Morris Graves papers
Scope and Contents
Series I: Correspondence
Subseries A: Family correspondence outgoing/incoming This subseries consists of letters and drafts of letters written by Morris Graves to his family, as well as incoming correspondence received from his family. Most correspondence from the early decades of Graves’s career – from the 1930s through the mid-1960s – have been removed from their original order and grouped according to correspondent. Correspondence from the mid-1960s until Graves’s death in 2001 is organized chronologically by year; it maintains, as closely as possible, the original order of the papers. Significant correspondents represented in this subseries include Graves’s immediate family who are: • Edwin Lyman Graves • Helen Malson Graves • Lyman and Hazel Graves • Robert and Vera Graves • Philip Graves • Russell and Dorothy Graves • Wallace and Bunny Graves • Celia and William Leary
Subseries B: Personal correspondence outgoing/incoming
This subseries contains correspondence written by Morris Graves to his close friends, lovers, and associates, as well as incoming letters received from these correspondents. This subseries is defined both by the nature of Graves’s relationship to the correspondent as well as the content of the letters: these letters demonstrate Graves’s wide-ranging social contacts and represent the deep personal relationships he forged with friends both inside and outside the art world. These are letters of a personal, non-professional nature; they include long personal letters as well as short notes and greeting cards.
Correspondence from the 1930s through the mid-1960s has been removed from the original order and grouped according to correspondent. Correspondence from the mid-1960s until Graves’s death in 2001 is organized chronologically.
Significant correspondents represented in this subseries include Graves’s close friends and lovers as well as peers in the art world.
Subseries C: Art business correspondence outgoing/incoming
Correspondence in this subseries concerns the development and maintenance of Morris Graves’s art career, with an emphasis on the creation, sale, display, and reproduction of his artworks, as well as correspondence relating to the development of, and response to, exhibitions of Graves’s work. Correspondents in this subseries include gallery owners; museum curators, directors, and registrars; representatives of foundations supporting the arts; collectors; critics; art historians; authors; representatives of publications seeking to print images of artwork; framers; and conservators.
Subseries D: Willard Gallery correspondence
Marian Willard Johnson, the owner of the Willard Gallery in New York City, is a key figure in the establishment of Morris Graves as a major figure in the national and international art world. She began showing his work in 1942, and the Willard Gallery continued to represent Graves until the mid-1980s. The relationship between Morris Graves and Marian Willard was both personal and professional, and their correspondence is significant for its intimate insights into Graves’s art practice. Correspondents represented in this subseries include Marian Willard Johnson, her husband Dan Johnson, and their daughter Miani Johnson, as well as Claire Rumsey and other representatives of the gallery.
Subseries E: Household business and financial correspondence outgoing/incoming
The correspondence in this subseries relates to Morris Graves’s personal and domestic expenditures, most notably on the construction of his various homes.
Series II: Art Business
Subseries A: Morris Graves exhibition materials (catalogs; slides; announcements; advertisements)
This subseries consists of materials relating to the exhibition of Morris Graves’s artwork in various galleries and museums. The materials include show catalogues; documentary slides; postcards and other announcements designed as promotional materials; and advertisements. The materials are arranged chronologically, and document a substantial portion of Graves’s career.
Subseries B: Morris Graves drawings and process notes
Morris Graves left a substantial record of drawings and notes as a byproduct of his art practice. He made studies, sketches, and plans as a way of thinking visually and solving composition and design challenges in his art work as well as in other areas of his life – notably in the construction of his homes. These drawings are a record of Graves’s visual process in art and demonstrate the syncretic relationship between Graves’s artistic practice and the development of ideas in his writing, home and garden construction, interior design, and furniture design. Moreover, Graves used his drawings as a way of exploring his psyche, recording dreams and visions that sometimes developed into finished artworks. Graves was a very process-oriented artist, and made extensive schematic drawings as studies for his paintings and, especially, for the construction of the Instruments for a New Navigation. These drawings are an important supplement to understanding Graves’s art practice. They are arranged chronologically.
Subseries C: Artworks collected by/given to Graves
Graves had substantial contacts within the national art world, and was interested in fostering the development of young artists on the west coast and particularly in the Pacific Northwest. Many of these artists looked to Graves as a teacher, and drew inspiration from his life and work. Many notable artists from the second and third generations of the Northwest School corresponded regularly with Graves, and sent him small artworks and studies as tokens of their appreciation and affection. This subseries includes drawings and paintings by Jay Steensma, Charles Krafft, Joe Nemo, Hans and Eric Nelsen, and James Martin, among others.
