A Finding Aid to the Eldzier Cortor papers,
circa 1930s-2015, bulk 1972-2015
in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.corteldz
Creators:
Cortor, Eldzier, 1916-
Dates:
circa 1930s-2015
bulk 1972-2015
Languages:
English
The collection is in English.
Physical Description:
3.1 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter and printmaker Eldzier Cortor measure 3.1 linear feet and date from circa 1930s to 2015, with the bulk of the papers dating from 1972 to 2015. The papers contain biographical material, correspondence, professional files, exhibition and gallery files, writings, printed material, artwork, and photographs.

Scope and Content Note
Scope and Content Note
The papers of painter and printmaker Eldzier Cortor measure 3.1 linear feet and date from circa 1930s to 2015, with the bulk of the papers dating from 1972 to 2015. The papers contain biographical material, correspondence, professional files, exhibition and gallery files, writings, printed material, artwork, and photographs.
Biographical material consists of awards certificates; Cortor's artist biography; an obituary and prayer cards for his father in law; an address book; and a Christmas list.
Correspondence includes letters from Cortor's family; correspondence with or about individuals or organizations; and general correspondence. Individuals included in the general correspondence are Acklyn Lynch, Leontine Collier, Violetta Harrigan, Halima Taha, David C. Driskell, Carol Anderson, and Betye Saar. Art institutions represented in this series include Sylvan Cole Gallery, Anderson Gallery, and Kenkeleba House.
Professional files include materials related to the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts; publishing; materials related to fake Cortor works; the Public School Mural Project; teaching files; lists of possible titles for paintings; financial documents; materials related to painting and etching plates for storage; and notes of museum and gallery contacts.
Exhibition and gallery files include correspondence; contracts and agreements; exhibition announcements; inventories; other exhibition materials; clippings; press releases; photographs and photocopied images of artwork; and photographs of exhibitions.
Writings consist primarily of essays and articles about Eldzier Cortor. Also included are his answers to a questionnaire about art, a diary, and notes, as well as hand-copied excerpts of reviews.
Printed material includes exhibition announcements, exhibition catalogs, newsletters, clippings, research and source material, and books.
Artwork includes ink and watercolor sketches from Cortor's time as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago. This series also includes additional sketches, sketchbooks, and a collage by K. Carracio.
Photographs depict Cortor, other individuals, his artwork, and exhibitions. There are also photographs from his time in Cuba and Haiti (circa 1950s).

Arrangement
Arrangement
The Eldzier Cortor papers are organized into 8 series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1947-2012 (Box 1; 5 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, 1970-2015 (Box 1; 8 folders)
  • Series 3: Professional Files, 1960, 1972-2015 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet, OV 4)
  • Series 4: Exhibition and Gallery Files, 1972-2015 (Boxes 1-2; 0.7 linear feet)
  • Series 5: Writings, circa 1970s-2006 (Box 2; 8 folders)
  • Series 6: Printed Material, 1940-1976, 1996-2015 (Boxes 2-3; 0.8 linear feet, OV 4)
  • Series 7: Artwork, circa 1930s, circa 1970s-circa 1990s (Box 3; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 8: Photographs, 1939-2002, 2014 (Box 3; 0.5 linear feet)

Biographical Note
Biographical Note
Eldzier Cortor (1916-2015) spent his professional career as a painter and printmaker in Chicago and New York. He was born in Richmond Virginia to John and Ophelia Cortor. In 1917, the family moved to Chicago along with countless other African Americans as part of the Great Migration.
In 1936, Cortor began taking evening classes at the Art Institute of Chicago prior to enrolling full time. Kathleen Blackshear, an instructor at the Institute, recommended Cortor for employment at the Works Projects Administration in 1940. It was under Blackshear's guidance that Cortor was introduced to African Art. The depiction of African Americans became the defining subject of Cortor's career, specifically the portrayal of the African American woman, which he commonly represented nude in paintings and prints.
In 1941, with funding by the Works Projects Administration, Cortor helped found the South Side Community Arts Center in Chicago. Over the next few years he would receive two Rosenwald Fellowships, which allowed him to travel to the Sea Islands of Georgia. Afterward, Cortor moved to New York, and in 1946 Life magazine published his work Southern Gate. In 1949 he received a Guggenheim fellowship, which provided the opportunity to travel to Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti. He settled in Port-au-Prince, where he taught for two years.
Cortor married Sophia Schmidt on August 20, 1951, and they subsequently had four children: Michael, Mercedes, Stephen, and Miriam. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Studio Museum of Harlem, and the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston. Notable exhibitions include Three Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith, and Archibald John Motley, Jr. at Kenkeleba House in 1988; Southern Gate: African American Paintings from the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution at Duke University Museum of Art, 1999; Eldzier Cortor: Master Printmaker at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, 2002; and Black Spirit: Works on Paper by Eldzier Cortor at the Indiana Art Museum, 2006.
Eldzier Cortor died in November of 2015, at the age of 99.

Administration
Processing Information
The papers were originally processed by Justin Brancato in March, 2010. The additional materials were merged and processed in 2017 by Rayna Andrews, with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.
Related Material
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of materials lent for microfilming on reel N70-47, including biographical material, correspondence, printed material, papers related to exhibitions, photographs, and sketchbooks. Except for three photographs that appear in this collection (Box 3, Folder 19), loaned materials were returned to the lender and are not described in the collection container inventory.
Existence and Location of Copies
Portions of the collection lent for microfilming are available on 35mm microfilm reel N70-47 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Author
Justin Brancato and Rayna Andrews
Sponsor
Funding for the 2017 processing of this collection was provided by the Henry Luce Foundation.
Immediate Source of Acquisition note
Eldzier Cortor loaned materials to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1970 and donated papers in 2009. His son, Michael Cortor, gave additional materials in 2016.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Eldzier Cortor papers, circa 1930s-2015, bulk 1972-2015. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Restrictions on Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
Ownership and Literary Rights
The Eldzier Cortor 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.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Economic aspects Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Printmakers -- Illinois -- Chicago Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Printmakers -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters -- Illinois -- Chicago Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Forgeries Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
African American painters -- Illinois -- Chicago Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Study and teaching Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cuba -- Description and Travel Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Haiti -- description and travel Place Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Collages Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Diaries Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Watercolors Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sylvan Cole Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Taha, Halima Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harrigan, Violetta C., 1941- Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Driskell, David C. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kenkeleba House Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lynch, Acklyn Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art Institute of Chicago -- Students Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anderson Gallery Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Collier, Leontine L. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Anderson, Carol Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carracio, K. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Saar, Betye 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/