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Clifford Wight Collection relating to Diego Rivera

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: KM
Date: Nov 1990

Biographical History

Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was a Mexican muralist. He studied in Mexico City and in Europe, and became a well-known for his cubist and post-Impressionist works. Rivera's works are in the permanent collections of museums across the United States and elsewhere, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), Fundación Proa (Buenos Aires), the Hermitage Museum, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Museu de Arte de São Paulo (Brazil), and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (Iran).

Clifford Wight (1900-ca. 1960), an Englishman, was a fellow artist and Rivera's secretary, translator and technical assistant during Rivera's work on murals in Detroit, New York and San Francisco. Rivera painted a portrait of Wight into one of the frescoes in the Secretariat of Education in Mexico City.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Clifford Wight Collection Relating to Diego Rivera comprises an assortment of materials which document the Mexican painter's mural work during his sojourn in the United States. An epigrapher and sculptor, Wight was approached via telegram from Rivera (24 Oct. 1931):

Please wire if you can go immediately to New York as my assistant to prepare walls for frescos. Your fare and twelve dollars [a] day for about six weeks ...

Wight acted as Rivera's secretary, translator and technical assistant through the completion of the murals in Detroit, New York and San Francisco. Spanning the years 1929 to 1941, the collection includes technical documents, correspondence, miscellaneous holograph and typescript manuscripts, photographs, printed material, and subject files.

The collection begins with a variety of Technical documents, the bulk of which is divided between two projects, the murals for the Detroit Institute of Arts (previously called the Detroit Museum of Art) and those for Rockefeller Center. Materials include agenda, cost analyses, proposals, specifications, and work schedules. Also among the technical documents are a chemical analysis of fresco application and a drawing of the panel layout for an unidentified mural.

Correspondence, generated between 1929 and 1933, is chronologically arranged and consists of both the incoming and outgoing letters of Diego Rivera and/or Clifford Wight. The correspondence is almost exclusively of a business nature and includes that with Clyde Burroughs and W.R. Valentiner of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Theodore Dreiser, Edsel Ford, William Gerstle, Albert Kahn, and Nelson Rockefeller. An index to the correspondence appears at the end of this inventory.

Following the correspondence is an assortment, arranged by author, of Miscellaneous manuscripts, both holograph and typescript. Included among these documents are George Biddle's "Plans for Study," which accompanies a blank fellowship application to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation; two essays, Edgar P. Richardson's "The New World," and Diego Rivera's "The Position of the Artist in Russia Today"; a statement by Clifford Wight in defense of the Coit Tower murals; and the lyrics for a party song about Rivera by an unidentified author.

Photographs include images of Rivera's frescoes at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, the New Workers School, the San Francisco Art Insitute; several prints of what are believed to be examples of Clifford Wight's sculpture and epigraphy in stone; as well as three items labeled "fresco painting, Monterey, California" by an unidentified artist. Also among the photographs are several formal poses of Wight's wife, professional model Jean Abbott, and a number of candid shots of the couple's friends, including a few with Rivera and his wife, artist Frida Kahlo. In addition, the collection contains an assortment of photographs which appear to have been taken (by Wight?) in China during the early part of the 20th century.

Printed material comprises articles about Rivera's murals (1931 1939), newspaper clippings (1931 1941), and an assortment of ephemera. The articles are mainly selections from general interest periodicals (The American Mercury, The Commonweal, The Modern Monthly, The Nation, Time) while the clippings reflect coverage of the controversial artist by major American newspapers in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and New York as well as the British and Mexican press. Ephemera consists of a wide range of material, including advertisements, course catalogs, lecture announcements, and theatre programs.

The Subject file consists exclusively of visual material, and includes 3 original drawings by unidentified artists, general art references, and reproductions of Rivera's drawings and murals.

Arrangement of the Collection

Technical documents, manuscripts, photographs, and subject files are arranged alphabetically by title/topic. Correspondence is arranged chronologically. Printed material is subdivided by type and then arranged alphabetically by title.


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.

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


Abbott, Jean.
Abbott, Jere.
Burroughs, Clyde Huntley, 1882-
Dreiser, Thoedore, 1871-1945.
Ford, Edsel, 1893-1943.
Kahlo, Frida.
Kahn, Albert, 1869-1942.
Morris, Gouverneur, 1876-
Rivera, Diego, 1886-1957.
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979.
Valentiner, Wilhelm Reinhold, 1880-1958.
Wight, Clifford.

Corporate Bodies

Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Detroit Institute of Arts.
Detroit Museum of Art.


Mexican American art.
Mural painting and decoration -- California.
Mural painting and decoration -- Michigan -- Detroit.
Mural painting and decoration -- United States -- 20th century.
Mural painting and decoration --New York (State) -- New York.
Painters, Mexico.
Public art.

Genres and Forms

Agendas (administrative records)
Clippings (information artifacts)
Drawings (visual works)
Manuscripts for publication.
Programs (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Clifford Wight Collection relating to Diego Rivera,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents

Technical documents


Miscellaneous manuscripts


Printed material

Subject files

Index to correspondence


Index to correspondence