The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Barthe (Richmond) Collection
Collection Number: M118
Dates: 1927-1980, 1999, undated
Volume: 2.35 cu. ft.
Provenance: Much of the collection was assembled in 1979 and 1980 by and for Associate Professor Harry C. Ward of the University of Southern Mississippi Art Department. Mrs. Edna Wright, Richmond Barthe's sister, donated a Scrapbook, in 1998, and Professor Ward contributed additional materials in 1998 and 1999.
Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.
James Richmond Barthe was born on January 28, 1901 in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He exhibited early interest in drawing, which was encouraged by his mother, the nuns at the parochial school, and other local townspeople. In 1915 he went to New Orleans where he worked as a butler. After nine years there, one of his paintings attracted the attention of a Catholic priest, Father Kane, who helped him to enter the Chicago Art Institute in 1924.
Barthe went to the Institute with the intention of becoming a painter. While there, he modeled two clay heads as part of an assignment designed to give him a better understanding of anatomy. The results were so impressive that he embarked on a successful career as a sculptor. Barthe worked on several commissioned sculptures including the nine-and-a-half foot tall eagle over the doorway of the Social Security Building in Washington, DC and several busts, including Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver, for the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
Richmond Barthe was awarded an honorary Master of Arts Degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts Degree from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. He was awarded the Rosenwald Fellowship in 1931 and 1932, and the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1940 and 1941. In 1945 he won the James Joey award for inter-racial justice and the Audubon Gold Medal of Honor.
Barthe had many one-man exhibits, especially during the 1930s and 1940s, including exhibits at the Arden Galleries and the Grand Central Galleries in New York. His work is also found in numerous collections, including those at Yale University, the New York Metropolitan Museum, Philips Galleries and Atlanta University.
In 1934 Barthe took his first of many trips to Europe. In 1950 he moved from his studio in New York to Jamaica, where he put aside sculpture and returned to drawing and painting. He remained in Jamaica until 1970, at which time he moved to Florence, Italy, until 1977 and then to Pasadena, California. Richmond Barthe died in Pasadena on March 5, 1989.
Contents of Collection.
These materials on Richmond Barthe were brought together in 1979 and 1980, and 1998 and 1999 as a special collection for research purposes of Associate Professor Harry C. Ward of the University of Southern Mississippi Art Department. These items describe the personal and professional life of Richmond Barthe. The collection has been arranged into 4 series:
Series 1. Topical
The collection begins with the Topical Series that contains biographical articles on Barthe, illustrations of his work, and articles on his work, which were copied from various journals. Also included are twelve collection and exhibit catalogs (1927-1979), which contain illustrations of Barthe’s work and the work of many other African American artists.
There are two periodicals included in this series, “Art Digest” (1939) and “Neworld” (1978) that contain articles on Barthe, and a book, the Federal Writer’s Project New Orleans City Guide (1938), which contains a photograph of Barthe’s bronze sculpture “The Blackberry Woman.” To glimpse the personal side of Barthe, photocopies of correspondence between him and his friends Carl and Fania Van Vechten between the years 1937-1970 are included in this series, along with photocopied selections of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs from Generations in Black and White.
There are several invitations to functions, such as the National Conference of Artists held at the White House in 1980, where Barthe and his work were honored. Photocopies of photographs from the Dick Moore Associates, Inc. documenting the unveiling of the Paul Robeson bust are included. The lists that were used by Harry Ward and his colleagues to identify available materials on Barthe are in the collection, as well as the correspondence that led to their acquisition and a copy of Harry Ward’s compilation entitled “Barthe on Barthe.”
The Photograph Series contains 52 photographs of Richmond Barthe and his work, plus one of his mother, Marie Clementine Franklin. Included are photographs of some of his sculptures that are housed at the Hampton Institute; National Archives in Washington, DC; St Ann Parish Library in St. Ann’s Bay, Jamaica; and the University of New Mexico Art Museum in Albuquerque.
The Audio-Visual series contains a video recording of an interview with Richmond Barthe conducted by Harry Ward in 1980. There are also four canisters of 16mm film: two reels of film produced by the Harmon Foundation of New York, which promotes visual arts in Black communities (1933); one reel of film in which Richmond Barthe and other Black American visual artists are recognized by President Jimmy Carter at the White House (1980); and one reel of film entitled “The Negro Soldier” made by Hollywood director Frank Capra during World War II. At Mr. Capra’s request, Barthe was included in the film, and is shown working in his studio.
The final series is the Scrapbook that was compiled by Mrs. Edna Wright, Richmond Barthe’s sister. This scrapbook documents the career of her brother, and consists of newspaper clippings, magazine articles and items of memorabilia from approximately 1931-1978. Also included in this series is a copy of the periodical “Parnassus”, March 1940.
Barthe, Richmond, “The Awakening of Africa” and “The Negro Looks Ahead” located in the University of Southern Mississippi Art Department.
Cork, Sheila A. (Compiler). Richmond Barthe: Biogrpahy, Works, Criticism. A Collection of Ephemera.
Other Finding Aids:
Box and Folder List
Series 3: Audio-Visual
Series 4: Scrapbook