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David Smith Anthony Caro e.e. cummings Eric Gill

David Smith

American, 1906 - 1965. David Smith is judged to be his country's most important sculptor, pioneering a separate movement in American sculpture before his untimely death at the age of 59. Until he turned to sculpture in the 1930's, Smith considered himself a painter, & his drawings are among the finest products of New York School Abstract Expressionist draughtmanship. [more]


David Smith considered drawings to be a vital part of his oeuvre. The spray drawings series, made in his studio in Bolton Landing, New York, were first produced in 1957 and continue through to the early 1960s. Not only did he execute them in preparation for his sculptures, but also they stood as works in their own right, and were often made after the sculptures were finished. "I just want to put in a word to you for drawing, because I think drawing has all the immediacy and flexibility and a quicker realization than anything else you can do. And I wanted to show you these drawings, because from them my work comes. Not specifically... If I know all a out it in drawing then I don't have to use a drawing to make a sculpture... These drawings are studies for sculpture, sometimes what sculpture is, sometimes what sculpture can never be. Sometimes they are atmospheres from which sculptural form in unconsciously selected during the labour process of producing form. Then again they may be amorphous floating direct statements in which I am the subject, and the drawing is the act." (David Smith: Sprays from Bolton Landing, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Exhibition. Catalogue, London 1985, pp.6-7)


"Drawing is the most direct, closest to the true self, the most natural liberation of man - and if I may guess back to the action of very early man, it may have been the first celebration of man with his secret self - even before song.   Even the drawing made before the performance is often grater, more truthful, more sincere than the formal production later greater, more truthful, more sincere than the formal production later made from it...  Their appreciation often neglected, drawings remain the life force of the artist.  Especially this is true for the sculptor, who, of necessity, works in media slow to take realization.   And where the original creative impetus must be maintained during labour, drawing is the fast moving search, which keeps physical labour in balance."  (David Smith, from a lecture delivered at a forum conducted by George Rickey at Sophie Newcomb College, Tulane University of Louisiana, New Orleans, 21 March 1955)
Whilst many of Smith's drawings are not related to his 3-dimensional work, this drawing is similar in principle to that of a sculpture with silhouetted forms rising from a plinth or base line.   However unlike the preparatory drawings which use foreshortening to produce a relatively realistic image, the autonomous drawings only hint at a three dimensional reality.   "Despite their considerable differences, David Smith's drawings have one formal feature in common - their decentralized arrangement.  This reflects his democratic philosophy: the drawings refuse to arrange themselves in hierarchical fashion around a dominating centre and instead display a rhythmic structure with a number of focuses in different areas of the paper.   Herein lie affinities with Abstract Expressionism and Jackson Pollock's all-over technique."  (Hannelore Kersting, David Smith: Sculpture Smith, Munich, 1986, 1986, p.101)

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