A Finding Aid to the William Christopher Papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.chriwill
Creators:
Christopher, William R, 1924-1973
Dates:
circa 1920s-circa 1973
Languages:
English
Collection is in English
Physical Description:
8.2 Linear feet
Repository:
The William Christopher papers measure 8.2 linear feet and date from circa 1920s to circa 1973. Materials include biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, five diaries, subject/project files, printed materials, photographs, numerous sketches and eleven sketchbooks, and five short film reels containing amateur footage of New York City. The subject/project files include correspondence, printed materials, and two additional diaries about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The William Christopher papers measure 8.2 linear feet and date from circa 1920s to circa 1973. Materials include biographical materials, correspondence, writings and notes, five diaries, subject/project files, printed materials, photographs, numerous sketches and eleven sketchbooks, and five reels of motion picture films, consisting of amateur footage of New York City. The subject/project files include correspondence, printed materials, and two additional diaries about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Biographical materials include address books, annotated memorabilia, awards and certificates, curriculum vitae and resume materials, and identification materials. Correspondence is with friends and fellow artists, including actress Osceola Archer and Henry Crapo, galleries, and others. Writings and notes include eleven notebooks, miscellaneous undated notes and papers, annotated drafts and writings by William Christopher, and writings by others. There are five diaries written by William Christopher from the 1940s to the 1960s.
Subject files document miscellaneous projects in which Christopher was involved and/or interested, and include several about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. containing correspondence, printed material, and two diaries written by Christopher during his attendance of the Civil Rights march from Selma to Montgomery.
Scattered personal business papers concern artwork sold and loaned and personal finances. Printed materials include clippings, exhibition catalogs and materials, magazines and programs, and posters. Photographs are of William Christopher, Henry Crapo, Margaret French, Charles Howard, Bernard Perlin, George Tooker, male models and figures, furniture, landscapes, buildings, and artwork.
Christopher's papers include over one hundred sketches and watercolors, eleven sketchbooks, an artwork by Dimitri Von Mohrenshildt, and one sketch by George Tooker. Also found among the papers are five film reels made by Christopher for an unfinished project, containing footage of New York City cityscapes and street scenes.

Arrangement
Arrangement
This collection is arranged as 10 series:
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1940s-circa 1973 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1947-circa 1973 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
  • Series 3: Writings and Notes, circa 1947-1970 (0.4 linear feet; Box 3)
  • Series 4: Diaries, circa 1940s-circa 1960s (0.2 linear feet; Boxes 3-4)
  • Series 5: Subject Files, 1943-1972 (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 4, 9)
  • Series 6: Personal Business Records, circa 1950-circa 1972 (0.3 linear feet; Box 4)
  • Series 7: Printed Material, circa 1950s-circa 1972 (1.4 linear feet; Boxes 4-5, 9, OV12)
  • Series 8: Photographs, circa 1920s-circa 1970s (0.7 linear feet; Boxes 6, 8, MGP 4)
  • Series 9: Artwork and Sketchbooks, circa 1940s-circa 1970s (1.6 linear feet; Boxes 6-8, OV10-11, 13-18)
  • Series 10: Unidentified Project, Motion Picture Films, 1961 (0.5 linear feet; FC 19-23)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
William Christopher was a painter, art instructor, and Civil Rights activist living and working in New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont. He was born in Columbus, Georgia on March 4, 1924, and served in the U. S. Navy from 1941 to 1943.
Aided by grants and scholarships, Christopher studied in France at the Sorbonne, Academie Julian, and the Ecoles d'Art Americaines between 1946-1948. While there, he also studied with Ossip Zadkine. He returned to New York and studied with Amedee Ozenfant and Hans Hofmann between 1948 and 1950.
Christopher's paintings was greatly influenced by his time spent in Paris and New York, and his later involvement with the Civil Rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the march in Selma in 1965. His first U. S. solo exhibition was in 1952 at the Roko Gallery in New York, and he exhibited widely in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. at the Nexus Gallery, the Boston Arts Festival, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Joan Peterson Gallery, Galeria Juana Mordo, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, among others. In 1964, Christopher was invited to present his paintings to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the presentation of Dr. King's papers to Boston University. This is where Christopher met King.
Christopher moved to Hartland, Vermont in 1960, with his partner painter George Tooker. He remained there for the rest of his life. Christopher died in 1973.

Administration
Processing Information
Multiple accessions were merged and archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2015 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
Author
Anna Rimel
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
William Christopher donated his papers to the Archives of American Art in 1972.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
The William Christopher 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.
Preferred Citation
William Christopher papers, circa 1920s-circa 1973. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Civil rights demonstrations -- Alabama -- Selma Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Civil rights -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African Americans -- Civil rights Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Tooker, George Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Archer, Osceola Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Von Mohrenschildt, Dimitri Sergius, 1902-2002 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Perlin, Bernard, 1918- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Selma to Montgomery Rights March (1965 : Selma, Ala.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
French, Margaret Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crapo, Henry H. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Howard, Charles, 1899-1978 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/