International waters : seventy five selected contemporary watercolors of three countries : from the American Watercolor Society, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the Royal Watercolour Society
International waters, 1991-93, Canada, United Kingdom, United States
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, as well as printed material and photographs.
Scope and Content Note:
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.
The collection is arranged into 5 series:
Series 1: Administration and History, 1891-1970 (Box 1-2; 1.1 linear feet)
Series 2: Membership, 1941, 1951-1960s (Box 2; 0.7 linear feet)
Series 3: Exhibition Files, 1867-1910, 1955-1975 (Box 2-3, BV 5; 1.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Printed Material, 1868, 1943-1972 (Box 3; 6 folders)
Series 5: Photographs, circa 1940-1977 (Box 3-4; 0.5 linear feet)
The American Watercolor Society still functions as an active artists' organization that was founded in New York City on December 5, 1866 as the American Society of Painters in Water Colors. The first president was Samuel Colman. Initially, election to membership was very selective, consisting of active members and honorary members (those living outside of New York City). From the beginning, the most important activity of the organization was its annual exhibition, open to both members and non-members, the first being held in the winter of 1867-1868.
The Society's first six annual exhibitions were held jointly with the National Academy of Design at the Academy's galleries. Beginning with the seventh exhibition, the society initiated independent annual exhibitions until 1899. The early exhibitions were very successful, and the society showed work from many prominent American and European artists such as Thomas Eakins, Abbott Thayer, Eugene Delacroix, and John Ruskin. 1888 marked the first year that the society awarded prizes to the best works. By the early 1900s the society had developed a program for exhibitions that included a jury of selection and jury of awards.
In 1903 the society was officially incorporated as the American Water Color Society, to "advance the art of water color painting in this country." Membership classifications changed slightly and artists were either classified as active (professional artists) or associate members. By 1904 the society was struggling financially, and annual exhibitions were held at various spaces around New York City. In 1905 the society established annual rotary (traveling) exhibitions. From 1922 to 1931, the society combined exhibition venues with the New York Water Color Club (founded in 1890), and in January 1941 these two organizations merged under the name of the American Watercolor Society and created a new constitution. This merger brought many female artists who were active in the New York Water Color Club to the society which had previously not recognized many women painters. In 1941 the society established their headquarters in one room at the National Academy of Design's new building where they also held annual exhibitions in the galleries.
Frederic Whitaker, a painter and businessman, became president in 1949 and brought a renewed vigor to the society. He reinstituted traveling exhibitions, created new committees, and increased the number of exhibition awards. He also established an office in the Flatiron building and hired an Executive Secretary. After he resigned in 1956, the society experienced a period of financial troubles that were immediately addressed when Mario Cooper became president in 1959. Offices were moved back to the National Academy, several new officers were appointed, and after a period of fiscal austerity, a scholarship program and central awards fund were established. In 1967 the society had its 100th annual exhibition and also had an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, entitled, "Two Hundred Years of Watercolor Painting In America, An Exhibition Commemorating The Centennial of the American Watercolor Society." Over the next few years the society organized and exchanged exhibitions with other countries, including Canada, Mexico, England, and Australia. Mario Cooper remained president until 1986, and the American Watercolor Society remains an active artists' organization today.
Additional records may be available by contacting the American Watercolor Society.
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.
The American Watercolor Society loaned material for microfilming in 1968, and, in 1978, donated some of this material. The bound volume of the record of works shown in annual exhibitions, 1897-1904, was microfilmed in 1972 and subsequently donated in 1978 by the American Antiquarian Society.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
Watercolor painting -- 19th century -- United States Search this
An interview of William Thon conducted 1992 December 15-16, by Robert Brown for the Archives of American Art, at the artist's home at Port Clyde, Maine. Thon discusses his childhood and education; early exhibitions; service in the Navy during World War II; being represented by Midtown Galleries from 1943 on; his dealers Alan and Mary Gruskin; moving to Maine; the importance to his art of Europe and his time spent at the American Academy in Rome; his painting technique; and his watercolors.
Biographical / Historical:
William Thon (1906-2000) was a painter from New York, N.Y. and Port Clyde, Maine. Studied at the Art Students League. Served as a trustee and artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome.
Originally recorded on 2 sound cassettes. Reformatted in 2010 as 4 digital wav files. Duration is 3 hr., 5 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and administrators. Funding for this interview provided by John W. Payson.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.