Artist biography

David Smith 1906-1965

American sculptor and painter, born in Decatur, Indiana. Studied art briefly at Ohio University 1924-5, then worked on the assembly line in the Studebaker factory. Moved to New York in 1926. Studied on and off at the Art Students League 1926-31. Painted in an abstract-Surrealist style. Met John Graham, Stuart Davis, Gorky, de Kooning. Began in 1931-2 to attach wood and other materials to his paintings, and in 1933 to make sculptures in forged iron or steel, inspired by Picasso and Gonzalez. Decided in 1935 to devote himself primarily to sculpture. Visited Europe, including Paris, 1935-6, then was employed on the WPA Federal Art Project. First one-man exhibition at the East River Gallery, New York, 1938. During the war, worked 1942-4 as welder of tanks and locomotives. Lived from 1944 at Bolton Landing, New York, where he had spent part of his time since 1929. Made open linear sculptures of birds of prey and totem figures, often incorporating found objects, followed from the early 1950s by the use of larger and simpler forms and works in series ('Cubi', 'Zig', etc.). Associated with the Abstract Expressionist painters. Died after a lorry accident near Bennington, Vermont.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.692