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Clifford Wight Collection relating to Diego Rivera

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Wight, Clifford.
Title: Clifford Wight Collection relating to Diego Rivera
Inclusive Dates: 1929-1941
Quantity: 1.25 linear ft.
Abstract: Papers of the Mexican muralist. An epigrapher and sculptor, Wight acted as secretary, translator, and technical assistant to Diego Rivera during the latter's sojourn in the United States. Collection includes a variety of materials relating to Rivera's mural work in Detroit, San Francisco, and New York, including technical documents, correspondence, miscellaneous holograph and typescript manuscripts, photographs, and printed material.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)



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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

Finding Aid Information

Created by: KM
Date: Nov 1990
Revision history: 9 Dec 2007 - converted to EAD (MRC); 5 Mar 2010 - Wight's dates corrected (MRC); 6 Jan 2017 - fixed index code (MRC); 13 Nov 2017 - rehoused, inventory updated (MS)

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Technical documents
Box 1 Detroit Institute of Arts - agenda, work schedules
Box 1 Detroit Institute of Arts - cost analyses
Box 1 Rockefeller Center - proposal for subject matter of mural
Box 1 Rockefeller Center - specifications
Box 1 Chemical analysis of fresco process
Box 1 Drawing of panel layout
Box 1 [General] 1929 (3 letters)
Box 1 [General] 1931 (5 letters, 3 telegrams)
Box 1 [General] 1932, Jan-Oct. (9 letters)
Box 1 [General] 1932, Nov-Dec. (10 letters, 2 enclosures, 1 draft)
Box 1 [General] 1933 (9 letters)
Box 1 [General] undated (2 drafts)
Miscellaneous manuscripts
Box 1 Biddle, George. "Plans for Study" 1931 - statement attached to fellowship application to the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation
Box 1 Richardson, Edgar P. "The New World" undated
Box 1 Rivera, Diego. "The Position of the Artist in Russia Today" 1932
Box 1 Wight, Clifford undated - statement in defense of Coit Tower murals
Box 1 Unidentified author, lyrics "To the tune of Columbo" - song about Rivera
Diego Rivera frescoes
Box 1 Detroit Institute of Arts (5 folders)
Box 1 Ministry of Education (Mexico City)
Oversize 1 Museum of Modern Art
Box 1 New Workers School
Box 1 Rockefeller Center sketch
Oversize 1 San Francisco Art Institute
Box 1 Stern fresco (in progress)
Box 1 Chapingo chapel doors after Rivera design
Box 1 China
Box 1 Clifford Wight, Jean Abbott, Kahlo, Rivera, and Mrs. Henry Ford
Oversize 1 Clifford Wight with crew team
Box 1 Clifford Wight's work (in question) (3 folders)
Oversize 1 Diego Rivera, Clifford Wight
Box 1 Jean Abbott as professional model
Box 1 Jean Abbott, Clifford Wight, and friends (2 folders)
Box 1 Jean Abbott, Frida Kahlo
Box 1 Ralph Stackpole's work
Oversize 1 Unidentified artist, "fresco painting, Monterey, California"
Printed material
Box 1 "Art and Rockefeller," The Nation Apr. 4, 1934
Box 1 "Christ in a Skyscraper," Time Sept. 25, 1933
Box 1 "Communist Riches," Time Dec. 18, 1933
Box 1 "Concerning Senor Rivera," The Commonweal May 26, 1933
Box 1 "Diego Rivera Mexican Master," Vanity Fair June 1933
Box 1 "Diego Rivera the Artist of the People" undated
Box 1 "The Diego Rivera Rockefeller Center and Detroit Museum of Art Murals," The Modern Monthly undated
Box 1 "The Famous Fresco by Diego Rivera," California Arts & Architecture Dec. 1931
Box 1 "First photograph of the whole of Diego Rivera's mural in Rockefeller Center ..." The News Week at Home June 3, 1933
Box 1 "Honor Among Revolutionaries," Time Sept. 9, 1935
Box 1 "Michigan Miracle" / William Hard undated
Box 1 "New York Views the Rivera Controversy," D.A.C. News undated
Box 1 "Politics & the Painting of Business / Thomas Craven The American Mercury Dec. 1932
Box 1 "Rivera in Reforma," Time Nov. 30, 1939?
Box 1 "Rivera's Murals ... Genius or Trash?" / George W. Stark D.A.C. News Apr. 1933
Box 1 "Square Foot Show," Time Dec. 28, 1931
Box 1 "What Is Art For?" / Diego Rivera The Modern Monthly undated
Box 1 "Zapata and White Horse" undated - full page reproduction of fresco, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Box 2 Boston newspapers, originals 1934
Box 2 Boston newspapers, copies
Box 2 British newspapers, originals 1935-1936
Box 2 British newspapers, copies
Box 2 Chicago newspapers, originals 1932-1933
Box 2 Chicago newspapers, copies
Box 2 Detroit newspapers, originals 1932-1933 (3 folders)
Box 2 Detroit newspapers, copies
Box 2 Los Angeles newspapers, originals 1934
Box 2 Los Angeles newspapers, copies
Box 2 Mexican newspapers, originals 1933 1935, 1941
Box 2 Mexican newspapers, copies
Box 2 The New York Times, originals 1931-1933 (2 folders)
Box 2 The New York Times, copies (2 folders)
Box 2 New York newspapers, originals 1931-1933 (2 folders)
Box 2 New York newspapers, copies (2 folders)
Box 2 San Francisco newspapers, originals 1931 1937 (2 folders)
Box 2 San Francisco newspapers, copies (2 folders)
Box 2 Miscellaneous sources, originals (3 folders)
Box 2 Miscellaneous sources, copies (3 folders)
Box 2 "A. Ferrier's Theatre of Art La Gaite Francaise" January program
Box 2 Advertisement, Jean Abbott, model
Box 2 "Announcement of The American Spectator"
Box 2 "The Art Workers' Guild ... 'Traditional and Modern Mural Painting'... Wight will show the scale drawings by Diego Rivera for Detroit" - lecture announcement Mar 1937
Box 2 California School of Fine Arts 1930-1931, 1931-1932 - 2 catalogs, regular session (2 folders)
Box 2 The Diego Rivera Frescoes: a Guide to the Murals of the Garden Court Detroit: People's Museum Association circa 1933
Box 2 "The Diego Rivera Murals" - pre-publication announcement of People's Museum Association pamphlet about murals
Box 2 "La Gaite Francaise Theatre d'Art" season announcement 1927-1928
Box 2 "The Museum of Modern Art announces a lecture on Diego Rivera" by Jere Abbott ..." lecture announcement
Box 2 "Pacific Chinese Dramatic Club presents Mei Lan Fang ..." program
Box 2 "Theatre d'Art" season announcement 1930-1931
Subject files
Oversize 1 Drawings, original - 3 by unidentified artists
Box 2 References, general
Oversize 1 References, oversize
Box 2 Rivera murals, drawings - reproductions
Box 2 Unidentified images

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Index to correspondence

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