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Smith 150 150 ctx

Lowell Ellsworth Smith Papers, circa 1890-2002
3.0 cubic feet (6 document boxes)
Location: 0039-0040
Collection #: 069
Accession #: 2004.205


Papers and photographs of Ohio watercolorist Lowell Ellsworth Smith, whose work encompasses his native Ohio, the western United States, Mexico, and Europe. The collection features a group of more than 50 watercolor sketches by Smith, both figure studies and landscapes. Also included are letters written to Smith by significant figures in contemporary western art such as James Boren, Tom Lovell, Donald Teague, and others. Over 100 letters written by Smith to his family while serving with the U. S. Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II are another significant part of the collection. While Smith never saw combat, his letters paint an interesting and vivid picture of his life in the military. The collection also includes more than 450 photographs documenting Smith’s personal and professional life.


Watercolor painter Lowell Ellsworth Smith was born in Canton, Ohio in 1924. Smith and his sister Barbara grew up in an artistic household; his father, Ellsworth P. Smith, was the art director for the Hoover Company and a painter, and his mother was a pianist. Smith’s father encouraged his interest in art, and during Smith’s childhood the family took many trips to art colonies, which helped nurture his artistic inclinations. Smith was a 1942 graduate of Lehman High School in Canton where he studied art and was the drummer in the school dance band. After attending one semester at Miami University of Ohio, Smith was drafted into the U. S. Army Air Force. He served between 1943 and 1945 in England, France, and Germany with the 45th Air Depot Group. When he returned from Europe, he picked up again at Miami University, graduating in 1948 with a B.F.A. While at Miami he also played drums with a dance band. Smith later gained additional schooling through the Famous Artists School of Westport, Connecticut.

Smith worked for many years as a commercial illustrator with Canton Art Service and Manning Studios in Cleveland where he specialized in “pretty girl illustrations for advertising.” He also did cover illustrations for children’s coloring and activity books published by Saalfield Publishing. In 1960, after 12 successful years as a commercial illustrator, Smith turned his attention to fine art figure and landscape painting in his favorite medium, watercolor. Among those Smith names as teachers and influences to his watercolor technique are his father, Roy Wilhelm, Don Stone, Tom Nicholas, and Paul Strisik. Smith turned his attention to the West after 1970 when artist Ramon Kelley noticed one of his paintings at an Ohio art show. His association with Kelley led to his first painting trip to Colorado and New Mexico and an introduction to western collectors and gallery owners. In 1979, Smith joined Kelley, William F. Reese, and Tim Stortz on a painting trip to Oaxaco, Mexico that resulted in a joint exhibition at the Frye Museum in Seattle. Over the years, Smith returned to Mexico repeatedly, and Mexican churches and street scenes are among his favorite subjects.

Smith was an invited artist at the 1978 and 1981 National Academy of Western Art (NAWA) shows, and his painting Church Façade—Plaza del Oriente won the Prix de West Purchase Award at the 1983 NAWA show. Smith’s work has also been shown at a number of other art shows in the West, Ohio, and elsewhere. Hundreds of art collectors, including former Texas governor John Connally and Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens, have purchased his paintings. In 2001, the Canton Museum of Art exhibited a 58-piece retrospective look at the artwork of Lowell Ellsworth Smith and his father, Ellsworth P. Smith. Although he will be 80 years old in 2004, Lowell Ellsworth Smith still paints and shows at the Prix de West Invitational Exhibition and Sale and other venues.

Bowman, Mary. “Lowell Ellsworth Smith,” Artists of the Rockies and the Golden West, Summer 1982, pp. 94-101.
Johnson, Louise. “Canton-Born Artist Wins Wide Acclaim,” The Canton Repository, December 28, 1986, p. 21.
Kane, Dan. “Like Father, Like Son,” The Canton Repository, January 21, 2001, pp. G1, G6.
Mugrage, Shannon. “Local Artist Seeks Light in the Southwest,” Hudson Life Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 9, September 2000, pp. 2-3.
Prix de West 2004 Invitational Art Exhibition. Oklahoma City, Okla.: National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 2004.
Wilde, Davis S. “Lowell Ellsworth Smith: Having the Best of Two Worlds,” Prism: A Magazine of Area Arts & People, Vol. 1, No. 3, Summer 1981, pp.6-11.

