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December 3, 2013


Filed under: david smith — Tags: — jherzlinger @ 7:54 am

I had the unique pleasure of being introduced to the sculptor David Smith at the home of one of my clients.  They have just recently purchased one of David Smith’s sculptures . I am not familiar with his work at that point and have now come to adore him!

I do hope you find his work as fabulous as I do!

David Smith, is considered the greatest American sculptor of the 20th century. He died in a car accident in 1965 (at the age of 59) during the planning of a major exhibit for the new Los Angeles County Museum of Art,

which opened on Wilshire Boulevard that year.

And in fact there is a retrospective that was just there of his work!

Born in Indiana in 1906, Smith worked as a welder and riveter at a Studebaker auto factory while attending college. He later moved to New York City to study art and was heavily influenced by Pablo Picasso and Cubism, Italian sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and Spanish artist Joan Miró.

When Smith saw images of Picasso’s iron constructions in 1932 he realized that he could use his welding skill and knowledge of industrial materials for making art.


Smith, who preferred to work with steel, iron, and aluminum, has “often been presented as a counterpart to the abstract expressionist painters or as a draftsman in space.” The welder from Indiana befriended many other prominent artists, including Adolph Gottlieb and Milton Avery

in the 1930′s and Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline in the 1950′s.

During WWII, smith worked as a welder for the American locomotive Company, assembling  locomotives and M7 tanks. He taught at Sarah Lawrence College.

After the war, with the additional skills that he had acquired, Smith released his pent-up energy and ideas in a burst of creation between 1945 and 1946. His output soared and he went about perfecting his own, very personal symbolism.

Traditionally, metal sculpture meant bronze casts, which artisans produced using a mold made by the artist. Smith, however, made his sculptures from scratch, welding together pieces of steel and other metals with his torch, in much the same way that a painter applied paint to a canvas;

his sculptures are almost always unique works.

Smith, who often said, “I belong with the painters,” made sculptures of subjects that had never before been shown in three dimensions. He made sculptural landscapes (e. g. Hudson River Landscape), still life sculptures (e. g. Head as Still Life) and even a sculpture of a page of writing

(The Letter). Perhaps his most revolutionary concept was that the only difference between painting and sculpture was the addition of a third dimension; he declared that the sculptor’s “conception is as free as a that of the painter. His wealth of response is as great as his draftsmanship.”[2]


David Smith’s signature

Smith was awarded the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1950, which was renewed the following year. Freed from financial constraints, he made more and larger pieces, and for the first time was able to afford to make whole sculptures in stainless steel.




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