Access to this collection is unrestricted. However, access to some items may require special assistance due to their fragility or size. Please speak to the archivist for more information.
These materials document the creation of Robert Willson's glass sculpture and his development as an artist. A few early works on paper, dating primarily from his time in the Marines, are included. The collection is especially rich in visual materials, including the sketches and design drawings from which Willson produced his sculptures, as well as slides, photographs and transparencies of the finished pieces. Also of interest in this regard are the illustrated inventory lists, which include price and disposition information, as well as his correspondence with his Venetian partners discussing the sculptures.
Relating to the exhibition of Willson's sculptures, the collection includes published catalogs, many containing additional notes by Willson, as well as correspondence and other materials produced during the organization of these exhibitions. The collection also includes Willson's published and unpublished writings about glass and other topics, as well as published materials about himself and glass, collected by Willson. Finally, the papers contain some family and biographical information and photographs, most notably a memoir written by Willson in the early 1980s. Beyond information included in the memoir, the collection contains only minimal information regarding his watercolor work, and still less relating to his work as a university professor.
Glass sculptor , watercolor artist and art professor Robert William Willson was born May 28, 1912 in Mertzon, Texas. He received a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and later studied art at the Escuela Universitaria de Bellas Artes in San Miguel, Mexico and at the Witte Museum.
Willson began his teaching career at a Texas public school in 1936. He taught at Texas Wesleyan College in Fort Worth from 1940 to 1948, taking time off to serve in the Marines during World War II. Between 1948 and 1952, he served as director of the Nob Hill Art Gallery in Winslow, Arkansas and founded the Ozark Council of Artists, serving as its first director. In 1952, he became an art professor at the University of Miami, where he remained until his retirement in 1977. After his retirement, he returned to Texas and established the Tejas Art Press.
Willson's involvement with glass began in 1956, with research trips to museums and glass factories in the US and abroad. In 1957, he made his first work visit to Murano, Italy, where he worked with a team of Italian glass artists to create the sculptures he had designed the previous year. Since his sculptures could only be created in Murano, these visits became an annual necessity, and continued until the late 1990s. During these years, Willson's works became part of museum and individual collections in both the US and abroad, and were exhibited widely. He died in Texas on June 1, 2000.
Print finding aid available in the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library.