The collection has been arranged in six series, Artwork, Biographical, Correspondence, Financial, Publicity and Promotion, and Photographs.

Series 1: Artwork (circa 1950-1999)
This series has been arranged in three subseries: art catalogs, commercial art, and preliminary studies. The catalogs subseries includes more than 25 catalogs, primarily from the 1980s and 1990s, published by art shows and galleries that featured the work of Lowell Ellsworth Smith. Most of the featured shows and galleries specialize in contemporary western art, the genre with which Smith is most closely associated. Galleries include the Altermann & Morris Galleries in Dallas; art shows include the National Academy of Western Art show in Oklahoma City and the Western Rendezvous of Art in Helena, Montana. The commercial illustration subseries includes a modest but diverse selection of Smith’s commercial artwork, mostly from the 1950s and early 1960s. Included are examples of magazine advertisement illustrations, greeting cards, magazine cover art, children’s book cover illustrations, and larger projects such as multiple paintings for the 1959 Republic Steel annual report. An example of his “pretty girl” illustration work can be found in the Photographs series.

The preliminary studies are the largest and most significant subseries in Artwork. More than 50 sketches created by Smith as studies for finished works include both figures and landscapes. Very few studies are titled; thus, titles descriptive of the content have been provided. When the title of the finished work is known, it is used. The studies are primarily watercolor over a pencil sketch, although the collection also includes a few pencil sketches that have not been painted. The studies are modestly sized and are found on a variety of media including sketchbook paper, Arches paper, and mat board scraps. In a few cases there are two studies on the same media. The studies vary from quite rough to almost finished pieces. The landscape studies were apparently done plein air. The studies include both people and places from near Smith’s home in Hudson, Ohio and those completed on trips to Colorado, Mexico, and other locales. A comparison of the studies to known completed works allows the researcher to explore Smith’s technique and how he uses his source material; for example, the collection includes two studies for the award-winning watercolor Church Façade—Plaza del Oriente, from the collection of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. One study shows the priest and parishioner leaving the door of the church; the other shows the church façade. The priest and parishioner are almost the same as in the completed painting, but the church façade study is quite different, showing many more people than appear in the finished painting. Many of the studies are also quite beautiful in their own right, apart from any comparison to finished works.

Series 2: Biographical (1931-1943)
This is a very small series with just a few items. There are a couple of newspaper clippings from the Canton, Ohio newspaper about members of the Smith family, including a picture and short article about Smith’s military service during World War II. Also included is Smith’s first grade report card, which reveals that Smith was graded between 80 and 85 in drawing.

Series 3: Correspondence (1942-2002)
This series contains correspondence with artists, patrons, galleries, and friends, the bulk from the 1980s and 1990s; a series of letters written to Smith by his father, Ellsworth P. Smith; and over 100 letters written by Smith to his family while serving with the U. S. Army Air Forces in Europe during World War II. Many envelopes in the series include Smith’s contemporary notations about letter content.

Included in the correspondence are letters from artists James Boren, Harley Brown, Duane Bryers, Tom Hill, Tom Lovell, Donald Teague, and others, many of which deal with the National Academy of Western Art. The artists discuss their artwork, shows, and painting trips they have taken; personal issues such as illness and death; and the politics of being invited to show at a particular sale like the National Academy of Western Art exhibition. Correspondence concerning the business of art includes letters, bills, and requests from framers, galleries, museums, art purchasers, and others. Also included is personal correspondence such as holiday and thank you cards, some from Smith’s artist friends. The letters from Smith’s father are all personal in nature and contain news of Ellsworth’s friends and activities, pithy poems and quotations to live by, and many compliments about his son and his artwork. Also in the letters were some early photographs of Ellsworth, friends, and family members, some of whom are identified in the letters. These images have been moved to the Photographs series.

