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Harry Widman papers

Identifier: WUA123

Scope and Contents

The Harry Widman papers include materials that document Widman’s careers as an artist, professor, administrator, and arts advocate from 1937-2015. Series I (Art career) contains gallery exhibition fliers, correspondence, resumes, artist statements, original art and sketches, art and exhibition fliers by other artists, newspaper clippings about exhibitions, interview audio (on cassette tapes) and transcriptions, and meeting minutes and correspondence from boards and committees. Series II (Teaching career) includes notebooks and class notes from Widman’s time as a student at Syracuse University, correspondence and meeting minutes from the Museum Art School Faculty Council and Board of Governors, lecture notes and articles used for teaching, and pamphlets for art workshops for the Oregon School of Art and Craft. Series III (Sketchbooks) contains childhood sketchbooks by Widman as well as books of drawings from throughout his life. Series IV (Journals and personal writing) contains musings, book lists, and poetry by Widman. Series V (Correspondence) contains letters to Widman from his family, correspondence with gallery representatives about exhibitions, and letters and cards from friends. Series VI (Slides and photographs) includes slides of Widman’s art, photographs of Widman and his art from exhibitions, and photographs from his time in the military. Series VII (Family records) includes a marriage announcement for Widman’s parents from 1927, a scrapbook about the Dodgers created by Widman as a child, family photographs, newspaper clippings and publicity for his children’s accomplishments, and memorial service documents for Widman. Series VIII (Books) contains various books that were important to Widman and represent his extensive personal reading list.


  • 1895-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1937 - 2015


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Conditions Governing Use

Library acts as “fair use” reproduction agent.

For further information, see the section on copyright in the Regulations and Procedures of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections.

Copyright Information: Before material from collections at Willamette University Archives and Special Collections may be quoted in print, or otherwise reproduced, in whole or in part, in any publication, permission must be obtained from (1) the owner of the physical property, and (2) the holder of the copyright. It is the particular responsibility of the researcher to obtain both sets of permission. Persons wishing to quote from materials in any collections held by University Archives and Special Collections should consult the University Archivist. Reproduction of any item must contain a complete citation to the original.

Biographical / Historical

Harry Frederick Widman, Jr. was a prolific painter, writer, teacher, administrator, and arts advocate who created much of his work in Portland, Oregon. He was born on May 18, 1929 in Englewood, New Jersey and died on October 24, 2014 in Portland, Oregon from complications from Alzheimer’s. He was the only child of Harry and Julia Morante Widman. While growing up in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, Widman had a slight view of the New York City skyline from his bedroom window. His exposure to the culture and art scene of New York City greatly influenced his life and work.

Widman received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University in 1951. After graduation he was drafted into the United States Army and stationed in Germany. During his time in the military, Widman visited museums and art exhibitions that included art and artifacts based in historical contexts which peaked his interests in paleontology, archaeology, classical mythology, and non-Western cultures. These interests became prominent sources of inspiration and recurrent themes in his work.

In 1954 Widman enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the University of Oregon and studied under influential artists Jack Wilkinson and David McCosh. Widman earned his MFA degree in 1956. He then moved to central Oregon and taught Extension Division courses in Coos Bay, Port Orford, Roseburg, and Grants Pass. In 1960 Widman was offered a temporary position at the Museum Art School (currently known as the Pacific Northwest College of Art) in Portland, Oregon. In 1961 he moved to Portland when his teaching position became permanent.

During his 36 year tenure at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), Widman was an influential teacher and administrator. He was an active leader in the Faculty Council and helped create the Alumni and Friends Association. He also served as acting dean of the school from 1978 to 1981. While performing multiple administrative duties at the school, Widman played active roles during the transition from the Museum Art School to the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the separation of PNCA from the Portland Museum of Art. Widman retired from teaching in 1996.

Throughout his career, Widman served on multiple boards and committees to advocate for the arts community in Oregon. He helped establish the Oregon Arts Commission from 1965-1968. He was a member of the original Portland Art Commission from 1968 through 1971 and a chair of the commission from 1970 to 1971. He served on the selection committee for "% for Art” for the Justice Services Building in Portland, Oregon, and the Portland Metropolitan Art Commission. He participated as a guest artist and lecturer for several universities and organizations including Portland State University, the Oregon Historical Society, the Cincinnati Academy of Art, and Colgate University. Widman also wrote art exhibition reviews for The Oregonian newspaper.

In addition to his successful careers as a teacher and administrator, Widman maintained a robust art career with nearly 100 exhibitions between 1950 and 2014. Widman often used collage as a way to layer and blend images, shapes, and ideas in order to develop large scale paintings. He collected images from magazines and other printed material that depicted human bodies, indigenous and cultural art and fashion, and various color schemes to use as inspiration for his work. Widman also created the idea of The Magician, The Navigator, and The Oracle: abstract images that represent identities and express purpose and emotions. These abstract images appear in many pieces of his art. His works have been featured in individual and group exhibitions throughout the Pacific Northwest including the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University in Salem, Oregon; Blackfish Gallery in Portland, Oregon; Butters Gallery in Portland, Oregon; Wentz Gallery at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, Oregon; the Fountain Gallery in Portland, Oregon; and the Littman Gallery at Portland State University. Widman also co-exhibited with his wife, artist Mardy Widman, at the Golden Gallery in Beaverton, Oregon, in 2013.


12 Linear Feet (25 boxes) : Includes six metal slide boxes.


The Harry Widman papers document the art and teaching careers of Harry Widman from 1937 to 2015. This collection also includes family documents from 1895 to 2015.


The records are arranged into eight series: I. Art career, II. Teaching career, III. Sketchbooks, IV. Journals and personal writing, V. Correspondence, VI. Slides and photographs, VII. Family records, and VIII. Books. Series I includes five subseries: A. Galleries and exhibitions, B. Portfolios and resumes, C. Art, D. Publicity, and E. Boards and commissions. Series II includes four subseries: A. Education, B. Pacific Northwest College of Art (Museum Art School), C. Teaching materials, and D. Workshops. Files are arranged in original order and in chronological order.

Physical Location

Mark O. Hatfield Library

Guide to the Harry Widman papers, 1937-2015
Finding aid processed by Jennifer L. Gehringer.
© 2019
Description rules
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.
Processed with funds provided by the National Historical Publications & Records Commission's (NHPRC) Access to Historical Records grant.

Repository Details

Part of the Willamette University Archives and Special Collections Collection Descriptions

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 United States