Subseries D: Documents and notes relating to art production, consignment, gallery inventory, sales, and income
These documents, arranged chronologically, include: gallery ledgers, balance sheets, income reports, and lists of paintings in inventory; records kept by Morris Graves detailing consignments to galleries for sales and exhibitions; and records kept by Morris Graves of expenditures involved in the production and preparation of artworks. The subseries contains partial records of transactions with the Willard Gallery, the Charles Campbell Gallery, Foster-White Gallery, and the Schmidt Bingham Gallery, among others. In addition, the subseries includes documents recording the lending and shipment of paintings for exhibitions at museums, as well as transactions relating to the reproduction of Morris Graves paintings in publications.
Subseries E: Gallery records regarding third-party consignments, authentication, and valuation of Graves’s artworks The documents in this subseries relate to gallery business involving works by Morris Graves owned by third parties seeking to sell, authenticate, and evaluate paintings. Most of these documents are from Penelope Schmidt, of the Schmidt Bingham Gallery. Some of these records concern the identification of forged Morris Graves paintings circulating in galleries, at auction, and for sale from private collectors.
Subseries F: Gallery conservation records These records document the work done on paintings and drawings consigned by Morris Graves to the Schmidt-Bingham Gallery that required conservation before they could be sold.
Subseries G: Gallery records concerning public and private holdings of Graves’s artwork
These lists, compiled by Penelope Schmidt of the Schmidt-Bingham Gallery, document Morris Graves paintings in major public and private art collections. The museum collections include the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Seattle Art Museum. Paintings in the private collections of Marshall Hatch and Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien are also listed.
Subseries H: Charitable donations to art institutions by Morris Graves and Robert Yarber
These records document the donation of artworks and money to art organizations. The most notable records document the support of the Humboldt Arts Council and the creation of the Morris Graves Museum of Art.
Subseries I: Awards and acknowledgements
These records relate to prizes and certificates awarded to Morris Graves from organizations and governments for his achievements in the arts.
Subseries J: Promotional stationery
This subseries is a collection of stationery printed by galleries and museums with images of Morris Graves paintings for the purposes of promoting holdings of his works, but not for advertising specific exhibitions.
Subseries K: Willard Gallery exhibition materials (excluding Morris Graves)
This subseries is a collection of promotional materials – mostly mailings – made by the Willard Gallery for exhibitions by artists other than Morris Graves. Because of the significance of the Willard Gallery in developing Morris Graves’s career in New York (as well as domestically and abroad), these materials are significant because they represent the syncretic relationship between Morris Graves and the development of a unique “Willard Gallery” stable of artists, many of whom were friends of, or influenced by, Graves.
Series III: Houses and Properties
This series contains records relating to the development and construction of Morris Graves’s many notable properties.
Subseries A: Skagit County, Washington properties (including The Rock on Fidalgo Island)
This subseries contains various official records relating to the purchase and maintenance of properties owned by Morris Graves in Skagit County, Washington, including one at La Conner, as well as The Rock. The subseries also contains documents and correspondence relating to the sale of The Rock, as well as some plans and sketches drawn by Morris Graves.
Subseries B: Careläden, Woodway Park, Snohomish County, Washington
This subseries contains various official records relating to the purchase and maintenance of the property Morris Graves owned at Woodway Park, as well as to the construction of the house, Careläden. The subseries includes many hand-written notes made by Morris Graves relating to the construction of the house, as well as drawings and plans for the house and surrounding gardens.
Subseries C: Homes and properties in Ireland (including Woodtown Manor, County Dublin)
In addition to records relating to the purchase and renovation of Woodtown Manor, this subseries includes official documents including lease agreements for the other homes Morris Graves rented in Ireland.
Subseries D: The Lake, Loleta, Humboldt County, California
This subseries contains documents, notes, and plans relating to the purchase and development of the property on Catfish Lake near Loleta, California, and the cabin, two houses, and studio known as The Lake. The records include notes, sketches, and plans made by Morris Graves for the buildings and gardens at the site, as well as official documents and utility records.
Subseries E: Blue prints
This subseries includes blueprints for Careläden, Woodtown Manor, and The Lake.
Series IV: Personal/Household Financial and Expenses
Morris Graves did not maintain very organized financial records, frequently borrowing against gallery inventory and running into tax problems. His financial matters were only effectively organized after Robert Yarber began assisting him in the early 1970s. Therefore, the original order of these materials lacked differentiation between business and personal expenses, etc. There is a great deal of overlap in Graves’s finances between money paid for goods and services relating to his art career and money paid for the construction of his homes, his travels, etc.