The series includes a few letters Smith wrote to his family from Miami University in the fall of 1942, just before he entered the military. He writes about the art classes he is taking and how instructors view his work (“I thrive on encouragement”), he asks to have his drum set sent to him, and he discusses his social life.

The bulk of the Correspondence series consists of letters written by Smith to his family while stationed in England, France, and Germany with the U. S. Army Air Force during World War II. The letters cover his military service from basic training to La Havre, France just before he left Europe. A few letters written to his parents from Miami University during his first semester back in school are also included. The letters date from 1943 through early 1946. Most of his letters are to both parents, but he wrote some to a single parent (usually his father) or his sister Barbara. As often happens, the collection only includes Smith’s war letters, but not the letters from home to which he is responding. At many points in his letters, he talks about sketching and drawing. Some letters include small illustrations. He also discusses playing with several dance band combos throughout his time in Europe.

Smith’s 1943 letters contain a brief discussion about basic training and his decision to apply for clerical school, apparently at the suggestion of his father. He was subsequently stationed to Air Depot Supply in England after his training. He writes about his activities: going to Oxford, meeting English women, dancing, attending movies, touring in London, and sketching. He writes about Oxford being wonderful subject matter for an artist, describing it with an artist’s eye for detail. At several points during his correspondence, he also discusses the tremendous educational value of being stationed in Europe.

By 1944, some comments directly refer to the war such as mentioning a flight of bombers overhead headed for Germany and a reference to the “big assault” (D-Day) as “imminent,” but overall not much in the letters directly relates to the war. This is partially because of wartime censorship rules and partially because of his position behind the lines. The letters discuss his social life (women, dancing, and movies), artwork done for his fellow soldiers, and details about his daily life in England. By October 1944 he was transferred to France where he was initially roughing it but later ended up in very luxurious housing. He mentions the French Armistice Day celebration in 1944, the first after liberation from “oppression.” Smith also writes about travels to Belgium and Paris and a French woman he dated.

In May 1945 he was transferred to Germany, near Munich, where he briefly attended art school classes sponsored by the Army. Later, he was transferred back to France and then to London for furlough where he saw Winston Churchill. Smith was on leave in the French Alps when Japan surrendered, and his letter paints a wonderful word picture of the spontaneous celebration that broke out upon hearing the news. He was sent back to Germany and mentions a waiting list of soldiers wanting to have their portraits done. Smith says that he thinks he has the talent to be a good artist, and that all he needs is good instruction and experience. The final letter from Europe was written from La Havre, France a few days before he returned to the United States.

A few letters written to his parents from Miami University during his first semester back in school and one contemporary letter round out the Smith correspondence. He discusses his heavy concentration of art classes; mentions that he is doing well in drawing, but painting and lettering are more difficult; and on February 13, 1946, writes that he has completed his first watercolor painting: “sorta messy but not bad for a beginner.” In an undated letter by Smith, probably written in the 1980s, he asks other artist friends to contribute money towards the American schooling of some family members of their Mexican guide.

Series 4: Financial (1984-1990)
This series features a modest amount of material related to the business aspects of Smith’s art career. Included is an account book covering 1986 through 1990 that shows Smith’s art sales as well as his business and personal expenses; two notebooks covering 1984 to 1987 that served as expense and travel logs for trips to workshops, demonstrations, and art shows are also included. Documented in the notebooks are sketching and painting trips to Mexico, the western United States, and other locations.

Series 5: Publicity and Promotion (1959-2002) 
This is a small series with materials relating to the publicizing and promotion of Lowell Ellsworth Smith’s art career. Included are a few art show invitations dated primarily from the 1980s and 1990s; a booklet about people from Hudson, Ohio, including Smith; and a self-published book about Ellsworth P. Smith, Lowell Smith’s father, which includes biographical information and material about his long tenure as art director for the Hoover Company. News clippings, mostly from local Ohio newspapers, document shows where Smith displayed his work and honors he received, including the selection of his Church Façade—Plaza del Oriente as the 1983 Prix de West Purchase Award winner. Other articles, such as those from Southwest Art and Art of the West, highlight Smith’s technique and artistry.

