Correspondence, 1954-1968, typescripts, class notes, course outlines, clippings, pamphlets, paintings, and photographs of an artist and author. Subjects include Islamic, Arabic, and Near Eastern art and the work of Paul Hogarth. Paintings include [Coal Country Scene], oil on canvas, 25 x 30, ca. 1960; [Two Children on House Steps], oil on board, 24.5 x 28, ca. 1960; and Hazel Coal Mine, oil on board, 26 x 28, ca. 1960. This collection also includes an antique children's book slate (dating from the 19th century) owned by Seckar.
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
No special access restriction applies.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. For more information, please contact the West Virginia and Regional History Center.
Biographical / Historical
Alvena Seckar was born in McMechen, West Virginia to first-generation immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia in 1915. Her father was a coal miner and the family moved frequently around the coal fields of West Virginia and Pennsylvania during her childhood.
Seckar's artistic talents were recognized while she was in school and she was able to attend college, first studying at the University of Pennsylvania. She then transferred to the Institue of Fine Arts, New York University. She earned her Bachelor's Degree there in 1939 and her Master's Degree in the History of Fine Arts in 1949.
Seckar's artwork drew inspiration from her coal field childhood, depicting working class people and landscapes with sympathy by without any attempt to "prettify" her subjects. She was also inspired by her travels in post-World War II Europe, where she visited the Eastern Europe of her parent's heritage. Seckar considered herself a politically conscious artist and took part in the Civil Rights Movement, anti-nuclear movement, and other causes.
Seckar came to her second career as a writer almost by accident. She was initially interested in illustrating children's books, but after receiving several rejections, decided to write a book of her own. Like her artwork, her books drew from her childhood experiences living in the coal fields. "Zuska of the Burning Hills" and "Mischko" tell stories of children living in coal towns from Eastern European immigrant families, while "Trapped in the Old Mine" is a science-fiction story for young readers.
Seckar continued to write, paint, and exhibit her artwork throughout her life. Even when, later in life, she developed multiple sclerosis, which crippled her right hand, Seckar continued to paint and write, even teaching herself to paint with her left hand. Seckar had been working on a novel regarding the lives of her grandmother, mother, and herself -- tentatively titled "Jewels of Memory" -- which was not published before her death. Seckar passed away on 7 March 2012 in her long-time home of Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.
7.0 Linear Feet (Summary: 7 ft. (16 document cases, 5 in. each); (1 flat storage box, 3 1/2 in.); (3 paintings))