Subseries A: Account books, ledgers, and associated notations
Records and notations kept by Morris Graves relating to earnings and expenditures, primarily for the construction of his homes. Many of these records are fragmentary and relate to the construction of his homes, purchases of materials, and payments of laborers.
Subseries B: Expense records (bills, invoices, receipts)
This subseries consists of documents – mostly receipts – recording money owed or paid by Morris Graves relating to painting sales, property construction, and art supplies.
Subseries C: Banking and income records
This subseries contains bank balance sheets, deposit receipts, and checking records.
Subseries D: Contracts, loan agreements, insurance, and other legal documents
This subseries contains various legally binding documents relating to Morris Graves’s personal finances, including partial insurance records as well as records of money lent to friends and contracts between Graves and private laborers. Undifferentiated in the original order, this subseries contains bills of lading pertaining to shipments of goods by Morris Graves for personal and professional purposes.
Series V: Biographical Information
This series contains primary- and secondary-source documents relating to Morris Graves’s biography.
Subseries A: Personal documents such as wills, passports, school records, etc.
This subseries contains primary-source documents and official records relating to Morris Graves’s biography including diplomas, licenses, passports, and wills. Subseries B: Publications and clippings about Morris Graves (some acidic materials)
This subseries contains secondary-source materials published about Morris Graves.
Subseries C: Drafts for articles and publications about Morris Graves.
The subseries contains drafts – sometimes with notes by Morris Graves – of materials about Graves written for publication.
Subseries D: Travel records, tickets, itineraries, notes, etc.
These records include materials kept by Morris Graves documenting his frequent travel.
Subseries E: Medical records
This subseries contains partial medical records relating to Morris Graves’s dental and medical appointments, diagnoses, procedures, and hospitalizations.
Series VI: Photographs
Series A: Photographs of and by Morris Graves and people and places significant in his biography
These photographs document the life of Morris Graves, and provide a visual record of his homes, friends, interests, and pursuits. In addition to photographs of people and places of significance in the biography of Graves, photos shot by the artist himself demonstrate his enduring interest in architecture and gardens.
Series B: Photographs of artwork, photo references/studies for artwork
In addition to providing a partial record of Morris Graves’s paintings, these photographs also demonstrate the role photographs played as reference material in his art practice. Series C: Photos given to and sent to Graves from friends, colleagues, etc. that do not directly feature Graves or his work
These photos document people and places that have no immediate relationship to Morris Graves. Most of these photos were probably enclosed in correspondence, but were separated by Graves from their original context. Some document the artwork of artists (like Richard Gilkey and Phillip McCracken) who were friends with Graves.
Series VII: Material objects (pencil box, etc.)
Contains material objects such as stickers, fabric, a wooden pencil box with pens and pencils, feathers, prints torn from a book, and a cardboard box with shoelaces, metal clips, etc.
Series VIII: Household Notations/Personal Writing
Subseries A: Miscellaneous household and personal notes
Morris Graves generated volumes of notes regarding the upkeep of his household, which overlap with personal writings, musings, etc. This subseries contains such notes, including shopping lists, fragmentary insights, I Ching divinations, notes to himself, records of dreams, observations written after meditation or drug experimentation, and written communications between Graves and the various friends, assistants, and companions who shared his homes.
Subseries B: Composed writings for publication or public delivery
Out of the volumes of writing Morris Graves generated in his private affairs, he was very reticent to make statements or write anything intended for publication, preferring to let his artworks remain the primary statement of his vision. This subseries contains the address he delivered at the “Tradition: A Continual Renewal” conference in New Delhi in 1987.
Series IX: Wallace Graves genealogical/biographical research and writing
The materials in this series are the product of Wallace Graves’s project to write a biography of his brother Morris Graves. This series consists of photocopies: some of the original materials are included elsewhere in the collection, and some are not. The series is important for its curatorial nature: Wallace Graves’s research was directed at constructing a cohesive biography highlighting the most important aspects of his brother’s life and career. Though Wallace Graves died before he could complete his project, his research is important because it represents the efforts of a scholar with an intimate knowledge of Morris Graves.
Subseries A: Photocopies of Morris Graves biographical materials
This subseries consists of photocopies of biographical records and documents; many of the original are in Series V, Subseries A.
Subseries B: Photocopies of periodical materials about Graves
This subseries contains photocopies of newspaper and magazine articles about Morris Graves.