Series 6: Photographs (circa 1890-2002)
This series is arranged in two subseries: personal and professional. Many of the personal photographs include contemporary identifications and notations on the reverse. Personal photographs include images documenting the childhood and young adulthood of Lowell Ellsworth Smith’s father. Most of these photographs were mailed to Smith in letters from his father in the 1980s and early 1990s. Other photographs relating to Smith’s father include images of Ellsworth P. Smith Day in 1982 and of Ellsworth P. Smith’s 100th birthday in 1995. Collection photographs document the Smith family, including several images of Smith with his parents, his sister Barbara, and other extended family members in various combinations, as well as a carte de visite of Smith’s grandfather at age 16. Other personal photographs include images of Smith as a child, as a drummer in the high school dance band, with his fraternity brothers at Miami University, and with his wife Mary Ann, family, and friends at his 40th wedding anniversary celebration. Photographs from Smith’s time in the U. S. Army Air Force include 25 images of Smith, his fellow soldiers, and his girlfriends.

Professional photographs include more than 300 images documenting many aspects of Lowell Ellsworth Smith’s artistic career. Among the activities documented are art shows, including events at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum; painting trips to Europe; workshops and demonstrations throughout the United States; and friendships with other artists. Many black and white publicity stills from the 1980s and 1990s are also included. Smith’s artwork is documented in the Photography series by almost 100 images of completed watercolors. Most of these images are black and white, although a few are in color. The photographs have been arranged geographically by subject matter, but images of Smith’s Prix de West Exhibition entries have been separated out. One black and white photograph of a Smith commercial art illustration is also included.

Personal Names:
Boren, James
Brown, Harley
Bryers, Duane
Hill, Tom, 1922-
Kelley, Ramon, 1939-
Lovell, Tom, 1909-
Smith, Ellsworth P.
Smith, Lowell Ellsworth, 1924-
Smith, Mary Ann
Teague, Donald, 1897-

Corporate Names:
Hoover Company
Miami University (Oxford, Ohio)
National Academy of Western Art
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
United States—Army Air Forces—45th Air Depot Group

Subject Headings:
Artists—West (U.S.)
Commercial artists—Ohio
Prix de West Invitational Exhibition and Sale
Travel sketches
Watercolorists—West (U.S.)
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945—Anecdotes

The collection was donated by Lowell Ellsworth Smith in July and September 2004 and processed by Jonathan Nelson in August and October 2004.

The collection is open for research. It is advisable for researchers to discuss their proposed research with staff prior to visiting the Center.

Lowell Ellsworth Smith Papers, Box ##, Folder ##, Dickinson Research Center, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Series 1: Artwork – ca. 1950-1999

