In the 1960s, I lived across the street from the parents of James Rosenquist, one of the most celebrated Pop artists who is known for using the techniques of billboard sign painters to create collages of representational images. When Mrs. Rosenquist learned I was an art student, she invited me to rummage through her garage where she had secretly stored dozens of her son’s student paintings and three file cabinets full of newspaper and magazine articles on his rising art career. “Jim doesn’t know I saved all this,” she explained. “If he did, he would burn everything so no one could see his early work.”
Ironically, much of Rosenquist’s archival material and personal possessions did burn in a fire that ravaged one of his homes in Florida this past April. He was in the process of transferring the ownership of documents to Princeton University, which was to become a center for the study of the 75-year-old artist’s career. If he had followed his mother’s example and secured his early paintings and exhibition records, Princeton might now have a complete archive.
Fortunately, many artists follow a routine of donating or selling their correspondence, drawings, paintings, catalogues, and published reviews to museums, universities, or the Archives of American Art. Those institutions maintain and preserve records of artists’ careers, and they make many of the documents available online through their websites. For example, one of my friends has a file with his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, and there are about 70 documents relating to Rosenquist that are available online through the Archives’ website, although most of those were donated by people associated with the artist rather than by the painter himself.
Artists tend to focus on the future, not the past, but so much of their legacy depends on making the records of their creative work and careers available to scholars and artists. You may not yet be as famous as James Rosenquist, but it would still be worthwhile for you to preserve the evidence of your life for the benefit of your descendents, collectors, students, and friends.
Introducing: American Artist School
We’re excited about launching a new program designed to give you personal instruction from nationally recognized artists – one that doesn’t require you to leave your studio in order to receive valuable lessons!
The American Artist School classes are conducted online with the first session being a webinar lecture. The text and images for that comprehensive introduction will be on your computer screen and the instructor will speak to you over the telephone. That first session will be followed by several weeks of instruction and critiques you can access at your convenience, any time of the day. All you need to have is a computer with high-speed internet access! A materials list will be provided when you register.
Browse the selection of classes, preview videos featuring the drawing and painting instructors, and purchase a great learning experience! Just click here and learn more about a new method of learning in your home or studio.