Skip to main content
Please contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections for assistance with accessing these materials.

Charles Quest Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS227

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Charles Quest Papers include correspondence, news clippings, photographs, and personal biographical materials contained in five boxes. The papers are well-documented, due to Dorothy Quest's organization as well as her handwritten notes which are thorough and descriptive.

Charles Quest's tenure at Washington University in St. Louis (1944-1971) brought him into contact with many names well-known to students of 20th century American printmaking. Quest worked with Werner Drewes, Fred Carpenter, Fred Conway, Fred Becker, and Tonasko Milovich, among others. This collection reflects those relationships on both a personal and professional level. Washington University records, both administrative and academic, are included, and provide the researcher with an idea of the environment of Quest's teaching career. Because Quest remained at Washington University for twenty-seven years, the development of his career is largely centered in St. Louis.

This collection is informative not only about Charles Quest's artistic progress, but also highlights the activities of the entire St. Louis art community for this period. Materials relating to St. Louis civic groups, museums, schools and churches are included. Charles Quest's papers are valuable not only for the information pertaining to his immediate environment, but also for the materials relating to the broader political climate of early to mid-20th century.

Quest and his wife Dorothy were studying in Europe when forced to return to the U.S. because of the 1929 stock market crash. Quest participated in the ensuing New Deal government-sponsored programs such as the Public Works of Art Project and the WPA. His printmaking was strongly influenced by the international tensions of the Second World War, as seen in several grotesque images he created, which were as unsettling as were Goya's "Disasters of War." Quest's print "Nearing The End" was included in the "America In The War" exhibition organized by the Artists for Victory in the 1940's.

Also noteworthy when considering Quest's views of war are letters from several of Quest's former student commenting on their reactions to being taken from the creative life of a St. Louis art student and thrust into the demands of military life. The collection contains extensive materials on Quest's participation in exhibitions, including his one-man show at the Smithsonian in 1951. He participated in exhibitions on numerous college campuses, including Beloit, Carleton, and Maryville. Quest was a member of "Group 15" in St. Louis, and was active in exhibitions organized by the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library. His works were represented by several private dealers. Quest participated in the "Arts in the Embassies Program" beginning in the 1960's; his woodcut "Heads of State" was selected by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 for the White House, and his "Top Brass" was purchased by the Iranian Ambassador.

The collection contains extensive correspondence between Charles Quest and the directors of many museums, domestic and international, which included his works in their collections. Correspondents include A. Hyatt Mayer, James Thrall Soby, Carl O. Schniewind, Arthur Heintzelman, Charles Nagel, and others. Additionally, Quest's membership in several organizations of artists, including The Society of American Graphic Artists, the Print Club, and the International Graphic Arts Society, brought him into contact with Lynd Ward, Clare Romano, Theodore Gusten, Jacob Kainen, Virginia Dehn, and others.

The commissions for which Quest is perhaps best-known include his mural, "The Louisiana Purchase," for the Carpenter Branch Library, done in 1934 and destroyed in the 1960's, and his painting,"The Crucifixion," a replica of a work by Velasquez, which Quest painted for the Old Cathedral in St. Louis. Quest studied in Europe and later wrote that he was greatly influenced by the Old Masters as well as the cubists Juan Gris, Braque and Picasso. The effects of the latter group are readily seen in his experimentation with emerging modernism in his printmaking. The collection includes numerous photographs, both of Charles Quest and his family, and also of his works. The photographs of Quest's works are divided by the medium used. For the researcher interested in Quest's works, the index terms will include most of the works referred to specifically in correspondence. For those interested in the listing of Georgetown University's collection of Charles Quest's prints, ask to see the separate computer print-out.


  • 1904 - 1993
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1969

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical note

Charles F. Quest, painter and printmaker, was born in Troy, New York, in 1904. He studied painting and sculpture for five years at the Washington University School of Fine Arts in St. Louis, earning both his Bachelor and Master Degrees of Fine Arts. He then travelled in Europe for six months for further training. He felt that studying the work of the great masters made a lasting impression on him, and particularly mentioned the paintings of El Greco, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens and Goya. The works of the cubists, Juan Gris, Braque and Picasso also provided a strong influence.

After returning from Europe, he stayed for a few months in New York, where he visited museums and studios of artists he had met in Europe. He then returned to Washington University as a member of the faculty in 1944. His fellow faculty members included Werner Drewes, Fred Carpenter, Fred Conway, and Tonasko Milovich. Mr. Quest painted murals for churches, schools, and other public buildings. He also worked in sculpture, stone carving, mosaic and stained glass, but is best known for his paintings and prints. His work is owned by at least forty-six museums in the United States and abroad, and has been exhibited in over a hundred museums and galleries throughout the world. His best-known commissions include his mural for the Carpenter Branch Library in St. Louis (which was later destroyed) and his 1960 replica of Velasquez's "Crucifixion" for the Old Cathedral in St. Louis.

Quest spent a year in the workshop of Emil Frei, the well-known stained glass designer. He worked in, and lectured on, painting and stone carving, but gradually (around 1942) he became more interested in the graphic arts, especially wood engraving and woodcutting. His numerous exhibitions include a one-man exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution in 1951 and a second at the St. Louis City Art Museum in 1958.

In the early 1950's, Quest participated in exhibits that travelled throughout Europe that were organized by the Cultural Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Paris and another by the Boston Public Library. Mr. Quest's memberships included the Society of American Graphic Artists, the Print Club of Philadelphia, Group 15 of St. Louis, the St. Louis Artist's Guild, and the Southern Vermont Art Center.

Mr. Quest retired on June 30, 1971, and moved with his wife Dorothy, whom he wed in 1928, to Tryon, North Carolina. Dorothy, an accomplished portrait painter, and Charles continued to paint for many years. He died in 1993 and Dorothy in 1995.


7.5 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Charles Quest Papers
Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057