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Ben Cunningham Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: LK/KM
Date: Dec 1993

Biographical History

American painter, muralist.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arranged alphabetically, the Correspondence-Subject Files (Boxes 1-2) contains incoming letters and outgoing carbon copies of Cunningham's replies, together with a variety of other related documents. The correspondence, predominantly from the 1960s, is generally of a professional nature, and includes that with artists (Abe Ajay, Will Barnet, Hannes Beckmann, Lawrence Campbell, David Diao, Peggy Dixon, Florence Fanshel, Robert Gwathmey, Hein Heckroth, Carl Holty, Avery Johnson, Sandy Lerner, Raeford Liles, Herman Maril, Roy Slade, Jeffrey Steele, Jean Varda); authors (Faber Birren, Warren Bower, Dorothy Caffrey, Donald G. Carraher, Susan Fanshel, Nathan Israeli, Mary McChesney, Sterling McIlhany, Aldo Pellegrini, William N. Robson); and clients (Goran Bauer, David Bermant, Cadence Records, Mark Johnson, John and Kate Prutting, Springbok Editions). Organizational correspondence focuses upon Cunningham's work in connection with art galleries and museums (Larry Aldrich Museum Foundation, Castellane Gallery, East Hampton Gallery, Georgia Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Hecksher Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Riverside Museum, Triangle Gallery, Tweed Gallery, Whitney Museum of American Art); educational institutions (Art Students League of New York, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, Morgan State College, Pratt Institute, University of Minnesota); and professional organizations (Artists for CORE, Artists for SEDF, Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, Society of Industrial Artists and Designers). An exchange (1965-1967) with the New York State Attorney General documents Cunningham's interest in legislation regarding the artist/dealer relationship.

Artwork (Box 2) includes photographs of Cunningham's work, a jigsaw puzzle, record album art, and miscellaneous reproductions used for advertising as well as book and periodical illustrations and cover designs. Arranged by the title of work supplied by Cunningham, the Photographs of paintings bear further annotations providing the year of the piece's production and the name of its purchaser. Photographs also document exhibitions at San Francisco's Raymond & Raymond Gallery and at the Riverside Museum in New York.

Autobiographical material, the transcript of an interview for the Archives of American Art on Cunningham's WPA experience, a lecture before the Art Students League, lists of paintings, a memorandum relating to the faculty at the Cooper Union, and an assortment of statements, some dictated, about his work constitute Writings (Box 2).

Memorabilia (Boxes 2-3) consists of photographs and printed material. Among the photographs are portraits (1904-1967) and images of Cunningham in his studio and lecturing before a Cooper Union design class. Printed material comprises articles and reviews (1965-1969), clippings (1941-1969), exhibition catalogs and invitations (1960-1969), and teaching-related items, including course catalogs and An Aspect of Illusion, a Cooper Union student publication which explores the technical features of op art as it relates to human perception.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Some of the items in the collection have been restricted to prevent their further deterioration. Photocopies of these embrittled items have been made available for researcher use.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


Ajay, Abe.
Barnet, Will, 1911-2012.
Bauer, Göran, 1923-
Bermant, David.
Birren, Faber, 1900-1988.
Bower, Warren.
Caffrey, Dorothy Cruickshank.
Campbell, Lawrence, 1914-1998.
Coates, Robert M. (Robert Myron), 1897-1973.
Crump, Iris M.
Cunningham, Ben, 1904-1975.
Diao, David, 1943-
Dixon, Peggy.
Fanshel, Susan.
Gwathmey, Robert, 1903-1988.
Heckroth, Hein.
Holty, Carl, 1900-1973.
Hughes-Stanton, Corin.
Israeli, Nathan, 1906-
Johnson, Avery, 1965-
Lewis, Elizabeth Matthew.
Liles, Raeford.
Maril, Herman.
McChesney, Mary.
McIlhany, Sterling.
Mourlot, Fernand.
Neiniger, Urban.
Pellegrini, Aldo.
Riska, Ken F.
Robson, William N.
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Slade, Roy.
Tallroth, Tore.
Varda, Jean.
Wechter, Vivienne Thaul.

Corporate Bodies

Federal Art Project.
United States -- Work Projects Administration.
United States -- Works Progress Administration.


Art, American -- 20th century.
Artists as teachers -- United States.
Color in art.
Federal aid to the arts -- United States.
Mural painting and decoration -- United States -- 20th century.
Optical art.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Exhibition catalogs.
Jigsaw puzzles.
Notes (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Ben Cunningham Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ben Cunningham.

Table of Contents

Biographical Material

Correspondence-Subject Files

Artwork (Reproductions)