A Finding Aid to the National Academy of Design Records, 1817-2012, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.natiacad
Creators:
National Academy of Design (U.S.)
Dates:
1817-2012
Languages:
English
.
Physical Description:
92.7 Linear feet
Repository:
The records of New York City's National Academy of Design measure 92.7 linear feet and date from 1817-2012. The records pertain to all three constituents of the tripartite organization consisting of the Academy, a membership body of artists founded in 1825; the school, founded at the same time to promote arts education; and the exhibition program, inaugurated in 1826. Extensive administrative records include minutes, committee files, director files, annual reports, constitutions, and correspondence and subject files of council officers. Exhibition records, also substantive, date to the Academy's first annual exhibition and include gallery and special exhibitions, as well as exhibitions at the Academy's museum, established in 1979. The collection also includes gifts and funding files, especially relating to endowments and prizes; membership records; National Academy Association records; Ranger Fund assignments; extensive files pertaining to the school's administration, courses of instruction, registrations, and attendance; twenty scrapbooks containing clippings and ephemera; Society of American Artists records; correspondence and ephemera from other organizations; transcripts from oral histories with Academy members; extensive photographic material documenting artists, members, the school, exhibitions, buildings, and artwork created by Academy members; artist files containing correspondence, writings, and sketches from those associated with the Academy; and assorted printed material and ephemera.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The records of New York City's National Academy of Design measure 92.7 linear feet and date from 1817-2012. The records pertain to all three constituents of the tripartite organization consisting of the Academy, a membership body of artists founded in 1825; the school, founded at the same time to promote arts education; and the exhibition program, inaugurated in 1826. Extensive administrative records include minutes, committee files, director files, annual reports, constitutions, and correspondence and subject files of council officers. Exhibition records, also substantive, date to the Academy's first annual exhibition and include gallery and special exhibitions, as well as exhibitions at the Academy's museum, established in 1979. The collection also includes gifts and funding files, especially relating to endowments and prizes; membership records; National Academy Association records; Ranger Fund assignments; extensive files pertaining to the school's administration, courses of instruction, registrations, and attendance; twenty scrapbooks containing clippings and ephemera; Society of American Artists records; correspondence and ephemera from other organizations; transcripts from oral histories with Academy members; extensive photographic material documenting artists, members, the school, exhibitions, buildings, and artwork created by Academy members; artist files containing correspondence, writings, and sketches from those associated with the Academy; and assorted printed material and ephemera.
The Academy minutes and committee files consist of official, original, and transcribed proceedings for the council, annual, business, and some committee meetings, as well as related correspondence, reports, financial documents, notes, drafts, and ballots pertaining to the Academy's administration and activities from its 1825 founding until 2006. As an organization actively engaged in the development of art and art education in the United States, the Academy minutes and committee files are a valuable resource on subjects and topics in the Academy's history; in particular, its founding, administration, school, and exhibition program.
Director files date from 1942-1990 and document the activities of four of the Academy's chief administrators, including Vernon Porter (1950-1966), Earl Tyler (1966-1967), Alice Melrose (1967-1977), and John H. Dobkin (1978-1990). Items include correspondence, memoranda, minutes, and printed material.
Annual reports, dating from 1828-2003, summarize the activities of the Academy over the course of a year, and may include presidents' reports, treasurers' reports, audits of financial operations by public accountants, and printed annual reports containing summaries from multiple council officers. Information pertains to the year's activities including finances, exhibitions, membership, the school, committee activities, awards, and other business.
Academy constitutions date from 1826-2012 and include the printed constitutions and by-laws as well as constitutional proposals. Constitutions and by-laws name the current council officials, professors, academicians, associates, and honorary members, and state the mission and guidelines for operation in regards to membership, officers, annual meetings, elections, school, exhibitions, and how the constitution can be amended or altered. Constitutional proposals contain amendment drafts, alterations, and related correspondence.
