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Houghton Cranford Smith papers, 1890-1991

Houghton Cranford Smith papers, 1890-1991

Smith, Houghton Cranford, 1887-1983

Painter, Commercial artist

Collection Information

Size: 2.2 linear feet

Summary: The papers of painter Houghton Cranford Smith measure 2.2 linear feet and date from 1890-1991. They consist of eight scrapbooks compiled by his widow containing correspondence with family and friends, biographical materials, sketches, school work, extensive clippings, exhibition catalogs, travel documents, and numerous photographs of family and friends.

Biographical materials include photographs of Smith, of his artwork and of friends and family in Provincetown and New Mexico, school documents from the Foebel Academy, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and the Art Students' League, autographed menus, correspondence, including postcards and letters to family and friends sent from Bermuda and Jamaica, customs declarations, exhibition catalogs, newspaper clippings, a passport to Chile, newsletters, and Smith's teaching contract from the University of Kansas. Additionally, there are significant photographs and letters documenting Smith's art studies with E. Ambrose Webster at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The collection also includes Smith's correspondence from France and South America. A significant portion of the collection includes papers from his time in France from 1913-1914, where he studied at the Parisian art school Academie Julian. These include a log from a tandem bicycle trip with classmate Harold P. Browne, an invitation to the Bal Randolphe, a Browne Art Class brochure and a narrative entitled "A Party of Fugitives from France," which describes Smith's forced fleeing from France after the French mobilization in 1914. There are also papers describing his South American travels which include notes and correspondence about Argentina, Uruguay, and his time in Chile, which spans five years.

Materials documenting Smith's return to France and studies at the Academie Ozenfant from 1926 to 1933 include Smith's passport, ship passenger lists and other travel documents, correspondence with family, French identification letters, exhibition catalogs, newspaper clippings and his Academie Ozenfant list of classes, and student card. Of particular note are correspondence from and a picture of Sir Walter Kitchener, governor of Bermuda, and letters from wife Elena Peralta to her parents-in-law. Topics covered in the correspondence of this scrapbook include sons Houghton Jr. and Gerrit and the birth of daughter Florence, financial difficulties, art teachers Amadee Ozenfant and Andree L'hote and the family's travels to Bermuda, New Mexico, and New York City.

Materials from later in Smith's life include correspondence from Smith to second wife Laura Gilbert Williams, exhibition catalogs and registers, photographs of artwork, newspaper clippings of reviews received for Smith's exhibited paintings and congratulatory letters from family and friends on Smith's successful exhibits and feature article in, "The American Artist." Additionally, there is significant correspondence with the Passedoit Gallery, Homer Saint-Gaudens of the Carnegie Institute regarding the exhibition and purchase of Smith's artwork, and Smith's gifted painting to the Butler Institute of American Art. Additionally, there are several biographical newspaper articles and a biographical sketch written by his wife Laura after his death.

Of note is the artist's original handwritten notes and final published version of his reminiscence "The Provincetown I Remember," notes about painting with various colors and color charts, related assignments from Smith's Color Theory Class, a signed copy of the book, "Color," by E. Ambrose Webster, Smith's former art teacher, pencil sketches, a class notebook about lettering and an address book.

Biographical/Historical Note

Houghton Cranford Smith (1887-1983) was a landscape painter from Provincetown, Mass., Taos, N.M., Paris, France, and Chile. Smith studied at the Art Students League, and in Provincetown, Mass., under Charles Hawthorne and E. Ambrose Webster. He studied in France 1913-1914, and traveled extensively throughout his life, sketching and painting the landscape. He taught drawing and painting at the University of Kansas from 1921-1925.


Donated by Florence Cranford Smith Shepard, daughter of Houghton Cranford Smith, 1993-1994. Funding for the processing and microfilming of the collection was provided by the Laura Cranford Smith Art Trust.


Funding for the processing and microfilming of the collection was provided by the Laura Cranford Smith Art Trust.

A Finding Aid to the Houghton Cranford Smith Papers,
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Painter Houghton Cranford Smith (1887-1983) traveled extensively and painted throughout his life. He lived and studied art in France, South America, New York City and Provincetown. He had three children, Houghton Jr., Gerrit and Florence with his first wife, Elena Peralta. He held the position of Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas department of Drawing and Painting from 1921-1925.
Smith became widely recognized for his artwork in the 1940s. He married his second wife, Laura Gilbert Williams, in 1941. He has exhibited at many venues including the Passedoit Gallery, Corcoran Gallery, Richmond Museum, Columbia Art Museum, Walker Memorial Gallery, Art Institute of Kansas City and the Provincetown Art Association. For six consecutive years he was represented at Carnegie Institute's annual invitation exhibition.
As requested by the donor, the original arrangement has been maintained, but the collection has been rehoused for preservation purposes. The collection is arranged as 4 series.
Series 1: Scrapbooks, 1890-1991 (Boxes 1-2; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 2: Writings, 1963-1991 (Box 2; 2 folders)
Series 3: Printed Material, 1916-1991 (Box 2, OV 4; 6 folders)
Series 4: Miscellany, circa 1920s-1977 (Box 2, OV 3; 7 folders)
Donated by Florence Cranford Smith Shepard, daughter of Houghton Cranford Smith, 1993-1994. Funding for the processing and microfilming of the collection was provided by the Laura Cranford Smith Art Trust.
Processing Information
The donor Florence Cranford Smith, assisted by AAA staff Arleen Pancza-Graham, organized and arranged most of the collection into eight scrapbooks. The donor also provided notations and detailed item lists for the contents of each scrapbook. The collection was microfilmed shortly after receipt on reels 5029-5030. The papers were further arranged and a finding aid created by Eden Orelove in September, 2011.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reels 5029-5030 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Houghton Cranford Smith papers, 1890-1991. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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