Joseph, 1910-1981  Search this
Johnson, Lester, 1919-2010  Search this
Katz, Alex, 1927-  Search this
Kaupelis, Robert  Search this
Koch, John, 1909-1978  Search this
Lawrence, Jacob, 1917-2000  Search this
Neel, Alice, 1900-1984  Search this
Wilson, John, 1922-2015  Search this
Extent:
1 Sound tape (7 in.)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sound tapes
Sound recordings
Date:
1969 Mar
Scope and Contents:
Statements from artists participating in the "Crosscurrents U.S.A." exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts, including Romare Bearden, Leland Bell, Benjamin F. Cunningham, Elaine De Kooning, Balcomb Greene, Joseph Hirsch, Lester F. Johnson, Alex Katz, Robert Kaupelis, John Koch, Jacob Lawrence, Alice Neel and John Wilson.
Provenance:
Provenance unknown.
Restrictions:
Untranscribed; use requires an appointment.
Topic:
Art, American  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.diacross
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-diacross

Oral history interview with Ralph Coburn

Interviewee:
Coburn, Ralph, 1923-  Search this
Interviewer:
Brown, Robert F.  Search this
Names:
Boris Mirski Gallery (Boston, Mass.)  Search this
Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston, Mass.)  Search this
Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Students  Search this
Kelly, Ellsworth, 1923-  Search this
Nelson, Carl Gustaf, 1898-1988  Search this
Netsch, Walter  Search this
Plaut, James S. (James Sachs), 1912-1996  Search this
Polonsky, Arthur  Search this
Saltonstall, Nathaniel, 1903-1968  Search this
Swetzoff, Hyman Wulf, 1920-1968  Search this
Wilson, John, 1922-2015  Search this
Zerbe, Karl, 1903-1972  Search this
Extent:
48 Pages (Transcript)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Pages
Interviews
Sound recordings
Date:
1995 May 25-June 23
Scope and Contents:
An interview of Ralph Coburn conducted 1995 May 25 and 1995 June 23, by Robert F. Brown, for the Archives of American Art, in Coburn's home, Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Coburn talks about his parents and his childhood in Miami Beach, Florida; his early schooling; and entering Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1941, in its 5-year architecture program. He recalls Walter Netsch, a classmate at MIT, who later became a partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, who introduced Coburn to modern design and to avant-garde music. He also recalls the painter and head of painting at the Museum of Fine Arts School, Karl Zerbe, his teacher in the course of his work for advanced MIT architecture students. He talks about his return to Florida as a draftsman for an aircraft equipment company in Miami, outfitting planes for the African campaign, and his foreman, a son of Al Capone; then returning to Massachusetts to work with an electrical company making secret military components.
Coburn discusses returning to and dropping out of MIT; working at the Institute of Modern Art in Boston through Hyman Swetzoff; following Swetzoff to the Boris Mirski Gallery; studying at Mirski's art school with Esther Geller and John Wilson and friends made at the school, including Ellsworth Kelly, Arthur Polonsky, and Reed Kaye. He recalls Carl Nelson, one of his teachers. He talks about the change in atmosphere at the Institute with the replacement of Thomas Metcalf by James Plaut and Nathaniel Saltonstall who changed the Institute's name to Institute of Contemporary Art and the protest surrounding the name change.
Biographical / Historical:
Ralph Coburn (1923- ) is an architect, painter, and designer currently living in Gloucester, Massahusetts.
General:
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 2 hr., 36 min.
Provenance:
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators.
Occupation:
Architects -- Massachusetts  Search this
Topic:
Architecture -- Study and teaching  Search this
Designers -- Massachusetts -- Gloucester -- Interviews  Search this
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Gloucester -- Interviews  Search this
Genre/Form:
Interviews
Sound recordings
Identifier:
AAA.coburn95
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-aaa-coburn95

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (sculpture)

Sculptor:
Wilson, John 1922-2015  Search this
Subject:
King, Martin Luther, Jr  Search this
Medium:
Sculpture: bronze; Base: Belgian black marble
Culture:
African American  Search this
Type:
Sculptures
Owner/Location:
United States Capitol Rotunda Washington District of Columbia 20201
Date:
Ca. 1986
Topic:
Portrait male--Bust  Search this
Ethnic  Search this
Occupation--Religion--Clergy  Search this
Control number:
IAS 08850016
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_411113

My Brother, (painting)

Painter:
Wilson, John 1922-2015  Search this
Subject:
Wilson  Search this
Medium:
Oil on panel
Culture:
African American  Search this
Type:
Paintings
Owner/Location:
Smith College Smith College Museum of Art Elm Street at Bedford Terrace Northampton Massachusetts 01063 Accession Number: 1943:4-1
Date:
1942
Topic:
Portrait male--Bust  Search this
Ethnic  Search this
Control number:
IAP 22280431
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_455149

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, (sculpture)

Sculptor:
Wilson, John 1922-2015  Search this
Subject:
King, Martin Luther, Jr  Search this
Medium:
Metal on stone base
Culture:
African American  Search this
Type:
Sculptures-Outdoor Sculpture
Sculptures
Owner/Location:
Administered by City of Buffalo Department of Community Development 920 City Hall Buffalo New York 14202
Located Martin Luther King Jr. Park Buffalo New York
Topic:
Portrait male--Head  Search this
Ethnic  Search this
Occupation--Other--Reformer  Search this
Control number:
IAS NY000043
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_309401

The Great Methodist Heresy, (sculpture)

Sculptor:
Wilson, John 1922-2015  Search this
Medium:
Ceramic, wood, acrylic, brass
Type:
Sculptures
Owner/Location:
Honolulu Advertiser 605 Kapiolani Boulevard Honolulu Hawaii 96813
Date:
1983
Topic:
Religion--Christianity  Search this
Control number:
IAS 65600146
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_292029

Eternal Presence, (sculpture)

Sculptor:
Wilson, John 1922-2015  Search this
Medium:
Sculpture: bronze; Base: concrete
Culture:
African American  Search this
Type:
Sculptures-Outdoor Sculpture
Sculptures
Owner/Location:
National Center of Afro-American Artists 300 Walnut Avenue Boston Massachusetts
Date:
1987
Topic:
Figure--Head  Search this
Ethnic  Search this
Allegory--Life--Humanity  Search this
Control number:
IAS 87740100
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:siris_ari_299699

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