Subseries C: Photocopies of published materials (books)
This subseries contains material from books that Wallace Graves intended to reference in his biography.
Subseries D: Photocopies of exhibition materials
This subseries contains a partial record of original materials found in Series II, Subseries A; Wallace Graves assembled these materials as a record of exhibitions particularly important in Morris Graves’s career.
Subseries E: Photocopies of photographs of artworks
This subseries contains images of artworks Wallace Graves considered particularly important in his brother’s oeuvre.
Subseries F: Photocopies of photographs of people, places, etc. This subseries contains photocopies of photographs illustrating people and places significant in Morris Graves’s biography. Some of the original images are included in Series VIII, Subseries A; others remain in the collection of the Morris Graves Foundation.
Subseries G: Photocopies and transcriptions of letters
This subseries contains photocopies of correspondence Wallace Graves referenced while writing the biography of his brother. Most of the original correspondence is in Series I.
Subseries H: Records of Wallace Graves’s work on the Morris Graves archive
Before his death, Wallace Graves took on the task of organizing the Morris Graves Papers. His work on the archive was closely related to his biographical project. These records document payments made by Morris Graves to Wallace Graves for his work on the archive.
As a supplement to the biographical research on Morris Graves, Wallace Graves also thoroughly researched the family’s genealogy and left a written record of the biographies of both their parents. This subseries contains events in Morris Graves’s life recalled and/or transcribed by Wallace Graves. Some of the material records personal experiences Wallace Graves shared with his brother; others are transcriptions of conversations with his brother.
- Graves, Morris, 1910-2001 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.
Conditions Governing Use
Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Biographical / Historical
Morris Cole Graves was born August 28, 1910 in Fox Valley, California. He was the sixth of eight children born to Edwin Lyman and Helen Malson Graves. He was a major player in Northwestern art and, along with artists Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, William Cumming, and Mark Tobey, he started the Northwest School art movement of the 1930s and 1940s. Graves was mystic and a self-taught impressionist painter with a focus on nature and animals, specifically birds.
He graduated from high school in Beaumont, Washington in June 1932, though he spent much of his high school years traveling via boat around the Orient. In 1933, he won the $100 purchase prize at the 19th Annual Pacific Northwest Art Show at the Seattle Art Museum, where he met Richard Fuller (Seattle Art Museum founder) and painter Kenneth Callahan. This accomplishment first earned Graves notability as a Northwestern artist. During spring of 1934, he lived in with Seattle painter Guy Anderson before traveling and painting throughout Oregon. In 1937, Graves became an employee of the Seattle Federal Art Project, where he met Mark Tobey. In 1939, he purchased “The Rock” property west of La Conner on Lake Campbell in Washington.
Graves’ work first gained national attention when they exhibited for the first time in 1942 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art when Graves was 31-years-old. The exhibit was “Americans 1942: 18 Artists from 9 States.” His work was mentioned in Art News, Time, Nation, Christian Science Monitor, Vogue, and various newspapers in the months following the exhibit.
In June 1942, Graves was ordered to report to an induction center in Seattle for the WWII draft. He was registered as a conscientious objector. He was in the A.D.C. Casual Battalion in Fort Lewis, Washington, but a month later was transferred to the Stockade at Camp Roberts, California, from where he went Absent Without Leave to return to “The Rock.”
Graves’ paintings got their first Willard Gallery exhibition in New York in November 1942. On March 1, 1943, Graves was honorably discharged from the army after a series of hearings, postponements, and evaluations. Graves moved back to The Rock. At this time, Graves’ work was being purchased and exhibited in galleries and museum collections around the U.S., and his paintings were being referenced by Art News, Art Digest, The New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar and others publications.
In 1945, Graves purchased property in Woodway Park, south of Edmonds, Washington.
After the atomic bombing on Japan, Graves applied for and received a Guggenheim grant to travel to Japan on a goodwill mission. Military travel restrictions and illness stopped him from going further than Hawaii, where he stayed and painted for five months. He ended up moving back to his Woodway Park property and The Rock. Graves traveled to Europe in 1948 with English art patron Edward James. The Art Institute of Chicago awarded Graves the Watson F. Blair prize in October 1948 for his painting “In the Air.” He returned to his Woodway Park property March 1949 and sold The Rock property. He completed and moved into a large house build on his Woodway property called “Careläden.”
