The Lilly Library is pleased to announce a $1.2 million gift by Walt Whitman Odets of a collection of more than 450 paintings by his father, Clifford Odets, the iconic American playwright, screenwriter, and director.
Clifford Odets is best known as an influential playwright, screenwriter, and founding member of the Theater Group. The Lilly Library is already the home of an impressive archive of Odets’ written work, including extensive correspondence spanning his career, drafts of such landmark dramatic works as Clash by Night and Golden Boy, and drafts of screenplays of iconic films such as The Big Knife and The Sweet Smell of Success. Other drafts include films on which Odets worked that were later turned over to other writers, such as It’s a Wonderful Life.
But Odets’ creativity was not limited to the written and spoken word, and the addition of his paintings to the Lilly Library’s collections continues a longtime interest on the part of the library in writers who are also artists, represented not only by our archival holdings of the writings and artworks of such luminaries as Sylvia Plath and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., but also by our vast holdings in artists’ books and fine bindings.
The paintings joining the Lilly Library’s collections are water colors, gouaches, and crayon on paper, ranging in size from 4×6 inches to about 12×15 inches. Some of the works are even smaller, for they are rendered on 3×5 U.S. Government stamped postcards; Odets was a philatelist and knew that the cards were made of suitably archival paper. The style is naïve and strong with intense color and imagination. Odets was clearly influenced by the artists whom he himself collected; he owned works by Maurice Utrillo, John Marin, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. Odets first exhibited his own works on paper at the J.B. Neumann Gallery in New York in 1947 and continued creating art until his death in 1963.
The addition of Clifford Odets’ art to the Lilly Library’s manuscript holdings will allow researchers, students, and aspiring artists to explore and understand the complex ways in which creativity develops over time and across multiple mediums.
We wish to extend our deep gratitude to Walt Whitman Odets for this generous gift. Dr. Odets is a practicing clinical psychologist with a background in photography and aviation. He chose the Lilly Library as the beneficiary of this extraordinary collection due to the “mid-western spirit of openness that welcomes” everyone to use the collections. We are proud to continue that tradition!
You can explore the Lilly Library’s extant Odets holdings here.