The ABC’s of the Corcoran Artist Files: the D’s

by Alexandra Reigle



In the series called “The ABCs of the Corcoran Artist Files” the American Art and Portrait Gallery (AA/PG) Library will explore artists through the materials from the recent Corcoran Vertical File Collection donation by featuring artists whose surnames begin with that letter. This time we are looking at the artists whose last names that start with D.

Frank Vincent DuMond Illustration for a poem in Art and Progress

Frank Vincent DuMond Illustration for a poem in Art and Progress

Frank Vincent DuMond was a prominent American Impressionist painter who specialized in portraits and landscapes. The Smithsonian has one drawing by Frank Vincent DuMond at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum as well as his papers which are held by the Archives of American Art. His many accomplishments included his participation in several highly-respected exhibitions, including the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Many of these accomplishments were highlighted through the ephemera found in his Corcoran file. In the beginning of his artistic career, DuMond created illustrations for periodicals, a practice not uncommon amongst artists. He continued these illustrations throughout his career, as can be seen in his “Two Decorative Drawings” created to accompany a poem called “The Grapes of Eschol” by Emily Huntington Miller that was in the magazine Art and Progress. The magazine emphasized that this was “one of the first serious tests made by any magazine in this country of the recently invented ‘off-set’ color printing process” that allowed colored images to be printed on rough paper instead of on glossier paper which had been the practice previously.[i] The copy from the Corcoran file is in pristine condition so the intricacies of the printed image can be seen.

It is worth noting that the AA/PG Library has this issue of Art and Progress with this illustration in it. So one might ask, why have two of the same item? This serves as an example of how our ephemera files often contain materials removed from periodicals that we might already have. Storing these duplicate magazine clippings in Artist Files was a common practice for ephemera files in the days before the ease of internet research and comprehensive indexes of citations. This allowed for quicker access to information about specific artists as well as a way to preserve prior research.

Postcard of "The Coal Miner" by Vachel Davis

Postcard of “The Coal Miner” by Vachel Davis

Often times the items that we find in our vertical files are materials that are sent by the artists themselves, which was the case for the materials in the Vachel Davis file. Davis was born in 1898 in Eldorado, Illinois, a town that had a significant coal mining economy. Davis himself was a miner for 14 years, but left the field because he felt that mining conditions were far too dangerous. He began a new career path as a journalist which may have spurred him to voice his concerns for the welfare of all miners.

Back of "The Coal Miner" Postcard

Back of “The Coal Miner” Postcard, signed by Vachel Davis with a note to the Cocoran Gallery of Art: “To the Cocoran Gallery of Art with the best wishes of Vachel Davis, Coal Miner Artist,” dated June 8, 1955

Davis painted “The Coal Miner” in 1946 as a way to bring attention to the many fatal mining accidents occurring throughout the nation. The painting became quite popular, and was the inspiration for a bronze statue by sculptor John J. Szaton which has stood on the lawn of the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield since 1964. While Davis’ painting once hung in the Illinois State Capitol Building as well, the current whereabouts of the painting are unknown. Davis spent the rest of his life championing the effort to improve mining conditions, ultimately helping save many lives with his advocacy. Outside of “The Coal Miner,” Davis produced other works of art, particularly under the Federal Art Project for several years, while continuing the fight for miner’s rights.[ii]

Signed Photo of Vachel Davis Meeting Vice President Richard Nixon

Signed Photo of Vachel Davis Meeting Vice President Richard Nixon

The items in Davis’s file came to the Corcoran from Vachel himself. The items included a signed photo of him and Richard Nixon, a postcard featuring his famous “Coal Miner” painting with a note from Davis, and a newspaper article from a local newspaper lauding his role in changing coal mining conditions and subsequent successes. Artists often send items to curators and museums in order to bring attention to their work in hopes that the museum may acquire it or exhibit it. Luckily these personalized promotional type materials are often kept in order for future reference and for further research.







Artists on display for the D’s of the Corcoran are:

Robert D’Alessandro (1942-), Floyd Davis (1896-1966), Gladys Rockmore Davis (1901-1967), Vachel Davis (1989-1966), Dennis Delap (1948-), Juan Downey (1940-1993), (Stephen) Olin Dows (1904-1981), Frank Vincent DuMond (1865-1951), Mabel Dwight (1875-1955), Nancy Dyer (1903 – 1979)


Sources Consulted:

[i] “Two Decorative Drawings by Frank Vincent DuMond.” Art and Progress. Vol. 4, No. 1 (Nov., 1912), p. 772

[ii] Eric Fodor. “Eldorado’s library will pay homage to Vachel Davis.” Daily Register. Last modified Augst 14, 2008.  http://www.dailyregister.com/article/20080814/NEWS/308149990


Previous posts in this series:

The B’s

The C’s









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