Skip to content

Richardson, Ted

    Full Name: Richardson, Ted

    Other Names:

    • Ted Richardson
    • E. P. Richardson
    • Edgar Preston Richardson

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1902

    Date Died: 1985

    Place Born: Glens Falls, Warren, NY, USA

    Place Died: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): American (North American)


    Americanist art historian and director of the Detroit Institute of Art, 1945-1962. Richardson was the son of George Lynde Richardson and Grace Belcher (Richardson). He graduated from Williams College cum laude in 1925, studying further at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts between 1925-1928. In 1930 he joined the Detroit Institute of Art in its education department. He married Constance Coleman the following year. Richardson was appointed assistant director of the Institute in 1933, effectively running the institution while its director, Wilhelm Rheinhold Otto Valentiner, lived in his native Germany. He joined the Art Quarterly as its editor in 1938 (remaining until 1967). His first book, The Way of Western Art, appeared in 1939. He followed this by American Romantic Painting in 1944. In 1945 Richardson succeeded Valentiner as director. His first honorary doctorate was awarded from Williams College in 1947. A monograph on Washington Alston appeared in 1948. While researching American art, Richardson noted the difficulty in finding the support documents to American painting, such as artists’ diaries, contracts, letters and other information. In 1954 he convinced the Detroit businessman and collector Lawrence A. Fleischman (1925-1997) to fund a collection center for this material, named the Archives of American Art. The Archives became the major center for primary-source support material of American art. Richardson published his landmark book on American Art: the Story of 450 Years in 1956. The book was one of the first synthetic treatments of American art and set the foundation for the study of the subject. In 1962 Richardson left the DIA to become the director of the Henry Francis Winterthur Museum in Delaware. Another survey of American art, A Short History of American Painting, was published in 1963. That year, too, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Delaware and became chairman of the Smithsonian Art Commission (to 1966). He remained at the Winterthur until 1966. During this time he met John D. Rockefeller III (1906-1978) and became the millionaire’s art advisor until Rockefeller’s death. In 1970 the Smithsonian Institution assumed responsibility for the Archives of American Art. The same year he joined the advisory committee for the American Art Journal. In 1982 he authored the catalog entries for the National Gallery of Art exhibition on Charles Wilson Peale along with Lillian B. Miller. He suffered a series of strokes in the retirement home and died at age 82. Nearly all of his books were enlarged and reissued by himself. Richardson’s Painting in American has largely been superseded by later books which incorporate women, minority and non-Western-tradition art. However, his book stands among the first to seriously look at documentary evidence for American art as a principal of evaluation.

    Selected Bibliography

    • Washington Allston: A Study of the Romantic Artist in America. Chicago: 1948;
    • American Romantic Painting. New York: E. Weyhe c1944;
    • and Sellers, Coleman, and Miller, Lillian B. and Hindle, Brooke. Charles Willson Peale and his World. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1983;
    • Painting in America: the Story of 450 Years. New York: Crowell, 1956;
    • The Way of Western Art, 1776-1914. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1939.


    • [obituaries:] McGill, Douglas. C. “Edgar Richardson, 82, Dies;
    • Art Historian and Archivist.” New York Times, March 29, 1985, p. A20;
    • McCoy, Garnett. “Edgar P. Richardson: An Appreciation.” Archives of American Art Journal 25, no. 1/2 (1985): 2;
    • “In Memoriam: Edgar Preston Richardson (1902-1985).” American Art Journal 17, no. 2 (Spring, 1985): 92-93.
    • Kleinbauer, W. Eugene. Modern Perspectives in Western Art History: An Anthology of 20th-Century Writings on the Visual Arts. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971, p. 48 mentioned.



    "Richardson, Ted." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: