William Cumming papers, 1934-2017  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Cumming, William
Title
William Cumming papers
Dates
1934-2017 (inclusive)
Quantity
7.19 cubic feet (8 boxes) plus 3 vertical files
Collection Number
2553, 2683
Summary
Materials relating to the career of artist Bill Cumming including interviews, sketches, portraits, acetate drawings, notes, teaching materials, lesson plans, notes, and other ephemera.
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access for paper-based materials. Analog and digital media is closed until processed.

Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

William “Bill” Cumming was a painter, member of the Northwest School art movement, and art instructor.

Cumming was born in Montana on March 24, 1917. His family moved to Portland, Oregon when Cumming was a toddler and then to Tukwila, Washington in 1924. Deciding at an early age that he was an artist, Cumming was initially self-taught and studied art history at the Seattle Public Library in the late 1920s and early 1930s. He learned academic drawing through the International Correspondence Schools but disliked the process of academic drawing. After graduating from high school in 1934, he found himself without a job or money for college with the Great Depression in full swing. He spent his time at home drawing before winning a scholarship to the short-lived Northwest Academy of Art. However, this school was also a disappointment since he felt he was more accomplished than his teacher Ernest Norling. Despite this, his enthusiasm and impressive drawing skills led him to meet many artists in Seattle’s small art community and led to an unpaid position writing for a local arts journal, Town Crier.

From 1938 to 1940, he worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project in Seattle. He photographed artists employed by the WPA who taught free art classes and created murals for post offices and other federal buildings. Here he met Morris Graves and his circle of friends including Guy Anderson, Kenneth and Margaret Callahan, and Mark Tobey. Graves, Anderson, Tobey, and Kenneth Callahan would later become known as “the big four” of the Northwest School art movement. Cumming became close to Margaret Callahan who urged him to focus on his gift for transcribing bodies in motion. This led to Cumming developing his own distinct style of drawing with contrasts of color, line, and pattern, and his talent at capturing the movement of ordinary people engaged in daily life. Cumming’s first solo show was in 1941 at the Seattle Art Museum.

Cumming spent most of WWII in Firland Sanatorium with tuberculosis and remained quite weak until 1957. He became active in the Communist Party in 1945 after reading Marx, Engels, and Lenin while hospitalized. He was blacklisted during the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunts and had stopped painting. In 1957, on his 40th birthday, he renounced his involvement with communism and began to focus instead on his health and art.

His art met with success in the 1950s, winning numerous prizes and entering private and institutional collections. He had a second solo show in 1961 at the Seattle Art Museum. He returned to teach at the Burnley School of Professional Art in 1963 and continued after it became the Art Institute of Seattle in the 1980s. He also taught at Cornish College of the Arts. He continued to teach and hold painting workshops at his home up until his death. Cumming died of congestive heart failure on November 22, 2010.

Sources: HistoryLink, Seattle Times Obituary, Woodside/Braseth Gallery

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Materials relating to the career of artist Bill Cumming including interviews, sketches, portraits, acetate drawings, notes, teaching materials, lesson plans, notes, and other ephemera.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyrights retained by creators.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Accession No. 2553-001: Oral history interview with William Cumming, 1972Return to Top

1 vertical file containing 1 reel to reel sound tape and typed transcript.

Scope and Content: Taped interview conducted by William Hoppe, 1930-1972, with transcript.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights retained. No quotation or paraphrasing allowed without permission of Mr. Cumming.

Acquisition Info: Archives of Northwest Art, 1972-08-02

Accession No. 2553-002: William Cumming papers, 1959-1977Return to Top

1 vertical file

Scope and Content: Letter, gallery notices, photographs, clippings, 1959-1977.

Restrictions on Access: Open to all users.

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights retained. No quotation or paraphrasing allowed without permission of Mr. Cumming.

Acquisition Info: Archives of Northwest Art, 1983-01-01

Accession No. 2553-003: William Cumming papers, 1934-2017Return to Top

7.19 cubic feet (8 boxes)

Scope and Content: Materials relating to the career of artist Bill Cumming including sketches, portraits, acetate drawings, notes, teaching materials, lesson plans, notes, and other ephemera. Box 1: Drawings, sketches, art pieces, slides, obituaries of friends, sketchbook, photos, magazines, notes (1959-2010) Box 2: Sketches, teaching acetate drawings, chapter notes (c.1957-2005) and photographs, correspondence, notes, writings, teaching and lecture materials and handouts, sketches (1934-c.2000) Box 3: CDs, VHS tapes, DVD, cassettes with interviews, programs, drafts, photos (1990-2009) Box 4: Photographs, negatives, correspondence, articles, poetry, awards, reviews, biography, writings, exhibition invitations and programs, magazines (1964-2017) Box 5: Journals, high school materials (1934- c.2000) Box 6: Oversize sketches, portraits, drawings, photographs, teaching acetate drawings (1960-2009) Box 7: "Favorite books with notes, lesson plans, small works, misc." Box 8: "Favorite books with notes, lesson plans, small works, misc."

Restrictions on Access: No restrictions on access for paper-based materials. Analog and digital media is closed until processed.

Restrictions on Use: Copyrights retained by creator but the University of Washington Libraries Special Collections can grant use permissions.

Acquisition Info: Donated by Dena Lee-Cumming on April 5, 2019.

Container(s) Description Dates
Accession
1 2553-003
Drawings, sketches, art pieces, slides, obituaries of friends, sketchbook, photos, magazines, notes
1959-2010
2 2553-003
Sketches, teaching acetate drawings, chapter notes and photographs, correspondence, notes, writings, teaching and lecture materials and handouts, sketches
1934-2005
3 2553-003
CDs, VHS tapes, DVD, cassettes with interviews, programs, drafts, photos
1990-2009
4 2553-003
Photographs, negatives, correspondence, articles, poetry, awards, reviews, biography, writings, exhibition invitations and programs, magazines
1964-2017
5 2553-003
Journals, high school materials
1934- c.2000
6 2553-003
Oversize sketches, portraits, drawings, photographs, teaching acetate drawings
1960-2009
7 2553-003
"Favorite books with notes, lesson plans, small works, misc."
Undated
8 2553-003
"Favorite books with notes, lesson plans, small works, misc."
Undated

Accession No. 2683-001: Interview with William Cumming and Bert Garner, 1966Return to Top

1 vertical file containing reel to reel tape (40 minutes) and typed transcript (15 pages).

Scope and Content: Taped interview and transcript, 1966.

Bill Cumming and Bert Garner discuss the Northwest Annual at the Seattle Art Museum.

Restrictions on Access: Presume open to all users

Restrictions on Use: Creator's literary rights not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Acquisition Info: Interviewer Jim Wilkie for KING-FM's "Talking About Art", 1966-10-01

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Personal Names :
  • Anderson, Guy, 1906-1998
  • Callahan, Kenneth, 1905-1986
  • Callahan, Margaret
  • Coombs, Ray
  • Fuller, Richard E. (Richard Eugene), 1897-1976
  • Garner, Bert
  • Graves, Morris, 1910-2001
  • Hixson, William J
  • Hoppe, William
  • Horiuchi, Paul, 1906-1999
  • Inverarity, Robert Bruce, 1909-1999
  • Jonsson, Ted
  • Katz, Melvin
  • Tobey, Mark
  • Wilkie, Jim
  • Corporate Names :
  • Federal Art Project
  • Northwest Annual Exhibition
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Cumming, William (creator)