Charles Atherton Cumming: A Deep Root for Iowa Art

By Richard Leet




1. Zenobia Ness and Louise Orwig, Iowa Artists of the First Hundred Years, Wallace-Homestead Company, Des Moines, Iowa, 1939, Forward.

2. Bess Fergusen with Velma Wallace and Edna Patzig Gouwens, Charles Atherton Cumming, Iowa Art Guild, 1972, p.5.

3. Ibid., p. 6.

4. Ibid., p. 4.

5. Ibid., p. 8.

6. Casey Murphey Thorpe, Bridging A Century, An Historical Sketch of the Public Library of Des Moines, Public Library of Des Moines, Iowa, 1966, pp. 11-12.

7. Op. cit., Bess Fergusen.

8. Michael O. Smith, quote from essay, "Charles Atherton Cumming and the State Historical Society," in Charles Atherton Cumming: A Deep Root for Iowa Art, Exhibition catalog, by Richard Leet, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa, 1996.

9. Ibid.


About the author:

Born 1936, Waterloo, Iowa.  Richard Leet received B.A. and M.A. degrees, University of Northern Iowa. and Graduate study at The University of Iowa.  Taught art Oelwein Community Schools, Oelwein, Iowa, 1958-65.  Founding Director, Charles H. MacNider Museum, Mason City, Iowa, 1965-2001.  Since opening in 1966, the museum has become a major regional facility featuring a comprehensive public program, temporary exhibitions, and a prominent collection of 19th and 20th Century American art including the Bil Baird World of Puppets.  During his tenure with the museum Leet was involved in all aspects of museum operation including finance, physical plant development, programming, exhibitions, collection development, authoring and editing articles for publications, and more. 

Mr. Leet has also balanced his years in teaching and his work in museum administration with a continuing career (since 1956) as a painter (primarily watercolor), exhibitor, and recipient of awards, with works shown in hundreds of competitive and invitational regional and national shows and over 60 one person shows.  Work in many public and private collections: e.g. Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art; El Paso Museum of Art; Des Moines Art Center; Sioux City Art Center; Charles H. MacNider Museum; Rollscreen Corporation; The United States National Bank of Omaha; The Pillsbury Corporation Collection; and many more. Completed Art-in-State Buildings commission for new Brenton Center, Iowa State University, 1995.  His current studio is located in the historic Brick and Tile Building in the heart of downtown Mason City, Iowa.


Resource Library editor's note:

In 1996 the Charles H. MacNider Museum, in cooperation with the State Historical Society of Iowa, organized and held the exhibition titled Charles Atherton Cumming: A Deep Root for Iowa Art.

The above article was reprinted, without illustrations, in Resource Library on August 5, 2005 with the permission of the author. If you have questions or comments regarding the article, please contact Mr. Leet directly through either this phone number or address:

This article was previously published in American Art Review, Volume IX, Number 2, March-April, 1997, pp. 114-119.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to staff of Charles H. MacNider Museum for help in contacting Mr. Leet.


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