Giard at Yale

In 2004, the renowned Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University acquired Robert Giard’s complete archive as part of the Yale Collection of American Literature. Robert Giard received his Bachelor of Arts from Yale College in 1961.

The Beinecke is one of the largest buildings in the world devoted entirely to rare books and manuscripts and serves as a center for research by students, faculty, and other serious readers and researchers, whether connected to Yale or not. The Collection of American Literature is noted for its holdings in nineteenth-and early twentieth-century writings, with manuscripts by Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, Sinclair Lewis, Edith Wharton, and Ezra Pound.

In recent years, the Beinecke has also expanded its resources related to contemporary gay and lesbian literature, which includes the papers of James Purdy, Edmund White, Robert Ferro, David Leavitt, Felice Picano, and Ethan Mordden, all of whom were photographed by Robert Giard. The Giard archive, significant in itself for documenting the historic contribution of 20th Century gay and lesbian writers to American letters, is a fitting complement to the Beinecke’s resources in this area.

The Giard archive at the Beinecke contains more than 1,500 vintage prints, chiefly 16 x 20 inches, and 7,800 related work prints, most of them 8 x 10 inches. These images include all of Giard’s portraits of gay and lesbian writers, along with all other portraits of friends, artists, writers, and commissioned works. In addition, Giard’s landscapes, still lifes, and nudes complete the photographic archive of his complete career.

Among the archive’s documentary materials are extensive correspondence, records, diaries and other papers. Many letters to Giard contain responses by the writers he photographed to their own portraits. Giard’s diaries include personal observations of the trips he took to photograph his subjects and discusses their interactions with him. One series of notebooks details his printing process portrait by portrait, often with a hand drawn sketch of the image.

A complete record of the Giard papers and images is available at a site within the library’s Yale Collection of American Literature.