The papers of author and art historian Marcia M. Mathews comprise materials chiefly relating to two research projects: Mathew's search for material on Roger Fenton, a mid-19th century lawyer and early photographer; and an unpublished typescript and photographs relating to her research on African American sculptor Richmond Barthé. Other materials include a large war scrapbook for the year 1939 with many articles and clippings about Fascism in the U.S., and a biographical sketch of her career.
The Roger Fenton series consists chiefly of Mathews' research materials and sketches relating to Fenton, and correspondence (1940s-1950s) between Mathews and Fenton descendants. The series concludes with a group of a dozen photographs, including cartes-de-visite of his family and 20th century copies of Roger Fenton's 1850s photographs of the Crimean War, the south front of the Kremlin, three of Queen Victoria's children, and a landscape with a bridge. There is also a photograph and a photo of a sketch of Crimble Hall, the family seat in Rochdale, England.
Materials on Richmond Barthé consist of Marcia Mathews' unpublished typescript draft biography (circa 1975), covering Barthé's entire life and career up to age 75. Although he was known to have had a number of relationships with men over his lifetime, the biography appears to make no overt mention of his sexuality.
The 134 photographs in the Barthé series are chiefly black-and-white images of his most important sculptures and other artwork, with several early family portraits of Barthé, his mother, and stepfather (circa 1915, 1935, and circa 1940). Subjects of the sculptures are most frequently Black figure studies, including African characters; busts of well-known African Americans such as Booker T. Washington, Jimmie Daniels, Josephine Baker, and others; religious themes; and race-related themes, expressed in such works as "The awakening of Africa," "The wounded slave," and "Mother with lynched son," with its direct reference to Michelangelo's Pietà. He also lived in Jamaica and completed a number of Jamaican government commissions for statues of national heroes, coinage, and medallions. The Barthé papers were acquired by the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.
Marcia M. Mathews (1904-1990) was a Georgia-born art historian and author who resided in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Durham, N.C. until her death. She taught art history at Duke in the 1930s, and was married to Joseph James Mathews, European history professor whose papers are also in the Duke collections. In addition to her research on Roger Fenton, she wrote articles and monographs on African American artists, including Henry Ossawa Tanner and Marian Anderson; her biography of artist Richmond Barthé is unpublished.
Roger Fenton (1819-1869) was born in Lancashire, Rochdale Borough, and resided at his family's ancestral home, Crimble Hall. He studied law and art, then in the 1850s turned to photography, experimenting with the wet collodion process, then in its infancy. He took many photographs of the Crimean War, thus becoming one of the world's first war photographers. Fenton was a founder of the Royal Photographic Society and its first honorary secretary. Queen Victoria was one of his patrons: he photographed her family and attended royal audiences where he described his experiences in the Crimea.
Richmond Barthé, or James Richmond Barthé, was born in Mississippi in 1901, and died in Pasadena, California in 1989. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, he went on to become a sculptor; he also painted. Barthé had several relationships with men during his lifetime. He resided in several places through his career: New York City; Jamaica, where he bought a home; Florence, Italy; and then Southern California. At a time when African American artists were underrepresented in American academies and galleries, he won many awards and became one of the first African American artists to be represented in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collections.
[Source: adapted from typescript biography in collection and Wikipedia, viewed February 2021]