Council officer files, dating from 1848-1980, contain the correspondence and subjects files of Academy officers—presidents, vice presidents, corresponding secretaries, and treasurers—concerning all matters of Academy business and operations including membership, gifts and funds, the federal charter, exhibitions, juries, the school, scholarships, committee affairs, anniversaries, publicity, administrative matters, resignations, and relationships with other organizations.
General administrative files date from 1825-1982 and include ledgers, certificates, correspondence, and legal documents pertaining to the Academy's founding, building, financial accounts, art collection, and other administrative matters.
Exhibition files, dating from 1826-2003, document the Academy's long exhibition history and includes annual, gallery, special, and museum exhibitions. Files may include exhibition catalogs, photographs, press clippings, sales records, and correspondence related to jury selection, awards and prizes, and logistical planning. Files pertaining to the Academy's annual exhibitions comprise a bulk of the series. Held since 1826, the Annuals were organized and curated by Academy members, and considered to be an important and sweeping survey of contemporary American art.
Gifts and funding files date from 1860-2009 and include financial documents, ledgers, legal material, and correspondence concerning the bequests, endowments, donations, and other gifts that financed the operations of the Academy and school. A significant number of records pertain to the Abbey Trust Fund and the Archer M. Hunting Fund.
Membership files, 1826-2012, document Academy members, honorary members, fellows, and the nominations and elections whereby members were voted into the Academy. Materials include registers, certificates, nomination ledgers and proposals, candidate biographies, and ballots.
The National Academy Association files date from 1911-1959 and contain a constitution, plan, and agreement, as well as correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports for the Association, incorporated in 1912 with the aim to erect a building shared by several New York art societies. At the time of incorporation, the Association consisted of members from the National Academy of Design, American Water Color Society, American Institute of Architects, Architectural League of New York, New York Water Color Club, National Sculpture Society, Municipal Art Society, Society of Beaux-Arts Architects, Mural Painters, Society of Illustrators, and a number of city representatives and citizens.
The Ranger Fund assignment files, 1919-2008, document the distribution of artworks by living American artists to institutions throughout the United States, in accordance with the will of Henry Ward Ranger. The Ranger Fund was initiated to stimulate public interest in the work of contemporary American painters in 1919, when the Academy received a bequest from Henry Ward Ranger, totaling $400,000. Ranger stated in his will that the capital should be invested and the income used as a purchase fund to facilitate gifts of paintings by living American artists to arts institutions throughout the United States. Files document the assignment of particular works of art to institutions through the official agreement, related correspondence, and in some instances, photographs of the artwork.
Extensive school records, dating from 1826-2008, contain administrative files, enrollment records, course files, student affairs files, and printed material documenting all aspects of the school's activities aligned with the Academy's mission to educate aspiring professional artists. A bulk of this series consists of student course registrations, documented in registers, then on index cards beginning in the 1930s. While information collected varied over the decades, registrations document student names and the year, and may additionally include course name, instructor, and cost.
Twenty Academy scrapbooks document the organization's activities from 1828-1939 and include clippings and ephemera. Three of the scrapbooks are devoted to specific topics, including one for the Society of American Artists, one for both the Society of American Artists and the Society of American Fakirs, and one for the Academy's centennial exhibition.
The Society of American Artists files, 1878-1906, document the formation of the Society as a departure from the Academy in 1877, its independent operations and activities, and its eventual consolidation with the Academy in 1906. The Society's members have included Edwin Abbey, James Carroll Beckwith, Mary Cassatt, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Eakins, George Inness Jr., John La Farge, Albert Pinkham Ryder, among many others.
Files from other organizations date from 1817-1997 and may include correspondence, ledgers, and printed material. Many of these organizations had business with the Academy, and records pertain to events, meetings, and exhibitions. Notable organizations include the American Academy of Fine Arts, American Federation of Arts, American Watercolor Society, Art Students League, Fine Arts Federation of New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Etching Club, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Salmagundi Club.