In 1954, Graves traveled to Japan, where he stayed with Mitsuko Araki for ten weeks. He moved with his friend Richard Svare to Ireland. In February 1956, the New York Whitney Museum held a major retrospective show titled “Morris Graves” which traveled to other American museums and increased the publicity of Graves’ work. That same year, Graves moved back to Careläden. In 1957, Graves became the first American to win the Windsor Award for artists from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He was later elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He sold Careläden at the end of that year. He purchased Woodtown Manor in Dublin, Ireland in 1958. He started working on the Manor’s restoration and moved in April 1959. He lived there on-and-off, spending a lot of his time traveling around Europe and the United States, until 1964 when he sold Woodtown.
He had a house build on some property he bought in Loleta, California in Humboldt County. He moved to this new property, called “The Lake,” in 1964. At this time, Graves’ art style went from darker and more muted to bright, incandescent colors. The Morris Graves Museum of Art was opened in Eureka, California, near The Lake, in 2000, and Graves donated more than 100 of his works.
Graves died at The Lake of a stroke on May 5, 2001 at 90-years-old.
70.5 linear feet (142 containers and 1 oversize folder)
Language of Materials
Morris Cole Graves was an American expressionist painter. Along with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, William Cumming, and Mark Tobey, he founded the Northwest School. The Morris Graves papers contain correspondence, gallery records, financial documents, information on Graves' houses and properties, artifacts, photographs, and extensive biographical information about Graves and his parents.
Collection is organized into the following series:
Series I: Correspondence Subseries A: Family correspondence Subseries B: Personal correspondence Subseries C: Art business correspondence Subseries D: Willard Gallery Correspondence Subseries E: Household business and financial correspondence Series II: Art Business Subseries A: Exhibition materials Subseries B: Graves' Drawings and process notes Subseries C: Artworks collected by/given to Graves Subseries D: Art production, consignment, gallery inventory, sales, and income Subseries E: Gallery records regarding third-party consignments, authentication, and valuation of Graves’s artworks Subseries F: Gallery conservation records Subseries G: Gallery records concerning public and private holdings of Graves’s artwork Subseries H: Charitable donations to art institutions by Morris Graves and Robert Yarber Subseries I: Awards and acknowledgements Subseries J: Promotional stationary Subseries K: Willard Gallery exhibition materials (excluding Morris Graves) Series III: Houses and Properties Subseries A: Skagit County, Washington properties (including The Rock on Fidalgo Island) Subseries B: Careläden, Woodway Park, Snohomish County, Washington Subseries C: Homes and properties in Ireland (including Woodtown Manor, County Dublin) Subseries D: The Lake, Loleta, Humboldt County, California Subseries E: Blue prints Series IV: Personal/Household Finances and Expenses Subseries A: Account books, ledgers, and associated notations Subseries B: Expense records (bills, invoices, receipts relating to painting sales, property construction, and art supplies) Subseries C: Banking and income records Subseries D: Contracts, loan agreements, insurance, and other legal documents Series V: Biographical Information Subseries A: Personal documents such as wills, passports, school records, etc. Subseries B: Publications and clippings about Morris Graves Subseries C: Drafts for articles and publications about Morris Graves Subseries D: Travel records, tickets, itineraries, notes, etc. Subseries E: Medical records Series VI: Photographs Subseries A: Photographs of Morris Graves and people and places significant in his biography Subseries B: Photographs of artwork, photo references/studies for artwork Subseries C: Photos given to and sent to Graves from friends, colleagues, etc. that do not directly feature Graves or his work and are not otherwise pertinent to his biography Series VII: Artifacts Series VIII: Household Notations/ Personal Writing Series IX: Graves genealogical/biographical research and writing Subseries A: Photocopies of Morris Graves biographical materials (Baby book, year book, awards, etc.) Subseries B: Photocopies of published materials about Graves Subseries C: Photocopies of unpublished materials Subseries D: Records of Wallace Graves’s work on the Morris Graves papers
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Desiree Grace Yarber, Robert Yarber, and the Morris Graves Foundation.
123 manuscript boxes, 2 oversize flat boxes, 17 photograph boxes, and one oversize folder.
Collection processed by Adam Lesh and Sam Bouchat.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.
- Account books Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Artists -- United States Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Correspondence Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Fine Arts Subject Source: Archiveswest
- Graves, Morris, 1910-2001
- Painters -- United States -- Correspondence Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Painting, American -- 20th century Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Photographs Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Sculptors -- United States Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Tempera painting Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States. Works Progress Administration
- Watercolor painting, American Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Watercolor painting, Expressionist Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Guide to the Morris Graves Papers
- Revise Description
- Adam Lesh, Sam Bouchat, and Kira B. Homo.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid is written in English.
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