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

Biographical 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.