- Collection ID:
Ranger, Henry Ward, 1858-1916
- Physical Description:
The estate papers of New York tonalist painter Henry Ward Ranger, measure one linear foot and date from 1888-circa 1999, with the bulk of the material dating from 1904-1954.The collection primarily documents the settlement of Ranger's contested will and the administration of his estate, but also provides scattered biographical information on Ranger's life, provenance information about his work, and documentation of the significance of his estate gift to the National Academy of Design. Records include appraisal information including an estate ledger, correspondence and memoranda including two letters from Ranger, court documents, financial and real estate records, news clippings, and two photographs and eight negatives of Ranger.
Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The estate papers of New York tonalist painter Henry Ward Ranger, measure one linear foot and date from 1888-circa 1999, with the bulk of the material dating from 1904-1954.The collection primarily documents the settlement of Ranger's contested will and the administration of his estate, but also provides scattered biographical information on Ranger's life, provenance information about his work, and the significance of his estate gift to the National Academy of Design. Records include appraisal information including an estate ledger, correspondence and memoranda including two letters from Ranger, court documents, financial and real estate records, news clippings, and two photographs and six negatives of Ranger.
Series 1 documents the appraisal, administration, and distribution of Ranger's estate by the National Academy of Design. The bulk of the material comprises appraisal records, including an appraisal of Ranger's Noank studio by William Macbeth; correspondence and agreements with museums and other art institutions that received artwork purchased by the Ranger fund, including the Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Des Moines Association of Fine Arts, Fine Arts Society of San Diego, Museum of Fine Arts , Houston, Oberlin College, and others; and financial records documenting assets and liabilities, including cancelled checks, receipts, investment and tax records, and records documenting real estate investments that contributed to the estate. Also found is a folder of personal papers, including two letters from Ranger, and a photograph and six negatives of Ranger, and a folder of nine letters from Ranger family members.
Series 2 primarily comprises court documents and legal counsel notes and correspondence related to the litigation of Ranger's will, and the process of proving the the legitimacy of Ranger's original will and the fraudulence of the will presented by Edith Ranger's lawyers.
The collection is arranged as two series.
- Series 1: Henry Ward Ranger Estate, 1888-circa 1999 (0.95 linear feet; Boxes 1, 4)
- Series 2: Settlement of Will, 1907-1920 (1.05 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Tonalist landscape and marine painter, Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916), became a full academician of the National Academy of Design in 1906 and bequeathed his entire residuary estate to the academy. The investment of this substantial gift of nearly $400,000, known as the Ranger fund, would provide for the purchase of paintings by living American artists, which were distributed or accessioned by the Smithsonian Institution's then National Collection of Fine Arts.
Ranger was born in western New York State and attended Syracuse University for two years before opening a studio in New York City in the mid-1880s. He traveled to Europe and lived in the Netherlands for several years, where he was influenced by the Dutch watercolorists and the Barbizon masters. Ranger was known for his experiments with pigments and colors, his interiors of forests, and marine views of the shoreline in Connecticut, where he spent summers and helped to establish the artist colony in Old Lyme. He further divided his time between a country studio in Noank, Connecticut, his studio in the city, and trips to Puerto Rico and Jamaica in the winter months.
Following his death in 1916, Ranger's will was probated and involved in costly litigation for two years due to the presentation of another will asserting Ranger's sister, Edith, as the beneficiary. The second will was proven to be false and the Ranger fund went on to make a significant contribution to the Smithsonian's collection of American art, allowing the institution to ultimately claim sixty-six of the paintings purchased by the fund and amass a collection which represented popular academic tastes in American art over more than half a century.
Existence and Location of Copies
A portion of the collection was digitized in 2019 and is available on the Archives of American Art website. Materials which have been digitized include records which provide biographical information about Ranger and provenance information for his artwork, or document his estate gift to the National Academy of Design.
Records which have not been digitized include records documenting the contesting of the will by Edith Ranger and the litigation and criminal investigations which ensued; records documenting individual claims against the will; routine estate records, not related to the purchase and distribution of artwork; and duplicates.
The collection was processed by Stephanie Ashley and portions of the collection were digitized in 2018, with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Walton Family Foundation.
Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by The Walton Family Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers were donated to the Archives of American Art by the National Academy of Design in 2018.
Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center.
for additional information.
Henry Ward Ranger estate papers, 1888-circa 1999, bulk 1904-1954. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001