Jack Smith

Activities, Major and Minor


Not on display

Jack Smith 1928–2011
Oil paint on wood
Support: 1222 × 1219 mm
frame: 1263 × 1263 mm
Purchased 1983

Display caption

Smith was born in Sheffield. After the Second World War he studied at St Martin's School and the Royal College of Art. He later taught at Bath Academy and the Chelsea School of Art.

Smith was a member of the Kitchen Sink School who painted mundane subjects of working class life in a realist style. In the mid-1950s he turned towards abstraction. He said that the title of this painting 'refers to the forms used and has musical connotations'. The cool lime green background creates an atmosphere of calm against which, he explained, 'sound boxes' are superimposed.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03813 Activities, Major and Minor 1972

Oil on plywood 48 1/8 × 48 (1222 × 1219)
Inscribed on reverse ‘JACK SMITH 1972’ and ‘ACTIVITIES MAJOR + MINOR’
Purchased from the artist through Fischer Fine Art (Grant-in-Aid) 1983

The title of the painting ‘refers to the forms used and has musical connotations’ (letter from the artist, 22 February 1986). The artist is concerned with music not only in representing the notational sounds, but also the silences and pauses that occur; hence the cool lime green background which creates an atmosphere of calm against which these ‘sound boxes’ are superimposed. The ‘Activity’ is provided by the strong lively colours and also by the marks, which ‘fall’ diagonally across the work. Some of the forms appear to move rapidly, others move more slowly and leave a trail, and one (top left) stops altogether, creating a shadow.

The artist comments that the images for this painting have many sources ‘very often evolving from other paintings ... all forms need to be continually remade’ (ibid.). The painting is similar to ‘Activities: 16 Major 7 Minor’ 1972 (repr. Jack Smith, Paintings and Drawings 1949–1976, Sunderland Arts Centre, 1977, p.86, private collection) but does not belong to a particular series. The artist did not make any preliminary drawings or studies, and the work was painted ‘intuitively’.

This entry has been approved by the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986

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