Kate Lang papers, 1921-1996

A Finding Aid to the Kate Lang Papers, 1921-1996, in the Archives of American Art, by Jetta Samulski

Download PDF Version of this page [Download PDF Version]

Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Kate Lang, born Kathryn Louise Barbour in 1910 in Mobile, Alabama, started painting at age 80. A self-taught artist, she sold her paintings at local flea markets (Washington, D.C.'s Eastern Market on Saturdays and Georgetown Market on Sundays) until her death in 1996. Lang excelled at celebrity and pet portraits painted in the style of contemporary folk art. She held exhibitions at Connection Gallery in Washington, D.C. and George Washington University's Dimrock Gallery in 1992 and at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1995.

Return to top

Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The Kate Lang papers measure 1.1 linear feet and date from 1921 to 1996. The collection documents the artistic career and creative process of Arlington, Virginia-based self-taught painter Kate Lang. The collection contains a brief biographical account, scattered professional and personal correspondence, writings and notes with sketches by Kate Lang, financial records, clippings, exhibition announcements, and numerous photographs and snapshots of Kate Lang, her artwork, friends and family. The collection compliments the Archives' material on self-taught artists and provides some useful evidence of an alternative market for painting.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as six series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following index terms:

  • Flea markets--Washington (D.C.)
  • Painting, American--Economic aspects
  • Photographs
  • Self-taught artists--Washington (D.C.)
  • Washington (D.C.)--Social life and customs
  • Women painters--Washington (D.C.)


The papers were donated in 2001 and 2009 by Richard Lang, the son of Kate Lang.

How the Collection was Processed

The papers were processed in July 2004 by Jetta Samulski. The finding aid was updated to include the 2009 addition in July 2015 by Kimberley Henze.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is limited to the Washington, D.C. research facility.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Kate Lang papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

How to Cite this Collection

Kate Lang papers, 1921-1996. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Return to top

Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1992
1 Folder; Box 1

This series contains a brief biographical sketch about the life of Kate Lang which appears in the publication Women in Art.

Box Folder
1 1 Kate Lang Biographical Sketch, 1992

Series 2: Correspondence, 1970-1996, undated
3 Folders; Box 1

Most of the letters to Kate Lang concern art-related matters such as requests for artwork and sales of artwork. There are cards and letters of appreciation from customers as well from the Northern Virginia AIDS ministry and the IONA Senior Services Network in Washington, D.C. for Lang's artwork donations. Also found here is a letter written by Lang to her ex-husband, Jim, regarding mostly financial matters. Correspondence is arranged chronologically.

Box Folder
1 2-3 Letters and Cards to Kate Lang, 1992-1996, undated
1 4 Letter to Lang's Ex-Husband, Jim, 1970

Series 3: Writings, 1992-1994, undated
6 Folders; Box 1

Writings include notes, sketches, and a layout for a booklet of cartoons Kate Lang hoped to publish. Notes and sketches illustrate dimensions, colors, and inscriptions for artwork requested by a collector as well as sketches and plans for original artwork. This series also includes Lang's work schedules and deadlines she made for herself as well as a writing on the history of her training in art.

Box Folder
1 5 Sketches and Notes for Cartoon Booklet, undated
1 6 Sketches and Notes for Cartoons and Artwork, undated
1 7 Notes for Al Marzorini's Painting Requests with Instructions, 1992, undated
1 8 Notes and Sketches for Artwork, and Work Schedules, 1993, undated
1 9 Work Schedules and Lists of Artwork to be Done, 1994, undated
1 10 Writing About Art Training, undated

Series 4: Financial Records, 1990-1996, undated
2 Folders; Box 1

Financial Records include lists and prices of artwork sold, cost of materials used, expenses incurred for flea market trips, living expenses, a reconciliation book for sales made at flea markets, and a 1993 financial statement.

Box Folder
1 11 Flea Market Costs and Sales; 1993 Financial Statement; Reconciliation Book, 1990-1996, undated
1 12 Material Costs, Lists of Artwork and Flea Market Items Sold, 1992-1995

Series 5: Printed Material, 1991-1996, undated
5 Folders; Box 1, OV 2

This series contains newspaper clippings about Kate Lang and her art, her career at the flea markets, and flea markets in general. These clippings are arranged chronologically. There are two folders of newspaper and magazine clippings which Lang used as inspiration and source material for her artwork. These clippings are arranged by subject. There are newsletters, exhibition announcements and catalogs, as well as business cards for Lang's business contacts and for Kate Lang herself.

Box Folder
1 13 Newspaper Clippings and Business Cards, 1930, undated
1 14-15 Newspaper and Magazine Clippings Used as Source Material, 1991-1994, undated
1 16 Exhibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1991-1995
OV 2 Oversized Newspaper and Magazine Clippings about Kate Lang, 1992-1996

Series 6: Photographs, 1921-circa 1990s, undated
0.6 Linear feet; Box 1, OV 2

This series contains original photographs and copies of Kate Lang as a young woman in the 1920s and as an adult in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There is a large photograph of Babe Ruth that Lang likely used as source material. Also found here are dozens of snapshots of artwork, the artist at the flea market, her studio, and an exhibition opening in addition to photographs of Lang with family and friends and several pictures of a memorial party.

Box Folder
1 17-18 Kate Lang, 1921-1971
1 19 Kate Lang with Paintings, Friends, and Family, circa 1980s-1990s
1 20 Kate Lang Exhibitions, 1990s
1 21 Pastels and Exercises, 1924-1927
1 22-26 Works of Art, circa 1990s
OV 2 Oversized Photograph of Babe Ruth, undated