Researchers at the museum archives will soon be able to explore the Sherman and Ruth Ward Lee Family Papers, which document the personal lives of the CMA’s third director and his beloved wife and collaborator. Donated by the Lee family, the collection tells the story not only of Sherman’s perseverance and success but also of his love for Ruth.
The couple met while students at American University in Washington, DC. After Ruth Ward appeared as one of America’s “Beauties of the Eastern Seaboard” in the April 12, 1938, issue of Life magazine, Sherman wasted no time and they were married less than five months later. He claimed that she “civilized” him; indeed, she was at his side throughout their 70-year marriage. Revered as a scholar and connoisseur, as well as one of the 20th century’s most esteemed art museum directors and art historians, Sherman led the CMA for 25 years.
The family papers reveal the romantic and playful side of a couple beloved by friends and family. Their story unfolds through love letters, whimsical missives to the Lee children, official records, family photographs, genealogical material, and memorabilia that include letters dating from Lee’s service in the navy during World War II and when he was later stationed in Tokyo as adviser on collections in the Arts and Monuments Division of the Supreme Allied Command. Photographs document the relationship between the couple and their family, friends, and colleagues, while a published genealogy traces their roots in America. The records of Lee’s tenure as museum director open to researchers in 2019.
Cleveland Art, November/December 2018