Oral history transcripts date from 2002-2007. Eight comprehensive interviews, conducted by Avis Berman for the Academy, are with Academy members and cover all aspects of the artists' lives, including family, early life, beginning career, mentors, contemporaries, influences, patrons, awards, residencies, as well as the artists' relationship with the Academy. The interview transcripts provide first-hand accounts of the organization, particularly from circa 1940 up to the time of the interview. Artists interviewed include Will Barnet, Hyman Bloom, Richard Haas, Ellen Lanyon, Jules Olitski, Bernard Olshan, Paul Resika, and Dorothea Rockburne.
Photographic material, dating from 1845-2010, includes a wide variety of formats and processes including 19th and 20th photographic prints, glass plate negatives, copy prints, contact sheets, slides, and 35mm negatives. Subjects include artists and others associated with the Academy, the school, exhibitions and events, Academy buildings, artwork, and reference photographs. Many 19th century photographs contain descriptive annotations. Supplementary inventories and guides prepared by Academy archivists are scattered throughout the series.
Artist files date from 1826-2004 and include the correspondence, writings, manuscripts, diaries, exhibition catalogs, and clippings of many notable artists involved with the Academy, including Asher B. Durand and Rembrandt Peale. Of particular note are two notebooks Durand gifted to the Academy, both containing notes and sketches from anatomy lectures.
While printed material is scattered throughout, the final series collects a small number of additional announcements, brochures, clippings, illustrations, and other ephemera not filed in other series.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as nineteen series.
  • Series 1: Minutes and Committee Files, 1825-2006 (11.5 linear feet; Boxes 1-11, BV 100-106)
  • Series 2: Director Files, 1942-1990 (0.5 linear feet; Box 11)
  • Series 3: Annual Reports, 1828-2003, circa 2010 (2.1 linear feet; Boxes 11-13, OV 139-142)
  • Series 4: Constitutions, 1826-2012 (1.1 linear feet; Boxes 13-14)
  • Series 5: Council Officers, 1848-1980 (4 linear feet; Boxes 14-18)
  • Series 6: General Administration, 1825-1982 (0.6 linear feet; Boxes 18, 126)
  • Series 7: Exhibitions, 1826-2003, 2008 (14.4 linear feet; Boxes 18-33)
  • Series 8: Gifts and Funding, 1860-2009 (4.1 linear feet; Boxes 33-37)
  • Series 9: Membership, 1826-2012 (3.4 linear feet; Boxes 37-39, 127-131)
  • Series 10: National Academy Association, 1911-1959 (0.4 linear feet; Box 39)
  • Series 11: Ranger Fund Assignments, 1919-2008 (4.3 linear feet; Boxes 39-44)
  • Series 12: School, 1826-2008 (28.5 linear feet; Boxes 44-56, 68-99)
  • Series 13: Scrapbooks, 1828-1939 (4 linear feet; Box 56, BV 107-125)
  • Series 14: Society of American Artists, 1878-1906 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 56-57)
  • Series 15: Other Organizations, 1817-1997 (1.8 linear feet; Boxes 57-59, 131)
  • Series 16: Oral History Transcripts, 2002-2007 (0.7 linear feet; Box 59)
  • Series 17: Photographic Material, 1845-2010 (6.1 linear feet; Boxes 60-63, 131-138, OV 143-144)
  • Series 18: Artist Files, 1826-2004 (3.5 linear feet; Boxes 63-66)
  • Series 19: Printed Material, 1839-1954 (0.4 linear feet; Boxes 67, 131, OV 145)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The National Academy of Design (1825- ) based in New York City, is a tripartite organization consisting of a membership body of artists, a school, and an exhibition program. The Academy was founded in 1825 by a group of professional artists with the mission to promote the fine arts in America through exhibition and education. Originally named the New York Drawing Association, the Academy was the first organization in the United States established and managed by professional artists. Samuel F.B. Morse, the Academy's first president, was influenced by the organization of the Royal Academy in London, which was comprised of professional artist members and elected government council, an art school, and a venue for exhibitions. After unsuccessful negotiations to unite with the American Academy of Fine Arts, the New York Drawing Association reformed as the National Academy of The Arts of Design on January 19, 1826. Among the founders were mostly young artists who became prominent figures in American art, including Frederick S. Agate, Thomas Cole, Thomas S. Cummings, Asher B. Durand, John Frazee, Charles C. Ingham, Henry Inman, Gerlando Marsiglia, Samuel F. B. Morse, Samuel L. Waldo, and Charles Cushing Wright.
