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David Smith Portrait

David Smith

Also Known as: David Roland Smith

Decatur, Indiana 1906

Albany, New York 1965

Active in:

  • Bolton Landing, New York
  • New York, New York

Photo Caption:
Courtesy Sam Meulendyke. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

“The metal itself possesses little art history. What associations it possesses are those of this century: power, structure, movement, progress, suspension, destruction, brutality.” Smith, quoted in “David Smith Dies; Metal Sculptor,” New York Times, May 1965

Luce Artist Biography

David Smith left home at sixteen and worked as a welder and riveter in an automobile plant. In 1926 he moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League. He started making three-dimensional works a few years later, inspired by the welded metal sculptures of Pablo Picasso and Julio González. Smith used the skills he acquired during his work at the factory to create freestanding constructions from welded scraps of metal. In 1940 he moved to a former farm near Bolton Landing, New York, and built a studio, which he named Terminal Iron Works. He worked there for the rest of his life, welding and forging large structures from old farm tools, machine parts, and fabricated steel. In 1965, Smith was involved in a car accident in Vermont; he later died in a hospital in Albany, New York, at the age of fifty-nine.