Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Over his career, William A. Smith developed a remarkable collection of friends and acquaintances.  He knew artists such as Joan Miro and Ben Shahn.  As the president of UNESCO's International Association of Art (with members in 70 different countries), he traveled and connected with artists all around the world.  He was also president of the American Watercolor Society, and socialized with artists, writers and performers as a member of the famed Dutch Treat Club.

He sketched many of these people at events or informal settings:

The great poet Carl Sandburg was a good friend of Smith's
Sandburg's hands

Duke Ellington
Burl Ives
Radio celebrity Henry Morgan
British illustrator Paul Hogarth

Artist Adolf Dehn

Band leader Paul Whiteman

Smith's sketchbooks are filled with dozens and dozens of faces, hands, even shoes of creative people he met along the way.  One of the things I enjoy most about these portraits is that they were not illustrations commissioned by a client, but rather purely personal works reflecting the international camraderie of the artistic community.  


Anonymous said...

Wow, these are incredible, such economy of line and yet so evocative. Burl was a big man. I am very much enjoying these, and it's only Tuesday!

~ Peggasus

Anthony Zierhut said...

This is fantastic, David. Thank you! It's super-inspiring to see these very close-up scans; the delicacy and sensitivity of his line shows a thoughtful, mindful, even loving approach to recording what he saw. Drawing from life like this is a very special kind of meditation, and something you don't see very often. I can't wait to see what else you're going to post!

अर्जुन said...

Duke Ellington! A swift boot to the face of all the cats that think they're heavy.

David Apatoff said...

Peggasus-- I'm glad you enjoy them. That Burl Ives drawing is one of several in these scrap books where Smith put aside precision and exaggerated the "feel" of a person. Smith was obviously comfortable with a variety of approaches.

Anthony Zierhut-- "Seeing these very close-up" is the exact purpose behind this week's series. I don't think people can really appreciate Smith's gift without seeing high resolution, larger than life scans of his working drawings, and this is the only way I know to get them in front of a wide audience (although I have scarcely made a dent in his huge collection). I'm glad to see readers honing in on the special attributes you mention.

अर्जुन-- Yes, Sir Duke. I often think of what it must have been like when these creative types got together, way back before their reputations became golden. PS-- Great song.