The first Academy members were elected in January 1826, and levels of membership were established shortly thereafter. Originally there were four levels of Academy membership: associates, academicians, artists, and honorary corresponding members. The category of artists was eliminated in 1829, and the honorary member category, established to recognize American artists living outside New York, distinguished foreign artists, and patrons and friends of the Academy, was eliminated in 1862 (the constitution was not amended with this change until 1896). Since 1869, the residency requirement for election to active membership was eliminated and membership was opened to all American artists. In 1920, the classification of honorary corresponding member was re-introduced to recognize representatives of other national academies. With the 1997 constitution, the honorary corresponding member classification was again eliminated, and in 1994 the associate category was eliminated.
Artists are proposed for membership by academicians through the membership committee and are elected for life by a sixty percent majority, based on recognized excellence and significant contributions to the field. Procedures and rules for nominating and choosing new academicians changed over the years, as detailed in the constitutions. Associates were at one time required to present a portrait of themselves upon election and academicians were required to provide an additional representative work upon election. With the elimination of the category of associate in 1994, only one representative work is currently required. These works of art become part of the Academy's permanent collection.
The original classes of professional artists were painting, sculpture, architecture, and engraving. These professional classes were modified over the years. In 1936 the engraving class was made more comprehensive, including all of the graphic arts. Watercolor was added as a class in 1943 and was codified in the 1945 constitution. However, the division into five distinct classes started to create difficulties in how specific works of art were to be categorized. In 1981 the council eased the rules regarding separate media classification so that members could submit a work in any medium to the annual exhibitions regardless of the class to which they had been elected. The constitution of 1994 restated four professional classes—painting, sculpture, graphics, and architecture—which were further reduced in the 2011 constitution to two: visual arts and architecture.
Until 2009, the governing body of the Academy was the council. The seven officers of the council were president, vice-president, treasurer, assistant treasurer, corresponding secretary, assistant corresponding secretary and recording secretary, all of whom were required to be academicians. In 2009, a new constitution provided for a board of governors, replacing the council. The five officers of the board of governors are chair, vice-chair, president, vice-president, and treasurer. Only the offices of president and vice-president are required to be held by academicians.
Central to the Academy's mission, the school began with an anatomy lecture for the New York Drawing Association, delivered by Dr. Frederick G. King in November 1825. The first drawing session took place in November 1826 in the Old Alms House at City Hall Park with two academicians and twenty students. In the school's early years, professional artists met with students to draw from plaster casts of antique sculpture in the academic tradition. Both lectures and studio training were central the school's early curricula. Life classes, the practice of drawing from live models, were introduced in 1837, but only to advanced male students. A life class for women was not instituted until 1857, even though women were allowed membership to the Academy since its beginning. Due to financial difficulties at the Academy, the school was forced to move locations and shut down its operations for extended periods. Mounting dissatisfaction and frustration led several students and Lemuel E. Wilmarth, one of the school's leaders and first full-time professional instructor, to leave the Academy in 1875 and form a new school, the Art Students League. While charging tuition was unpopular, the Academy realized that it was necessary to ensure the school's sustainability, and implemented fee structures with varying success over the second half of the 19th century and first half of the 20th. Eventually, tuition was established by 1951, when the school was reopened at a new location, 5th Avenue and 89th Street.