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
Art Catalogs
001/001 Art galleries, 1985-1990 [3]
001/002 Art shows, Cheyenne Frontier Days Western Art Show and Sale, 1992-1999 [4]
001/003 Art shows, Denver Rotary Club’s Artists of America, 1983-1984 [2]
001/004 Art shows, National Academy of Western Art (NAWA), 1978-1989 [4]
001/005 Art shows, North West Rendezvous Show, 1992-1996 [4]
001/006 Art shows, Rotary Club of Amarillo Art Exhibition and Sale, 1986-1988 [2]
001/007 Art shows, Scottsdale Invitational Art Show and Sale, 1986 [1]
001/008 Art shows, Western Heritage Sale, 1985 [2]
002/001 Art shows, Western Rendezvous of Art, 1987-1991 [5]
002/002 Art shows, Unidentified catalog page proof, undated [1]
Commercial Illustration
002/003 Advertising illustrations, undated [3]
002/004 Cincinnati Telephone Bulletin, 1959-1960 [2]
002/005 Greeting cards, 1987, undated [2]
002/006 HELP Home for Retarded Children Christmas card, undated [3]
002/007 Hoover Company Christmas card, circa 1950 [1]
002/008 Kathy Christman for Treasurer poster, 1962 [1]
002/009 Republic Steel annual report, 1959 [1]
002/010 Rubbermaid Products Christmas card, 1953 [1]
002/011 Saalfield Publishing book covers, circa 1961-circa 1964 [4]
Preliminary Studies
002/012 Figures, Carol, Akron Ballet, undated
002/013 Figures, Catholic priest, undated
002/014 Figures, Cowboy (five views), undated
002/015 Figures, Curio show owner, undated
002/016 Figures, Donkey, undated
002/017 Figures, Elderly peasant woman, undated
002/018 Figures, Face, undated
002/019 Figures, Head study, undated
002/020 Figures, Ladies of Lisbon, undated
002/021 Figures, Male portrait study I, undated
002/022 Figures, Male portrait study II, undated
002/023 Figures, Old man with hat, undated
002/024 Figures, Old woman with hat, undated
002/025 Figures, Peasant woman, undated
002/026 Figures, Priest and parishioner (Church Façade–Plaza del Oriente study), circa 1983
002/027 Figures, Seated man (General Tire calendar), undated
002/028 Figures, Standing nude, undated
002/029 Figures, Standing nude, undated
002/030 Figures, Standing woman and man, undated
002/031 Figures, Women, priest, cattle, undated
002/032 Figures, Young man with hat, undated
002/033 Figures, Young mother, undated
002/034 Figures, Young mother with infant, undated
002/035 Landscapes and cityscapes, Across the Cuyahoga Valley study, circa 1970
002/036 Landscapes and cityscapes, Adobe church, undated
002/037 Landscapes and cityscapes, Adobe house in winter, undated
002/038 Landscapes and cityscapes, Barbara Jean’s farm, Hudson, undated
002/039 Landscapes and cityscapes, Birches in winter/White clapboard house in summer, undated
002/040 Landscapes and cityscapes, Chesapeake, undated
002/041 Landscapes and cityscapes, Church Façade–Plaza del Oriente study, circa 1983
002/042 Landscapes and cityscapes, Colorado forest, undated
002/043 Landscapes and cityscapes, Colorado mountains, undated
002/044 Landscapes and cityscapes, Em’s backyard, undated
002/045 Landscapes and cityscapes, Fall landscape, undated
002/046 Landscapes and cityscapes, Forest in winter, undated
002/047 Landscapes and cityscapes, House under overcast sky, undated
002/048 Landscapes and cityscapes, Latin American street scene, undated
002/049 Landscapes and cityscapes, Latin American street scene, undated
002/050 Landscapes and cityscapes, Mexican church, undated
002/051 Landscapes and cityscapes, Mission church, undated
003/001 Landscapes and cityscapes, Moore’s Watch Repair, undated
003/002 Landscapes and cityscapes, Old fashioned city Christmas, undated
003/003 Landscapes and cityscapes, Posada, San Francisco/Farm house in fall, undated
003/004 Landscapes and cityscapes, Rocky seashores, undated
003/005 Landscapes and cityscapes, San Miguel, Mexico, undated
003/006 Landscapes and cityscapes, Settler’s Landing, 1797, undated
003/007 Landscapes and cityscapes, Small town street scene, undated
003/008 Landscapes and cityscapes, Street flower market, undated
003/009 Landscapes and cityscapes, Torrey pines study, circa 1972
003/010 Landscapes and cityscapes, Winter farm scene, undated
003/011 Landscapes and cityscapes, Winter farm scene, undated
003/012 Landscapes and cityscapes, Winter farm scene, undated
003/013 Landscapes and cityscapes, Winter landscape, undated

Series 2: Biographical – 1931-1943

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
003/014 News Clippings, 1943, undated
003/015 Report Card, 1931

