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American Watercolor Society records, 1867-1977, bulk 1950-1970

American Watercolor Society

Collection Information

Size: 3.8 linear feet

Summary: The records of the American Watercolor Society measure 3.8 linear feet and date from 1867 to 1977, with the bulk of the material dating from 1950 to 1970. The collection provides scattered documentation of the operations and activities of one of the oldest continuously operating artists' organizations in the United States and includes records of its administration and history, membership, and exhibitions.
Records documenting the founding, history, and operations of the society are found in the administration and history series. Included are written histories and material on the 1941 merger with the New York Water Color Club, including an updated Constitution and By-Laws. Also found here are reports, committee documents, administrative correspondence, records of participation in national art events, and financial records.
The membership records include a membership roster notebook, dating from 1953-1961, lists of members, member biographies, and correspondence regarding membership. The society's exhibition files include a bound volume of the record of works shown in the annual exhibition from 1897 to 1904, as well as files on a few other annual exhibitions and exchange exhibitions with other countries. These files contain scattered correspondence, price lists, exhibition checklists and printed material.
A small amount of printed material in the collection includes a booklet entitled, "Water-Color Painting: Some Facts and Authorities in Relation to Its Durability," distributed by the society in 1868, as well as news clipping about events and exhibitions, newsletters, and other published items. Photographs are of members, jurors, events, painting demonstrations, and artwork.
1 v. of a record of works shown in exhibitions 30-37, 1897-1904, listing the artist, title of work, name of owner, price, and agent.

Biographical/Historical Note

American Watercolor Society was founded in Dec. 1866 as the American Society of Painters in Water Colors, and became known early on as the American Water Color Society. Samuel Colman was its first president. The Society's first six annual exhibitions were held jointly with the National Academy of Design in NAD's gallery, followed by separate exhibitions at NAD and elsewhere. The group was officially incorporated as the American Water Color Society in March 1903. Beginning in 1922, AWS combined exhibitions with the New York Water Color Club (founded 1890), and in Jan. 1941 these two organizations merged under the name of the American Watercolor Society.


Donated by the American Watercolor Society Records in 1978, except for portions of material on reels N68-8 -N68-10 were lent for microfilming in 1968, and the bound volume of the record of works shown in annual exhibitions, 1897-1904, reel 497, was lent for microfilming in 1972 then subsequently donated 1978 by the American Antiquarian Society.

Related Materials

Originals of loaned material, including additional exhibition materials, correspondence, photographs, and administrative records were returned to the American Watercolor Society after microfilming. Loaned material is available on reels N68-8 through N68-10, but is not described in the container listing of this finding aid.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Location of Originals

  • Reels N68-8 through N68-10: Originals returned to American Watercolor Society after microfilming.