Exhibitions have always been an important activity for the Academy, even prior to the opening of the National Academy Museum in 1979. Since 1826, the Academy has held annual exhibitions intended to reflect contemporary art currents in America. Any American artist was eligible to submit work to be reviewed by a jury of selection, comprised of academicians. Throughout the 19th century, the annual exhibitions at the Academy were one of the most significant and influential in the country. The selection process for these exhibitions was a critical topic, at times actively discussed in the press, and continually undergoing modification and change. In addition to the Annuals, the galleries of the Academy were often rented or loaned to outside organizations such as the American Watercolor Society, Audubon Artists, and the National Association of Women Artists. The galleries also mounted special exhibitions curated by its members and hosted a certain number of travelling exhibitions organized by other museums or art organizations. The museum, opened in 1979, hosted and presented major exhibitions, many focusing on historic European subjects.
Official Names of the Academy 1825-2017
1825
The New York Drawing Association
1826
The National Academy of The Arts of Design
1828
The National Academy of Design
1997
The National Academy Museum and School of Fine Art
2017
The National Academy of Design
National Academy of Design Meeting, Exhibition, and School Locations
1826
Old Alms House at City Hall Park in lower Manhattan
1827-1830
Chambers Street over the Arcade Baths
1831-1840
Corner of Nassau and Beckman Streets, the Mercantile Library on the third floor of Clinton Hall
1841 to 1849
346 Broadway (at Leonard Street), the third and fourth floors of the New York Society Library
1850-1854
663 Broadway, where the Academy erected a suite of six galleries
1855-1856
548 Broadway (over Dr. Chapin's Church)
1857
663 Broadway
1858-1861
10th Street and 4th Avenue, the upper floor of a building
1861-1863
625 Broadway, the Institute of Art
1865-1899
23rd Street and Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue South)
1899-1940
109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue; exhibition galleries at 215 West 57th Street
1940-2017
1083 Fifth Avenue at East 89th Street

Administration
Processing Information
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Hilary Price and Caroline Donadio in 2018. The Minutes and Committee Files series was processed by National Academy of Design project archivist Anna Bekker is 2013, and preliminary processing of the entire collection was completed by other Academy archivists prior to donation. Series 18: Artist Files was further processed for digitization by Stephanie Ashley in 2020.
Existence and Location of Copies
A small portion of the collection is available on 35mm microfilm at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan including several photographs of dinners and the 1924 annual exhibition jury (reel N738); handwritten transcriptions of minute books of treasurers' reports, 1825-1919, meetings of members and committees of the Academy and other institutions, associations and societies, transcribed (incomplete) by Academician George W. Maynard (reels 798-799); a ledger of the accounts of the Trustees of the National Academy of Design, "Trust No. 2," 1854-1860 (reel 3161), a student register of the Antique School, 1826-1892, and a Student Register of the Life School, 1835-1897 (reel 5051). Not all microfilmed materials were donated.
Author
Hilary Price and Caroline Donadio
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The bulk of the collection was donated by the National Academy of Design in 2018. The trustees' ledger book in series 6 was donated in 1979 by Warder Cadbury of the Adirondack Museum; it is unclear how Cadbury acquired the ledger. Microfilm reels 798-799 containing transcriptions of minutes were given to the Archives by Lois Fink in 1974.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
This bulk of this collection is open for research. Boxes 63-66 are temporarily closed to researchers due to archival processing and digitization. Access to original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center.
Conditions Governing 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.
Preferred Citation
National Academy of Design records, 1817-2012. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Scrapbooks Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Interviews Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art Schools -- New York (State) -- New York Function Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Arts organizations -- New York (State) -- New York Function Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Durand, Asher Brown, 1796-1886 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ranger, Henry Ward, 1858-1916 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Federation of Arts Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Abbey, Edwin Austin, 1852-1911 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lanyon, Ellen Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

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