HOUGHTON CRANFORD SMITH

1887-1983

 

Biography

 

1887                 Houghton Cranford Smith was born in Arlington, New Jersey, to Nina Van Dorn Lane and Daniel Cranford Smith, an accountant who was there on a business assignment.

 

1888-1906         The Smiths moved to Brooklyn, home of the paternal grandparents. Young Houghton attended Frobel Academy and Pratt Institute High School.  Later the family moved to Montclair, New Jersey, in order to take advantage of a better school sustem for the growing family.

 

1907                 When the family summered in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Houghton studied there with Tom Hunt, who advised him to attend the Art Students League in New York.  He enrolled there in George Bridgeman’s class.

 

1909-1910         With his friend Oscar Gieberich, Houghton attended Charles W. Hawthorne’s summer class at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown.  Wishing to continue his studies after the term ended, Houghton turned for a period of time E. Ambrose Webster for further instruction.  The following summer Houghton and Gierberich went back to Provincetown.  They were Hawthorne’s monitors and lived in his studio.  That same Summer Houghton opened the first art supply store in Provincetown.

 

1911-1912         On a commerical art job, Houghton contracted lead poisoning.  During his convaslescence, he joined Hawthorne and some of his students in Bermuda, where they had gone to paint.  Some time in 1912 he visited Cuba and in the following year, visited Jamaica.

 

1913-1914         At the age of 26 Hougton joined the exodus of artists seeking instruction in Paris.  On Hawthorne’s recommendation he enrolled in Jean-Paul Lauren’s class at the Academie Julian. At the end of the term he and a fellow student, Harold P. Browne, son of the artist and teacher George Elmer Browne, made a tandem bicycle trip through the chateau region of France, later joining Browne’s parents.  The group traveled to Brittany where they took up residence and began painting.  The outbreak of WWI forced them to flee the country, leaving all belongings behind.

 

1915-1916         Houghton returned to Provincetown and joined his friends in the formation of the Provincetown Art Association where he exhibited in the first annual show and in 1916 he exhibited in the second annual show.  With his friend Tod Lindenmuth he also exhibited in Pennsylvania in a two- man show in Allentown.  In October, 1916,  Houghon sailed for South America with a family friend to the latter’s home in Chile, going by way of Uruguay and Argentina.  During the next five years while unable to secure passage home because of the German Blockade, Houghton traveled to the lengh and breadth of Chile- painting, sketching, and exhibiting a number of times.

 

1920-1925         He married Elena Peralto of Santiago and returned to the United States.  Through Harold Browne he got a job as Assistant Professor of Drawing and Painting at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, where he remained through 1925.  His work was exhibited and son Houghton Jr. was born.  Summers were spent painting and sketching in Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, where Houghton made friends with the native Indians, who became another source of inspiration for his many paintings of the Southwest.

 

1925-1933         The Smiths made a trip to the French Maritime Alps in 1925 but went back to New York for the birth of a second son, Gerrit Cranford, after which they returned to France via Spain.  Their daughter, Florence Cranford, was born in Nice.  It was New York again in 1928, followed by several months in Bermuda and then on to Spain and France in 1929, where they remained for five years...  There Houghton studied with Andre Lhote and later with Amedee Ozenfant.  He also met Matisse and got a “criticism”.  Summers were spent on the Mediterranean coast at Saurat (L’ Ariege) and Le Brusc (Sur- Mer-Var) and winters in Paris until 1933, when after a summer visit to Gerona, Spain, the family left Europe for the last time to return to New York.

 

1934-1938         They moved in with Houghton’s parents on the top floor of the New School for Social Research, built on the site of three former brownstones owned by Daniel Cranford Smith.  In exchange for donating land for the school, Smith had been given a life residency in the new building.  In 1938, Elena died after a long illness.

 

1939-1940         Amedee Ozenfant, a refugee from war torn France, was able to obtain a teaching post at the New School through the influence of Daniel Cranford Smith at the urging of his son Houghton.  In time Ozenfant opened his own school and once again his former pupil enrolled. A fellow student invited Houghton to accompany her and her husband on a trip to Mexico.  En route, they were joined by Laura Gilbert Williams of Lancaster, SC.

 

1941-1950         In 1941, Houghton and Laura were married and spent three months traveling in Guatemala.  Inspired by the dramatic scenery,  Houghton sketched every opportunity.  Upon their return to New York, Houghton leased a studio of his own for the first time in his life and began a very productive period.  He also became affiliated with the Passadoit Gallery on East 57th Street and was featured in one- man shows in 1944,1947, and 1949.  After seeing the first of these exhibitions. Homer St. Gaudens  in Houghton to submit paintings to the Carnegie Institute Annuals in Pittsburgh, where he showed from 1944 to 1949.

                        With Laura as chaffeur he also began exploring the New York scene.  A number of Manhattan cityscapes were painted as a result of these outings.  Among the places Houghton exhibited over these years were the Concoron Gallery of Art in Washington, The Philadelphia Art Alliance, The Robinson Gallery in Miami,  The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, The Joe and Emily Lowe Gallery at Hudson Guild, and The Long Beach Island foundation for the arts in New Jersey.  Works were aquired by the Columbia Museum of Art in South Carolina, The Wichita Art Museum in Kansas, The I.B.M. Corporate collection in New York, New York Hospital, the Butler institute of American Art, Youngstown, and by some private collectors.  In 1945 Houghton and Laura bought a Brownstone in the Chelsea section of New York.

 

1951-1983         When abstract expressionism became the vogue and the Passadoit Gallery was forced to close because of the death of one of the founders, Houghton quietly returned to his studio and continued to paint prolifically from the wealth of sketches and studies made since his early days on Cape Cod.  Summers were spent on Long Beach Island where the Smiths had bought a vacation home.  Their Houghton continued to sketch and paint.  He died at home in New York on February 17, 1983, at the age of 96.

 

1991                 The Metropolitan Museum of Art purchases four works of Houghton’s.  The four works are “Fall in Provincetown,” “A Curve in the Road,” “Blue Mountain, New Mexico” and “Desert Mountain, New Mexico.”

 

Selected Public Collections

 

Butler Institute, Youngstown, OH

Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC

Greenville County Museum, Greenville, SC

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

Wichita Museum of Art, Wichita, KS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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