A Finding Aid to the Thomas Downing Papers, circa 1946-1995, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.downthom
Creators:
Downing, Thomas, 1928-1985
Dates:
circa 1946-1995
Languages:
English
The collection is in English, French and Italian.
Physical Description:
1.4 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of painter Thomas Downing measure 1.4 linear feet and date from circa 1946 to 1995. The papers document his career as an artist in Washington, D.C. and Provincetown, Massachusetts through biographical material, correspondence, writings, personal business records, printed material, photographic material and artwork.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of painter Thomas Downing measure 1.4 linear feet and date from circa 1946 to 1995. The papers document his career as an artist in Washington, D.C. and Provincetown, Massachusetts through biographical material, correspondence, writings, personal business records, printed material, photographic material and artwork.
Biographical material consists of Downing's college diploma, resume, biographical outlines, birth and death certificates, travel documents, passports and other miscellaneous documents.
Correspondence is between Thomas Downing and his family, friends, and colleagues. Notable correspondents include Phillip Romero, Osuna Galleries and Sidney Wordell.
Writings include notes, notebooks, annotated calendars and essays. There are a few writings by others such as poems by Sidney Wordell and Philip Romero's essay about Thomas Downing.
Personal business records consist of a few legal records, shipping and transportation invoices, and professional certificates.
Printed material includes clippings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, two books and an auction catalog.
Photographic material depict Thomas Downing, friends, family, travel, and artwork.
Artwork consists of sketchbooks and drawings by Thomas Downing, plus some drawings by the artist's son, Aaron Downing.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as seven series.
  • Series 1: Biographical Material, 1949-1995 (Box 1; 7 folders)
  • Series 2: Correspondence, circa 1948-circa 1987 (Box 1; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 3: Writings, 1969-1986 (Box 1; 0.4 linear feet)
  • Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1950-1986 (Box 1; 5 folders)
  • Series 5: Printed Material, circa 1946-1987 (Boxes 1-2; 0.3 linear feet)
  • Series 6: Photographs, circa 1950-1988 (Box 2; 0.2 linear feet)
  • Series 7: Artwork, circa 1950-1984 (Box 2; 0.2 linear feet)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Thomas Downing (1928-1985) was a painter based in Washington, D.C., and Provincetown, Massachusetts, who was associated with the Washington Color School.
Thomas Downing was born in Suffolk, Virginia, in 1928. He received his undergraduate degree from Randolph Macon College in Virginia in 1948, then attended Pratt Institute in New York from 1948 to 1950. He traveled to Europe for one year in 1950 to 1951 on a grant from Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
After serving in the military, Downing moved to Washington, D.C., for a teaching job in 1953. He enrolled in a course at Catholic University and studied art under Kenneth Noland, who was a major influence on his work. Downing later shared a studio with Howard Mehring, with whom he founded the Origo, a cooperative gallery that operated from early 1959 to roughly mid-1960. During the 1960s, Downing also taught at the Corcoran School, numbering among his students Sam Gilliam, Rockne Krebs, and Michael Clark. Although he mostly resided in D.C., the last ten years of his life were spent in Provincetown, Massaschusetts, where he died in 1985.

Administration
Processing Information
A small amount of material was loaned and microfilmed on reel 4058, then the material was returned to lender. Donated papers were processed and a finding aid prepared by Rihoko Ueno in 2018.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming (reel 4058) including eleven letters from Thomas Downing to his son Aaron and seven photographs of Thomas Downing and others. Lent material was returned to the lender and is not described in the collection container inventory.
Existence and Location of Copies
Material lent for microfilming is available on 35mm microfilm reel 4058 at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
Author
Rihoko Ueno
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Material was first lent to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1988 by Downing's son, Aaron Downing, and then returned to the lender. His widow, Louise Downing, donated additional papers in 1988.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
Preferred Citation
Thomas Downing papers, circa 1946-1995. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Massachusetts -- Provincetown Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- Washington (D.C.) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Color-field painting Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Washington (D.C.) Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Painters -- Massachusetts -- Provincetown Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Downing, Thomas, 1928-1985 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Romero, Phillip Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Wordell, Sidney Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Osuna Gallery (Washington, D.C.) Corporate 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/