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James Castle: A Retrospective
October 14, 2008 - January 4, 2009
Untitled (STAR BRAND SHOES "kaleidoscope"), Date unknown
James Castle, American
Soot-and-spit drawing with stick-applied lines and soot wash on beige paper (unknown source); punched for hanging
Sheet: 8 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches (21.6 x 27 cm)
Gift of the James Castle Collection, L.P., Boise, Idaho, 2007
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James Castle: A Retrospective
October 14, 2008 - January 4, 2009

James Castle: A Retrospective marks the first comprehensive museum exhibition of the work of James Castle (1899–1977), an artist from rural Idaho who, despite undergoing no formal or conventional training, is especially admired for the unique homemade quality, graphic skill, and visual and conceptual range that characterize his works.

By all accounts deaf since birth, and presumably never having learned much language, Castle turned his obsessive and constant production of drawn images into his primary mode of communication with what must often have seemed the strange and baffling world around him.

The exhibition consists of some 300 drawings, color wash pieces, handmade books, assemblages, and text works selected from museums and private collections, including many from the holdings in Castle’s estate.


James Castle: Portrait of an Artist, a documentary video created by writer-director Jeffery Wolf and produced by Philadelphia's Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists, is being shown continuously in the exhibition during the hours it is open to the public to enhance the viewer's understanding of Castle's life, home surroundings, and art.


This exhibition is made possible by The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, through the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of American Masterpieces: Three Centuries of Artistic Genius; and by the Henry Luce Foundation, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, the Ervika Foundation, Marion Stroud Swingle, and other generous individuals.

Major funding for the film James Castle: Portrait of an Artist, produced by the Foundation for Self-Taught American Artists, has been provided by Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, Samuel Farber, Audrey Heckler, Margaret Robson, Joan Waricha, H. F. (Gerry) and Marguerite Lenfest, an anonymous fund at The Philadelphia Foundation, the Dolfinger-McMahon Foundation, the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation, The Suzanne F. and Ralph J. Roberts Foundation, Aileen Roberts and Brian Roberts Foundation, Christina and Lance Funston, Duane Morris LLP, and other generous donors.


Ann Percy • Curator of Drawings


Dorrance Galleries, first floor