Friday, April 3, 2009

William A. Smith: "Never heard of him"

I began this week's look at the work of William A. Smith by telling you that I knew very little about the artist and that Charlie Allen, who provided most of this week's scans, had written to me that "[Smith] seemed a mystery....never heard much about him or his career, etc."

Well here's just a little about William A. Smith:

He was President of the American Watercolor Society and President of the American delegation to the International Association of Art. His work won a variety of awards including the Winslow Homer Memorial Prize, the Postal Commemorative Society Prize and the American Watercolor Society's Grand Prize, Gold (twice), Silver, Bronze and Stuart prizes. Below is the piece for which Smith won the Society of Illustrator's Gold Medal for Advertising Illustration in 1959.

Smith taught at the Grand Central Art School and at the Pratt Institute. He lectured at the Academy of Fine Arts in Athens in 1954; Manila, 1955; Warsaw, 1958. He was one of the first artists sent to Russia under the Cultural Exchange Agreement in 1958.

At the age of 13, he began to exhibit his work in serious competitions. The following year he was employed as a sketch artist by the Scripps-Howard Newspapers to cover the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics - can you image? a 14-year-old boy! - and later he worked for the San Francisco Examiner sketching murder trials. The same year, Smith was accepted as the youngest member of the National Academy of Design.

All this week, both here and and on Flickr, I've seen the same comments again and again: "This guy's work is amazing!" and "I'd never heard of him before..."

What is wrong with this profession that illustrators of Smith's calibre and accomplishments could have fallen into such obscurity after such a relatively short time? Go to any library and you'll find entire sections devoted to art and art history... but the books that document the history of illustration wouldn't fill one shelf.

I never learned about the great illustrators when I was in art college... perhaps things have changed... I hope so.

Yesterday, thanks to TI list member Benton Jew, I was contacted by William A. Smith's daughter, Kim. She wrote, "The bar scene (Leon and Eddies in NY) at the top of the April 1 blog is on the wall above me as we speak. I have three painting of my Dad's here on the wall, and they are so greatly appreciated. I have forwarded the blog to my Mother and encouraged her to write to you about all of this. We can provide you with quite a bit of info. Thanks so very much. The whole family is excited."

I know I can speak for a great many people when I say we're excited too, Kim, that we'll now be able to learn a little more about your father - and help to celebrate his accomplishments and to keep his memory alive.

My William A. Smith Flickr set.

No comments:

Post a Comment