Artist biography

Hassel Smith born 1915

American painter born in Sturgis, Michigan. Studied art history at Northwestern University until 1936, and painting at California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, 1936-8. Painted landscapes, portraits and figure scenes of American life. Taught painting at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-8 and 1949-52, at the same period as Douglas MacAgy, Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, and began in 1947 to paint in an Abstract Expressionist style related to Still's. First one-man exhibition at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, 1947. From c.1954 introduced fragmentary calligraphic imagery, sometimes erotic, with a dynamic emphasis akin to traditional jazz. Lived from 1953 at Sebastopol, California, then 1962-3 in England, mainly at Mousehole, Cornwall, where he began to return to a more figurative style. Taught at the University of California, first at Berkeley 1963-5, then at Los Angeles 1965-6; made humorous, satirical figure paintings of Southern California. Moved to England in 1966 to teach art at Bristol Polytechnic, and began c.1970 to paint in a geometric abstract style. Lives in Bristol.

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.694