David Smith (sculptor)

John Florens | Jan 1, 2023

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David Roland Smith (Decatur (Indiana), March 9, 1906 - Bennington (Vermont), May 23, 1965) was an American abstract expressionist sculptor, known for his large steel geometric-abstract sculptures.

David Smith studied at Ohio University and the University of Notre Dame, but became a dropout and went to work as a welder on the production line of an automobile factory in South Bend, Indiana. Still later, in 1927, he joined the Art Students League of New York. There he discovered the works of Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Kandinsky, and the Russian Constructivists. He became friends with Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jan Matulka, and Jackson Pollock.

Deeply influenced by the welded metal sculptures of Julio González and Picasso, Smith went on to devote himself entirely to metal sculpture, assembling steel and materials from the scrap heap.

In 1927 he married fellow student Dorothy Dehner, whom he had met in 1926 as a room tenant in the same building where he lived and with whom he attended classes at the Art Students League. During the summer months of 1929 and 1930, Smith and Dehner visited Bolton Landing, a resort in Bolton in upstate New York, where they rented a dilapidated house

Smith had established his Terminal Iron Works studio in Bolton Landing in 1941. In the longer term, this allowed him to adapt the format of his welding sculptures, even building installations that grew larger and larger as time passed. The Museum of Modern Art purchased Smith's first work, namely Head from 1938, in 1943. After World War II and the accompanying shortage of materials, Smith produced a veritable deluge of new works, especially after 1950. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation gave Smith a grant, relieved him of his financial obligations, allowing him more time to sculpt. It also enabled Smith to create larger and more distinct works, and moreover, to create them in series. The first series were: Agricola (1951-1957) and Tanktotem (1952-1960).

In 1957, the Museum of Modern Art in New York presented a retrospective exhibition of Smith, complete with works from 1932 onward. In 1961, the same museum organized a major traveling exhibition that visited all major museums around the world. Smith was represented with works at the following documenta exhibitions in Kassel: II (1959) and III (1964), as well as posthumously 4 (1968) and 6 (1977).

David Smith has achieved world fame with his serialized and now in many museums around the world works with titles such as:

He began his Cubi series (monumental, geometric, steel sculptures) in 1961. They are considered some of the most important works of 20th-century American sculpture. Just then, at the height of his influence as an artist and still working on Cubi, he died in a car accident near Bennington, Vermont on May 23, 1965.

Cubi XXVIII, created by Smith in 1965 and housed at the Guggenheim Museum, sold at a Sotheby's auction of modern and contemporary art in New York on Nov. 9, 2005, for the highest amount ever for a sculpture of $23.8 million to an art dealer, acting on behalf of art dealer Eli Broad.


David Smith worked in Italy from 1962 to 1963. He was commissioned by the Italian government to create two sculptures for the Festival of Two Worlds exhibition in Spoleto. In an abandoned steel plant, the ILVA di Voltri in Voltri (a suburb of the Italian city of Genoa), he created a series of 27 sculptures from a batch of abandoned steel in thirty days, which he named after this city. A large batch of steel, moreover, he took back with him to the United States.

The sculpture Voltri IV (1962) was purchased by the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo in 1966.


  1. David Smith (sculptor)
  2. David Smith (beeldhouwer)
  3. ^ Everyday Art Quarterly 23 (1952)
  4. Afbeelding "Cubi XVII"
  5. Barbara Rose, Amerikas Weg zur Modernen Kunst (Originalausgabe: American Art Since 1900), DuMont, Köln 1969; detaillierte Interpretation der Plastik in Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum: Informationsblätter 6. Internationale Plastik 1935–1965. Duisburg 1985, Blatt: Smith (nicht paginiert); ohne Verf.
  6. Ingo F. Walter, in: Ruhrberg, Schneckenburger u. a. (Hrsg.): Art of the 20th Century, Band 2, S. 809, Taschen, 1998 ISBN 3-8228-8576-2
  7. Katalog: David Smith: Skulpturen: Kunsthalle Nürnberg, 17. Januar - 20. Februar 1967
  8. RKDartists (нидерл.)

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