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ca. 1970 Hughie Lee-Smith Born: Eustis, Florida 1915 Died: Albuquerque, New Mexico 1999 oil on canvas 33 x 36 in. (83.8 x 91.4 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design 2009.27 Not currently on view

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Hughie Lee-Smith's art conveys the alienation and isolation experienced by many African Americans during the middle decades of the twentieth century, yet his work speaks in larger terms about our inability to reach out and connect with others on grounds larger than race. Although Lee-Smith was a direct contemporary of Jacob Lawrence, his art followed a different trajectory, adopting an approach to realism inflected by the sense of isolation and alienation in Edward Hopper's work, and by the surrealistic tendencies of Giorgio di Chirico. That surrealistic edge to his work intensifies the emotional distance conveyed by the people in his paintings.

Over a sixty-year career, Lee-Smith explored psychological corners of the human experience grounded in separation and displacement. As the artist remarked about his work, "I think my paintings have to do with an invisible life—a reality on a different level." Confrontation suggests the tension between the girls and their situation, rather than between the two of them; they radiate alienation—from each other, and from the crumbling infrastructure of their surreal, beachfront surroundings.

New Acquisitions


Architecture Exterior - detail - wall

Figure group - female

Figure(s) in exterior - water

Landscape - beach

State of being - other - confrontation


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Hughie Lee-Smith

Born: Eustis, Florida 1915 Died: Albuquerque, New Mexico 1999

More works in the collection by
Hughie Lee-Smith