Sale 1147 Lot 155
(African-American; 1915 - 1999)
Oil on canvas
1988. Signed and dated.
Provenance: the family of the artist.
Born in Eustis, Florida in 1915 and raised in both Atlanta and Cleveland, Ohio, Hughie Lee-Smith knew from an early age that art was his mission. His mother encouraged his talent by enrolling him in an art class for gifted students at the Cleveland Museum of Art. At 20, Lee-Smith won a Scholastic magazine competition that allowed him to study at the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts. He also studied art at The Cleveland Institute of Art in 1938 and art education at Wayne State University in 1952 and 1953. He also studied theater and dance. Throughout his career, he taught at several distinguished institutions including the Karamu House, Cleveland in the late 1930's, Princeton Country Day School, NJ, 1963-65, Howard University, Washington D.C., 1969-71, the Art Student's League, NYC, 1972-1987, and elsewhere.
In 1938-39, Lee-Smith was employed by the Ohio Works Progress Administraion. At this time, he did a series of lithographic prints and painted murals at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. The Cleveland Museum recognized him for drawing in 1938 and for lithographs in 1939-40. His early works were shown mostly in Chicago and Detroit, at the Southside Community Center, the Snowdon Gallery, and the Detroit Artist's Market.
Hughie Lee-Smith's work was characterized by magic realism and biting social commentary. He often depicted man alone in nature or nature disrupted by man-made objects or architecture. His solitary figures depict loneliness and isolation from society.
Despite many accolades and awards thoughout his career, Lee-Smith did not enjoy a major solo exhibition of his work until 50 years after he began painting. His first retrospective was held at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton in 1988. Just two years before his death, he was featured at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art in Maine. In 1994, he was commissioned to paint the official City Hall portrait of former mayor David Dinkins. He died in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1999 after a long illness.
His work can be found in many major collections including the South Side Community Art Center, Chicago; Howard University; the Detroit Institute of Arts, and Wayne State University.
10" x 16"
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