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Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Tennessee Williams:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Williams, Tennessee, 1911-1983
Title: Tennessee Williams Art Collection
Dates: circa 1928-1980
Extent: 2 boxes, 4 framed paintings, 1 framed print (38 items)
Abstract: The collection consists of paintings, drawings, and prints by and related to Tennessee Williams. Art by Williams includes twenty-five paintings of still lifes, landscapes, and portraits of his friends, including a few paintings from his childhood years.
Access:

Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room




Acquisition:

Purchases (R2913, R1963, R5900), 1966-1973; gifts (G12245, G10499), 1966-2003

Processed by:

Alice Egan, 1997, and Helen Young, 2001

Repository:

Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin


The playwright Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams, III, on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, to Cornelius Coffin and Edwina Dakin Williams. He spent his early childhood in Mississippi and Tennessee before his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1918. Williams started writing at an early age, and he showed early artistic ability. He briefly attended the University of Missouri and Washington University in St. Louis before graduating from the University of Iowa in 1938. A few months after graduation, he moved to New Orleans, where he soon became friends with a clarinetist, Jim Parrott. In early 1939, Williams went with Parrott to Los Angeles hoping to find a screenwriting job and briefly worked on Parrott’s uncle’s pigeon farm. During this time he also received art lessons from Parrott’s mother Adelaide, a WPA art instructor, who was impressed by Williams’ artistic talent. After this, Williams sketched and painted often, and he continued to do so for the rest of his life. For subjects, he turned to his mother Edwina, his sister Rose, and friends, including Jim Parrott. As his writing career developed he also painted characters from his plays. Later in life while living in Key West, Florida, Williams received further lessons from Henry Faulkner, with whom he also exhibited works. At this point he also created limited edition portfolios which he sold in New York through Gotham Book Mart.

In March of 1939, Williams won a $100 Group Theatre Prize for five one-act plays later published as American Blues as well as a $1,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation for Battle of Angels. He gained even greater success with The Glass Menagerie in 1944. His plays A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) both won Pulitzer Prizes. Other successful plays included Suddenly Last Summer (1958), Sweet Bird of Youth (1959), and Night of the Iguana (1961). Williams also wrote two novels, film scripts, poetry, essays, short stories, and his autobiography, Memoirs (1975). He died February 25, 1983, in New York City.


Leverich, L. Tom, the Unknown Tennessee Williams. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

"Tennessee Williams." Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, vol. 31, ed. J. G. Lewniak. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1990.


The Tennessee Williams Art Collection consists of paintings, drawings, and prints by and related to "Tennessee Williams." The collection is divided into the following series: I. Works by Tennessee Williams; II. Portraits of Tennessee Williams by Other Artists; and III. Works Related to Tennessee Williams.

Series I. is comprised of twenty-five paintings and drawings of still lifes, landscapes, and portraits Williams made of his friends, including a few paintings from his childhood years. These works are arranged by accession number. Series II. consists of four portraits of Tennessee Williams. Series III., Works Related to Tennessee Williams, includes a portrait of Tennessee Williams' maternal grandfather, Dr. Dakin; a dust jacket design by Cecil Beaton for The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone; a preliminary sketch by Thomas Hart Benton for his painting The Poker Night, which was used on the cover of the Signet paperback edition of Streetcar Named Desire; and a drawing of Tennessee Williams' dog, Buffo, by the actress Anna Magnani, who won an Oscar for her role in the screen version of The Rose Tattoo. These works are arranged alphabetically by artist.


Additional portraits of Tennessee Williams, also held in the Art Collection, include works by Don Bachardy, David Levine, Emanuel Romano, and David Schorr. The Ransom Center also holds extensive Tennessee Williams materials in its Manuscripts Collection, its Library, and its Photography Collection Literary Files.