Charles White: The Gordon Gift to the University of Texas was a lavish, well-resourced catalogue, published in 2019 by the Blanton Museum of Art, and distributed by Tower Books, an imprint of the University of Texas Press, Austin. The catalogue was published on the occasion of two important exhibitions of work by Charles White, taking place at galleries on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The first, at the Blanton Museum of Art, was Charles White: Celebrating the Gordon Gift, which ran from September 7 to December 1, 2019. Concurrently running alongside the Blanton exhibition was Charles White and the Legacy of the Figure: Celebrating the Gordon Gift. Curated by Professor Cherise Smith, the exhibition, Charles White and the Legacy of the Figure was organized by the Christian-Green Gallery of Black Studies at UT and was on view from August 28 to November 30, 2019.

The University of Texas at Austin is home of a substantial collection of some twenty-three works by Charles White, gifted to the University by Drs. Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon of Pomona, New York. It was these work which, in the main, comprised the Blanton exhibition, while Charles White and the Legacy of the Figure examined Charles White’s influence on his students, in particular Kerry James Marshall, as well as his influence on younger generations of artists—such as Texas-based practitioners Deborah Roberts, Michael Ray Charles, and Vincent Valdez, with particular regard to their utilisation and treatment of the human body.

These two exhibitions came on the heels of Charles White: A Retrospective, the first major museum survey devoted to the artist in well over 30 years. Opening at the Art Institute of Chicago (Jun 8–Sep 3, 2018), the exhibition travelled to the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Oct 7, 2018–Jan 13, 2019), finishing its tour at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Feb 17–Jun 9, 2019).

From the cover of the catalogue, Charles White: The Gordon Gift to the University of Texas:

Charles White (1918–1979), one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished and innovative draftsmen, was also highly regarded as an educator and activist. His life spanned the Great Depression and the WPA era as well as the civil rights movement and the early days of feminism, movements that he not only actively participated in but also shaped.

In addition to essays on each of the twenty-three works of art owned by The University of Texas and an interview with Edmund Gordon and his son, Ted Gordon, the catalogue includes first-person tributes to White from artists, writers, actors, activists, and students whose lives he touched, including fellow artists Margaret Burroughs and Alice Neel; singer Harry Belafonte; poet Langston Hughes; and former students David Hammons, Kent Twitchell, and Kerry James Marshall.


Contents of Charles White: The Gordon Gift to the University of Texas as follows:


Greg Fenves, the University of Texas at Austin


Part I: Short Essays (section introduced by Veronica Roberts)

Sidewalk of New York (ca. 1938–1942), by John P. Murphy

Can a Negro Study Law in Texas? (1946), by Rudolph H. Green

We Have Been Believers (1949), by Carter E. Foster

General Moses and Sojourner (Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth) (1954), by Phillip A. Townsend

I’ve Been ’Buked and I’ve Been Scorned (1956), by Edmund T. Gordon

Awaken from the Unknowing (1961), by Edmund W. Gordon

Young Woman (1964), by John P. Murphy

Harvest (1964), by Esther Adler

Head (1967), by Phillip A. Townsend

Elijah (1969), by John P. Murphy

Wanted Poster Series #6 (1969), by Phillip A. Townsend

Wanted Poster Series #10 (1970), by Veronica Roberts

Homage to Sterling Brown (1972), by Cherise Smith

Harriet (1972), by Ashley James

Vision (1973), by John P. Murphy

Prophet II (1975), by Esther Adler

I Have a Dream (1976), by Jared Quinton

Love Letter III (1977), by Jared Quinton

Sound of Silence II (1978), by Veronica Roberts

At the Table (1978), by John P. Murphy

Study of Heads (1979), by Phillip A. Townsend


Part II: Interview with Dr. Edmund W. Gordon and Edmund T. Gordon
Excerpts from an Interview with Drs. Edmund W. Gordon and Edmund T. “Ted” Gordon
Conducted and Edited by Cherise Smith; Transcribed by Lynne Maphies


Part III: Sphere of Influence

Compiled, with Biographical Introductions, by Veronica Roberts

Benny Andrews (1930–2006)

Romare Bearden (1911–1988)

Harry Belafonte (b. 1927)

John Biggers (1924–2001)

Margaret Burroughs (1915–2010)

Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012)

Michael Ray Charles (b. 1967)

Eldzier Cortor (1916–2015)

Ernest Crichlow (1914–2005)

W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963)

Philip Evergood (1901–1973)

Edmund W. Gordon (b. 1921)

David Hammons (b. 1943)

Lorraine Hansberry (1930–1965)

Langston Hughes (1902–1967)

Rockwell Kent (1882–1971)

Jacob Lawrence (1917–2000)

Norman Lewis (1909–1979)

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955)

Alice Neel (1900–1984)

Gordon Parks (1912–2006)

Sidney Poitier (b. 1927)

Paul Robeson (1898–1976)

May Stevens (b. 1924)

Kent Twitchell (b. 1942)

Vincent Valdez (b. 1977)

Hale Woodruff (1900–1980)


Glossary of Printmaking Terms


Photo Credits

A detail of Awaken from the Unknowing, 1961, appeared on the cover of Charles White: The Gordon Gift to the University of Texas. The Blanton Museum of Art’s Deborah Roberts edited the publication. The publication was generously illustrated with numerous illustrations of Charles White’s work, together with extensive archival material. A wonderful publication.