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John C. Tibbetts' portraits collection

Call Number: MS Q74


John C. Tibbetts was a University of Kansas alumnus and later taught in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University. This collection consists of over 200 portraits of musicians, writers, and other notable figures, in gouache and pen and ink, done by Tibbetts. Each portrait is signed or inscribed by its subject(s). Tibbetts painted thousands of portraits of the subjects he interviewed during his time working in television and radio.


  • Creation: 1966 - 2016


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of John C. Tibbetts

John C. Tibbetts was born October 6, 1946 in Paola, Kansas and grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1969, a Master of Arts in 1974, and a doctorate in 1982, all from the University of Kansas. His doctorate is in Multi-Disciplinary Studies (Art History, Theater, Photography, and Film).

From 1980 to 1996 Tibbetts worked as a full-time broadcaster. He hosted his own television show in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as an Arts and Entertainment Editor and Producer for a variety of radio and television outlets, including KCTV (Kansas City's CBS affiliate), KMBC Radio, and KXTR-FM Radio. During that time he also contributed many broadcast stories about musicians, painters, playwrights, and filmmakers to CBS Television, the Christian Science Monitor Radio Network, Voice of America, and National Public Radio. He has produced two radio series about music, The World of Robert Schumann and Piano Portraits.

From 1976-1985 Tibbetts edited the bi-monthly magazine American Classic Screen (the publication of the National Film Society). He has written and illustrated 24 books, more than 200 articles, and several short stories. His books include His Majesty the American: The Films of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. (1977), Dvorak in America (1993), The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film (1998), Shakespeare into Film (2002), Those Who Made It: Conversations with the Legends of Hollywood (2015), and The Gothic Worlds of Peter Straub (2016). Tibbetts has painted thousands of portraits of the subjects he has interviewed. His work has served as illustrations for his articles and books and has been featured in gallery exhibitions in Kansas City and at the University of Kansas. Tibbetts has also worked as a pianist, accompanying silent movies at venues including the American Film Institute in Washington, DC; the Silent Film Festival in Topeka, Kansas; and the Buster Keaton Celebrations in Iola, Kansas—the latter event organized by Tibbetts himself since 1992.

Tibbetts is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Kansas, where he teaches courses in film history, media studies, and aesthetics. He has also served as Associate Chair for the Department of Theater and Film. In 2008 he was awarded the Kansas Governor's Arts in Education Award by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.


20.5 Linear Feet (20 oversize boxes + 1 oversize folder)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection consists of portraits of musicians; authors; actors, directors, and other individuals involved in movies, television, and theater; and other individuals in gouache, an opaque watercolor style of painting, or pen and ink, created by John C. Tibbetts. The portraits have been signed by the individuals represented in them. The collection is arranged broadly by profession and then alphabetically by individual's family name or by the group name (i.e. Beaux Arts Trio in the Musicians series is filed under "B"). Oversize portraits, located at MS Qa23, are described at the end of the Musicians' and Film/Television/Theater figures' series in separate alphabetical runs.

While all individuals represented were active in the 20th and 21st centuries, in some instances Tibbetts has added a likeness of an inspirational musician from an earlier time period, such as Franz Liszt or Frédéric Chopin, to many of the musicians' portraits.

Physical Location

MS Q74

Physical Location

MS Qa23

Physical Location

MS R28

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, John C. Tibbetts, 2016, 2017, 2018.

Related Materials

John C. Tibbetts collection of Hollywood press kits, 1978-2004, MS 292, Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

John C. Tibbetts collection of movie stills, 1895-1998, MS 297, Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

John C. Tibbetts papers, MS 325, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Over the Rainbow: The John C. Tibbetts Archive of Conversations in the Arts and Humanities (1980-Present) (, KU ScholarWorks, University of Kansas


Guide to the John C. Tibbetts' Portraits Collection
John C. Tibbetts' portraits collection
Finding aid prepared by bas, 2018. Finding aid encoded by bas, 2018. Finding aid revised by lmb, 2018; haz, 2019.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Support for processing portions of this collection was provided by the G. Baley Price Spencer Research Library Fellowship Fund.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
John C. Tibbetts' portraits collection, MS Q74, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States