David Smith

Painting 1964


Not on display

David Smith 1906–1965
Oil paint on canvas on plywood
Support: 1397 × 451 mm
Presented anonymously 1967

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Smith was trained as a painter and stated that his 'sculpture grew from painting'. Many of his sculptures have painted surfaces. In the last two years of his life he painted a series of female figures, using friends as models. He also executed many drawings on this theme. Most of the figures in this series are strictly linear, in black. Very few are modelled in broad areas of colour such as this one. Smith remained interested in the figure throughout his career. The emphasis on verticality in this painting, stressed by the narrowness of the canvas, recalls his upright, abstract 'sentinel' sculptures of the late 50s.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

David Smith 1906-1965

T00931 Painting 1964

Inscribed 'David Smith | ... [illegible] 23 - 3 [last figure uncertain]' t.l.
Oil on canvas laid down on plywood, 55 x 17 3/4 (139.7 x 45)
Presented anonymously 1967
Prov: Purchased by the donor from the artist
Lit: William Berkson, 'Chronology' in exh. catalogue David Smith, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass., September-November 1966, p.88

This work is one of a series of paintings of the female figure done in the last year or two of Smith's life, using friends as models. Most are strictly linear, in black paint on white priming. Only a very few, like T00931, are modelled in broad areas of pink and off-white, with thicker black lines. According to Berkson, he is said to have completed '130 or 140' paintings of nude models in 1964 in a matter of months.

The paintings were a by-product of Smith's oeuvre (though he began as a painter) and very few have been released either by him or his executors. This study had only just been completed and was still wet at the time it was purchased in late March or early April 1964.

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, pp.693-4, reproduced p.693

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