Archives of American Art

A Finding Aid to the Ruth Duckworth Papers, circa 1930-2010, in the Archives of American Art

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.duckruth
Creators:
Duckworth, Ruth, 1919-2009
Dates:
circa 1930-2010
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
4.7 Linear feet
Repository:
The papers of sculptor and ceramicist Ruth Duckworth measure 4.7 linear feet and date from circa 1930 to 2010. The collection comprises exhibition files for Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor, a multifaceted retrospective of Duckworth's life and work; professional files including business papers, writings, and correspondence regarding Duckworth's professional activities; printed materials recording Duckworth's career; artwork that includes sketches of ceramics, figure drawings, self portraits, and paper cutouts; and photographic materials of Duckworth, her artwork and studio, travel in Europe and Japan, and personal snapshots.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The papers of sculptor and ceramicist Ruth Duckworth measure 4.7 linear feet and date from circa 1930 to 2010. The collection documents Duckworth's career through exhibition files, professional files, printed materials, artwork, and photographs.
Exhibition files are for Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor, a multifaceted retrospective of Duckworth's life and work organized by her agent Thea Burger and curator Jo Lauria. Professional files consist of business papers, writings, correspondence regarding Duckworth's professional activities, and files containing Burger's speech delivered at Duckworth's memorial service and sympathy letters received after Duckworth's death. Printed material consists of clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, and a few miscellaneous items. Duckworth's artwork includes sketches of ceramics, figure drawings, self portraits, and paper cutouts. Photographic materials picture Duckworth, her artwork and studio, and travel in Europe and Japan, and include personal snapshots.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 5 series.
  • Series 1: Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor Exhibition Files, 1996-circa 2005 (1.0 linear feet; Box 1)
  • Series 2: Professional Files, circa 1970-2009 (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 2, 6)
  • Series 3: Printed Materials, circa 1970-2010 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 4: Artwork, circa 1935-circa 1985 (0.2 linear feet; Box 2)
  • Series 5: Photographic Materials, circa 1930-circa 2005 (2.8 linear feet; Boxes 3-6)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Ruth Duckworth (1919-2009) was a sculptor and ceramicist in Chicago, Illinois, known for abstract modernist forms that were heavily inspired by the natural world.
Duckworth was born Ruth Windmüller in Hamburg, Germany, as the youngest of five children. As a child, Duckworth was often sick and would draw in bed as a way to pass the time. It became evident that she had talent as an artist, but under the Nazi regime in Germany, Duckworth was unable to attend art school because her father was Jewish.
In 1936 she left Germany as a refugee to live in Liverpool, England, with her sister. She attended the Liverpool School of Art from 1936 to 1940. She then moved to Manchester where she began making puppets until she took work in a munitions factory to support the war effort. Around 1942, Duckworth moved to London with friends she had made at the factory. There she met and married artist Aidron Duckworth in 1949. She also became acquainted with other sculptors, including Lucie Rie and Henry Moore, who encouraged her to pursue sculpture.
Duckworth attended Hammersmith Art School, then taught at the Central School of Art and Craft from 1959 to 1964 before taking a teaching position at the University of Chicago in 1964. After feeling that her career had been slow to develop she enjoyed breakthroughs in the late 1960s and 1970s with the commissions Earth, Water, and Sky, for the University of Chicago Geophysical Science Building, and Clouds Over Lake Michigan for Dresdner Bank in Chicago. Duckworth and Aidron divorced in 1967.
In 1981 Duckworth met Thea Burger, while working on a commission for one of Burger's clients. The two realized they could both benefit from a working relationship where Burger worked as Duckworth's agent taking care of the business aspects of the sculptor's career while Duckworth focused solely on her artwork.
Burger organized Ruth Duckworth: Modernist Sculptor, a multifaceted retrospective of Duckworth's life and work, with curator Jo Lauria in 2005. A catalog that included written contributions by Tony Birks, Martin Puryear, and Jo Lauria and a short film titled, Ruth Duckworth: My Life in Clay, were created to accompany the retrospective. The exhibition opened in January 2005 at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Over the course of two years the exhibition traveled to the Chicago Cultural Center, Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Cranbrook Art Museum, Hoffman Gallery at Lewis and Clark University, Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian Institution's Renwick Gallery.
Duckworth had intended to return to the United Kingdom later in life but continued living in her Chicago home and studio until she died in 2009.

Administration
Author
Sarah Mundy
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Ruth Duckworth papers were donated in 2015 by Thea Berger, Duckworth's agent. A portion of this material had been lent for microfilming in 1977 by Ruth Duckworth. Additional contact sheets and negatives of Duckworth were donated in 2020 by photographer Cal Kowal.
Separated Materials
The Archives of American Art also holds microfilm of material lent for microfilming on Reel 1397 including biographical information, photographs, twelve silhouette cutouts, a scrapbook of clippings, and loose printed material. Loaned materials returned to the donor that were not subsequently donated are not described in the collection container inventory.
Processing Information
The collection was processed, and a finding aid prepared by Sarah Mundy in 2022.
Existence and Location of Copies
Material lent for microfilming is available on 35mm microfilm Reel 1397 at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Using the Collection
Terms of Use
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Researchers interested in accessing born-digital records in this collection must use access copies. Contact References Services for more information.
Preferred Citation
Ruth Duckworth papers, circa 1930-2010. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Related Materials
Also in the Archives of American Art is an interview with Ruth Duckworth conducted on April 27, 2001 by Kenneth R. Trapp for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America at the studios of Smithsonian Productions, Washington, D.C.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Ceramicists -- Illinois -- Chicago Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sculptors -- Illinois -- Chicago Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women artists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women sculptors Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Women ceramicists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketchbooks Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Jewish artists Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lauria, Jo Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Burger, Thea Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions