Richard Smith

Biography of Richard Smith

British painter and printmaker Richard Smith's fusion of abstract principles and contemporary subject matter is utterly unique. His early works blend commercial culture, packaging, and advertising with influences of American abstraction, presenting magnified, out of scale objects in soft-focus and vivid tones, the artist stating: "you could drown in a glass of beer, live in a semi-detached cigarette packet". Smith’s subsequent shaped canvases jut into three-dimensional space in an intense exploration of the abstract qualities of volume, surface, and color, the artist humorously comparing his work to large-scale origami.


Richard Smith's later Kite Paintings see him employing elements of tent-making—aluminum tubes, canvas, and string—to draw attention to the physical nature of the canvas as a stretched surface. Constantly questioning the boundaries and definitions of painting in particular and artmaking in general, Smith was a truly visionary artist—"unique in his ability not only to revive and maintain the tradition, but also to push it forward to the point that it can stand with the most progressive, radical and inventive work of his time", according to art historian Barbara Rose.


Born in 1931, Richard Smith spent most of his adult life working in New York, dying on the south shore of Long Island in spring of 2016. Smith represented Britain at the 1966 Venice Biennale and won the grand prize at the 9th Bienal de São Paulo in 1967. He had museum shows in Europe as well as North and South America throughout the 1970s, notably being honored with a retrospective at the Tate in 1975.  Smith's work is held in many prestigious public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan, both in New York, as well as the Tate, and the British Museum, both in London.

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