David Smith: Sculptures: Room guide: Room 5

David Smith - Hudson River Landscape 1951 Egg ink, ink and tempera on paper
David Smith - Δ Σ 4/23/50 (Study for Australia) 1950 Ink on paper

In April 1950 Smith was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship which freed him from teaching and other side jobs. He could also afford the materials to make larger scale works, therefore marking the beginning of a very productive period.

From 1940 until his death in 1965, Smith lived at Bolton Landing in the Adirondack Mountains. He developed a deep relationship with the place and spent hours arranging and photographing his sculpture in the fields around his studio. The works in this room are all directly inspired by nature, showing Smith’s ability to evoke vast landscapes through his sculptural method of ‘drawing in space’.

Australia 1951 was a pivotal work for Smith. It was his largest sculpture to date, with an expansive energy reminiscent of the Abstract Expressionist painters of his generation. The title is thought to refer to images of ancient Aboriginal cave drawings, which had been sent to him by the critic Clement Greenberg.

The title of Hudson River Landscape 1951 suggests a more direct connection to the American landscape, and Smith related this work to a series of drawings he made on a train journey from Albany to Poughkeepsie. ‘Is Hudson River Landscape the Hudson River, or is it the travel, the vision; or does it matter?’ he wrote. ‘The sculpture exists on its own, it is an entity.’