Series 3: Correspondence – 1942-2002

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
003/016 A, 1986
003/017 B, 1983-1998
003/018 James & Mary Ellen Boren, 1982-1990, undated
003/019 Nancy Boren, circa 1994, undated
003/020 Harley Brown, 1986, undated
003/021 Duane Bryers, 1989-1990
003/022 C, 1984-1995
003/023 D, 1986-1992
003/024 E, 1992
003/025 F, 1979-1992
003/026 G, 1985-1993
003/027 H, 1980-1996, undated
003/028 K, 1985-2000
003/029 L, 1984-1995, undated
003/030 Tom Lovell, 1985-1992
003/031 M, 1976-1993
003/032 N, 1986-1998
003/033 O, 1982-1991
003/034 P, 1988-1993
003/035 R, 1984-1993, undated
003/036 Phil Roettinger, 1985-1988, undated
004/001 S, 1981-1998, undated
004/002-003 Ellsworth P. Smith, 1974-1992, undated
004/004-006 Lowell Ellsworth Smith, 1942-1944
005/001-002 Lowell Ellsworth Smith, 1945-1946, undated
005/003 Don Stone, 1990-2001, undated
005/004 T, 1993
005/005 Donald Teague, 1983-1986
005/006 V, 1987
005/007 W, Unidentified, 1986-2002

Series 4: Financial – 1984-1990

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
005/008 Account Book, 1986-1990
005/009 Bills, Invoices, Receipts, 1986-1990, undated
005/010 Trip Expense Books, 1984-1987

Series 5: Publicity & Promotion – 1959-2002

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
005/011 Art Show Invitations, 1981-2002, undated
005/012 Books and Booklets, From the Heart of Hudson, 1989
005/013 Books and Booklets, My Story by Ellsworth P. Smith, 1993
005/014 News Clippings, 1959-2001, undated

Series 6: Photographs – ca. 1890-2002

Box/Folder # Folder Title/Description
005/015 Ellsworth P. Smith, circa 1910-circa 1925 [15]
005/016 Ellsworth P. Smith, Ellsworth P. Smith Day, 1982 [5]
006/001 Ellsworth P. Smith, 100th birthday, 1995 [9]
006/002 Lowell Ellsworth Smith, circa 1925-1942, undated [17]
006/003 Lowell Ellsworth Smith, 40th wedding anniversary, 1987 [15]
006/004 Lowell Ellsworth Smith, World War II service, 1943-1945 [25]
006/005 Smith family, circa 1890-circa 2000 [31]
006/006 Art show judging, 1990 [1]
006/007 Artists and friends, circa 1985-circa 1995 [22]
006/008 Artwork, Dennis Pendleton, 1988 [4]
006/009 Artwork, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Commercial illustration, circa 1950 [1]
006/010 Artwork, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Fine art, undated [6]
006/011 Artwork, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Fine art, American subjects, 1960-1975, undated [31]
006/012 Artwork, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Fine art, Mexican subjects, undated [32]
006/013 Artwork, Lowell Ellsworth Smith, Fine art, Prix de West Exhibition entries, 1995-2002 [22]
006/014 On location, 1983, undated [3]
006/015 Publicity, 1982-1996, undated [23]
006/016 Shows, National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum shows, 1984-2001, undated [10]
006/017 Shows, Quail Hollow Gallery, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, circa 1990 [23]
006/018 Shows, Retrospective show, Moos Gallery, Hudson, Ohio, 2002 [17]
006/019 Shows, Union Station, St. Louis, Missouri, ca. 1985 [7]
006/020 Shows, Western Heritage Show, Houston, Texas, 1984 [16]
006/021 Studio parties, 1990-1998 [33]
006/022 Trips, Europe with western artists, 1983 [16]
006/023 Trips, Spain & Portugal with western artists, 1984 [32]
006/024 Workshops and Demonstrations, Demonstration, Carmel, California, ca. 1990 [1]
006/025 Workshops and Demonstrations, Demonstration, Scottsdale, Arizona, ca. 1986 [2]
006/026 Workshops and Demonstrations, NAWA demonstration, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1983 [9]
006/027 Workshops and Demonstrations, Workshop, Burnsville, North Carolina, 1981 [24]
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