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The Stranger

ca. 1957-1958 Hughie Lee-Smith Born: Eustis, Florida 1915 Died: Albuquerque, New Mexico 1999 oil on canvas 26 1/4 x 36 1/8 in. (66.7 x 91.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase 1994.15 Not currently on view


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"I'm not a narrative painter. That is to say, I don't paint stories. What I tried to do was project a feeling, an emotional sense." The artist, quoted in Sherry Howard, "A Canvas in Black: Two pioneering painters who broke through the color line," Emerge, 1995

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Like many other artists of the Cold War era, Hughie Lee-Smith explored themes of exclusion and alienation in his paintings. He believed that the African American experience in particular was one of rejection and isolation and his feelings of racial disparity frequently influenced his work. In The Stranger, a lone figure stands in the foreground engulfed by a brown and green hillside. The man is frozen mid-gesture, looking over his shoulder at a wide gulf separating him from the cluster of homes behind him. The man's race is ambiguous and features blurred, a choice Lee-Smith made in order to symbolize "everyman." The geography, too, is nonspecific, created by the artist from a compilation of sketches and photographic studies of midwestern landscapes. Lee-Smith changed the name of this painting from Town Beyond Slope to The Stranger in 1994 after being struck by the man's separation from the town.

Keywords

Architecture Exterior - domestic - house

Figure male - full length

Landscape

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas