The papers of Cincinnati art historian, museum director, and Audubon and Peale scholar, Edward H. Dwight (1919-1981), measure 18.6 linear feet and date from 1821-2001, with the bulk of the material dating from 1950-1979. Dwight's papers include biographical material, writings by Dwight, and research files on John James Audubon, Raphaelle Peale, and others, documenting Dwight's extensive contribution to the study of American painting, particularly naturalist, portrait, and still-life painting.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of Cincinnati art historian, museum director, and Audubon and Peale scholar, Edward H. Dwight (1919-1981), measure 18.6 linear feet and date from 1821-2001, with the bulk of the material dating from 1950-1979. Dwight's papers include biographical material, writings by Dwight, and research files on John James Audubon, Raphaelle Peale, and others, documenting Dwight's extensive contribution to the study of American painting, particularly naturalist, portrait, and still life painting.
Dwight's biographical material includes two address books, a calendar, a small amount of personal correspondence including letters and postcards from Schomer and Ruth Lichtner, and printed material documenting his work as a museum curator and director.
Writings and notes include correspondence about Dwight's writings, drafts and typescripts of articles on Audubon and other artists, and lecture notes.
The bulk of the collection comprises Dwight's research material on Audubon and includes correspondence related to his research with scholars, collectors, publications, museums, and libraries, including: the American Museum of Natural History, the Audubon Society, the Cincinnati Historical Society, the Louisiana State Museum, Annie R. coffin, Waldemar H. Fries, John Francis McDermott, and the collections of G. Edmund Gifford, Jr., Paul F. Laning, and Morris Tyler.
Copies of Audubon's correspondence, including letters from Audubon's father-in-law, Benjamin Bakewell, son Victor G. Audubon, and grandchildren, form a substantial portion of Dwight's research files. Notes and card files reflecting Dwight's research by categories such as life event, activity, geographical area, and subject of study, further illuminate his research and provide cross references to the Audubon letters and other material.
Data compiled and supplemented with reproductions of Audubon's artwork forms another substantial portion of Dwight's research, and provides detailed information about individual Audubon works and works attributed to him.
Dwight's subject files on Audubon house collated research on individuals, subjects, and events that intersected with Audubon's life and work, as well as Audubon research from other sources and scholars. They include copies of documents, such as the journal of Audubon collaborator John G Bell, and a scrapbook of granddaughter, Maria Audubon; documents relating to Audubon collaborators such as John Bachman and Maria Martin; material related to collections of Audubon's work; and information concerning editions of his prints, such as the Havell Edition, engraved and hand-colored by the firm of Robert Havell Sr. and Jr. in the 1830s.
Printed material used by Dwight in his research includes original American newspapers, from states including New England, New York, and Pennsylvania, dating from 1821 to the 1870s, which include articles on Audubon, as well as later magazines, journals, catalogs, and news clippings on Audubon. A small number of photographs, slide transparencies, and negatives of Audubon's artwork can be found at the end of the series.
Dwight's research material on Raphaelle Peale, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, James Peale, and other Peale family members, includes correspondence requesting and responding to requests for information; material collated by subject on Peale collectors, family history, miniatures, portraits, silhouettes, still lifes, and other subjects; and photographs of artwork.
Other research files document Dwight's interest in other artists such as Aaron H. Corwine, Robert S. Duncanson, and artists from the Cincinnati area in general. They include catalogs of data compiled on individual works of art, subject files, notes and index card files, printed material, and photographs of artwork. Of special note are eleven issues of John Held, Jr.'s, mail art correspondence sent to Dwight by the Mohammed Center for Restricted Communications.
This collection is arranged as five series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1944-1980 (8 folders; Box 1, OV 20)
Series 2: Writings and Notes, 1954-circa 1979 (0.9 linear feet; Box 1)
Series 3: Audubon Research Material, 1821-circa 1979 (13 linear feet; Boxes 1-14, OVs 20-23)
Series 4: Peale Research Material, circa 1930-2001 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 14-16)
Series 5: Other Research, 1881-1980 (2.7 linear feet; Boxes 16-19)
Biographical / Historical:
Cincinnati art historian and museum director, Edward H. Dwight (1919-1981), conducted extensive research on American painting, in particular the works of John James Audubon, Charles Willson Peale, and Raphaelle Peale. He was also credited with rediscovering the Cincinnati artist, Aaron H. Corwine.
Dwight attended Yale and Cornell Universities, and studied art at the Cincinnati Art Academy and the School of Fine Arts of Washington University, St. Louis. From 1946 he held posts, including curator of American Art, at the Cincinnati Art Museum, until becoming director of the Milwaukee Art Center in 1955. In 1962 he left Milwaukee to direct the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute Museum of Art, where he remained until the end of his career. He was the author of numerous articles for publications including Antiques, Audubon, Art in America, The Art Gallery, The Art Quarterly, and Canadian Art, and lectured widely on contemporary art, Spanish painting, and American painting.
In 1955 Dwight published the article "Aaron Houghton Corwine: Cincinnati Artist" in Antiques magazine. With this, and the exhibition, Rediscoveries in American Painting (1955), which he launched at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Dwight revived interest in this all but forgotten painter.
Dwight wrote many scholarly articles on Audubon's life and work throughout his career, in addition to writing catalogs for, and curating, exhibitions of Audubon's work. In 1960 he was awarded a $7,500 fellowship from the Ford foundation to pursue a reevaluation of Audubon, and to reexamine some long-held assumptions and exagerrations about Audubon's life and personality. He focused primarily on the artist-naturalist's original drawings and paintings, especially portraits and pictures of birds, animal life, and insects. Dwight was awarded an additional fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1973, to continue his research on Audubon.
Dwight's scholarly interest also extended to Raphaelle Peale and the Peale family of artists. In the 1960s and 1970s he wrote and published several articles about Raphaelle Peale, his father, Charles Willson Peale, and his brothers, Rembrandt and James. Dwight was working on a book about the family, and a catalog raisonné of Raphaelle Peale, when he died.
Dwight was an accomplished photographer and his work was included in at least eight exhibitions from 1951 to 1972, including two one-man exhibitions at Louisiana State University (1952), and Weyhe Gallery (1972).
The Audubon materials were donated to the Archives of American Art by Dwight's widow, Ruth R. White, in 1982-1983. The Peale material was donated in 2002 by the Barra Foundation, Inc., which had received them from Ruth R. Dwight as they relate to the Foundation's mission to support scholarship in cultural history in the Philadelphia area. In 1983, the Barra Foundation loaned the documents to Dr. William H. Gerdts, an art historian, who was to continue Dwight's work on a catalog raisonné of Raphaelle Peale. Dr. Gerdts made limited use of the materials and the Barra Foundation then transferred them to the Archives of American Art in 2002.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information
The Edward H. Dwight 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.