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Hughie Lee-Smith papers, circa 1890-2007, bulk 1931-1999

Hughie Lee-Smith papers, circa 1890-2007, bulk 1931-1999

Lee-Smith, Hughie, 1915-1999

Painter, Educator

Collection Information

Size: 33.3 linear feet

1 rolled doc

Summary: The papers of painter and educator Hughie Lee-Smith measure 33.3 linear feet and date from circa 1890 to 2007, with the bulk of the material dating from 1931 to 1999. The collection documents Lee-Smith's career through biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, writings by Lee-Smith and others, personal business records, exhibition files, organization records, printed material, scrapbooks, photographs, a small amount of artwork, numerous interviews, and recordings for a documentary film on Lee-Smith. Also found are the papers of artist Rex Goreleigh, a friend of Lee-Smith.

Biographical material includes records of Hughie Lee-Smith's schooling, military service, and awards, as well as resumes, bibliographies, and biographical summaries. Also found are family records, including the papers of his mother, Alice Carroll.

Lee-Smith's correspondence is with family, students, arts and cultural organizations, as well as schools, galleries, and museums, primarily regarding his participation in events and exhibitions. He also corresponded with fellow artists, such as Clarence Holbrook Carter, Reginald Gammon, Joseph Hirsch, Carol Wald, and Hale Woodruff, among many others. He maintained extensive correspondence with artist Sophie Wessel.

Lee-Smith's writings include artist statements and personal writings on his history and early influences, as well as many draft lectures and speeches, school writings, notes, and untitled writing fragments. Writings by others primarily include student essays and articles on the topic of Lee-Smith's work. Personal business records include scattered financial documents, including artwork sales records, and contracts and agreements with various art galleries and other organizations. Also found are files regarding his art commissions, gifts, professional activities, and records of his employment at the Art Students League. Exhibition files document select exhibitions in which Hughie Lee-Smith participated, primarily during the 1980s and 1990s. Organization records were maintained by Lee-Smith to document his participation in various groups, such as the National Academy of Design, Ira Aldridge Society, and Audubon Artists.

Printed material consists primarily of exhibition announcements and invitations for exhibitions of Lee-Smith's work, as well as news clippings, magazines, press releases, and publications from various art organizations and schools. One scrapbook contains exhibition announcements additional loose scrapbook pages document his early career. Photographs include many portraits of Hughie Lee-Smith, Lee-Smith in his studio, at events, and with friends and family. Additionally there are many photographs, slides, and transparencies of Lee-Smith's artwork. Also found are five photograph albums. A small amount of original artwork includes drawings by Lee-Smith and two sketchbooks belonging to his wife Patricia.

The collection includes numerous interviews of Hughie Lee-Smith, recorded on 33 sound cassettes, one sound tape reel, and four video cassettes. Also found are planning documents, research material, and video footage for a documentary about the life and work of Hughie Lee-Smith, produced by New Deal Films, Inc, but never completed. Footage includes interviews with artists and art historians regarding Lee-Smith, gallery events, and images of his paintings.

The papers of artist Rex Goreleigh primarily documents his later life and includes a letters, biographical documents, printed material, estate records, and photographs and slides depicting Goreleigh, his studio, and artwork. Hughie Lee-Smith was close friends with Goreleigh and served as executor of his estate.

Also of note is a scrapbook put together for Goreleigh's 70th birthday in 1972. Of note is one scrapbook which contains photographs, notes, and artwork by fellow artists and students, including drawings by Romare Bearden and Hughie Lee-Smith.

Biographical/Historical Note

Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999) was a painter and educator in Illinois, Michigan, and New York.


A small amount of material was donated 1969-1981 by Hughie Lee-Smith. Additional papers were donated in 2011 by Patricia Lee-Smith, widow of Hughie Lee-Smith.

Related Materials

A Finding Aid to the Hughie Lee-Smith Papers, circa 1890-2007, bulk 1931-1999, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical/Historical note
Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999) was a painter and educator in Ohio, Michigan, and New York. Born in Eustis, Florida, he lived for a period of time with family in Atlanta before joining his mother in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1925. In 1934 he received a scholarship to attend the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts, and in 1935 returned to Cleveland to attend the Cleveland School of Art. While in school he began exhibiting his paintings and teaching part-time at Karamu House. From 1938 to 1940 Lee-Smith completed lithography commissions for the Ohio WPA. In 1941 he moved to Detroit, married his first wife Mabel Louise Everett, and worked at a Ford automobile factory. He was then drafted into the U.S. Navy as a mural artist. After the war he briefly returned to factory work before enrolling at Wayne State University, earning a degree in Art Education in 1953. From 1953 to 1965 he taught summer art classes at the Grosse-Point War Memorial in Detroit.
In 1957 Lee-Smith moved to the East Village in New York City, signed with the Janet Nassler Gallery (Petite Gallery), exhibited his work extensively, and joined several art organizations. He also taught art at schools in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1967 he became the second African-American member of the National Academy of Design. He was visiting instructor and artist-in-residence at several art programs, including Howard University, and taught at the Art Students League from 1972 to 1988. In 1978 he married his third wife, Patricia. The New Jersey State Museum organized an extensive retrospective of Lee-Smith's work in 1988 which travelled nationally. Despite ill-health in the mid-1990s, he continued to create new paintings and exhibit his work. In 1997 he moved with his wife to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he lived until his death in 1999.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 13 series.
Series 1: Biographical Material, circa 1890-2001 (1.7 linear feet; Box 1-2, 35, RD 38)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1931-2006 (6.1 linear feet; Box 2-8)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1934-1998 (0.8 linear feet; Box 8-9)
Series 4: Personal Business Records, 1934-2001 (1.6 linear feet; Box 9-11, 35)
Series 5: Exhibition Files, circa 1973-2001 (1.2 linear feet; Box 11-12)
Series 6: Organization Records, 1941-2005 (2.1 linear feet; Box 12-14)
Series 7: Printed Material, 1919, 1930-2007 (8.5 linear feet; Box 14-22, 34)
Series 8: Scrapbooks, circa 1938-1990s (0.2 linear feet; Box 22, 35)
Series 9: Photographs, circa 1890-2003 (4.4 linear feet; Box 22-26, 35, OV 37)
Series 10: Artwork, circa 1940s-1980s (0.2 linear feet; Box 26)
Series 11: Interviews, 1973-1998 (2.1 linear feet; Box 26-28)
Series 12: Documentary Film Materials, 1985-2004 (3.5 linear feet; Box 28-32)
Series 13: Rex Goreleigh Papers, 1935-1994 (0.9 linear feet; 32-33, 36)
A small amount of material was donated 1969-1981 by Hughie Lee-Smith. Additional papers were donated in 2011 by Patricia Lee-Smith, widow of Hughie Lee-Smith.
Processing Information note
This collection was processed to a minimal level and a finding aid prepared by Erin Kinhart in 2012.
The Archives of American Art has implemented minimal processing tactics when possible in order to increase access to more of our collections. Minimal processing included arrangement to the series and folder levels. The collection was rehoused in archival containers and folders. Staples and other fasteners were not removed, but correspondence was removed from envelopes and filed behind the envelope. Materials were removed from binders or damaged binding when necessary.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

Restrictions on Use

Authorization to publish requires written permission from: Robert Panzer, VAGA, 350 Fifth Ave., Suite 2820, New York, NY 10118; tel. 212-736-6666; fax 212-736-6767;

The donor, Patricia Lee-Smith, has retained copyright.

How to Cite This Collection

Hughie Lee-Smith papers, circa 1890-2007, bulk 1931-1999. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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