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Mon, 09.20.1915

Hughie Lee-Smith, Florida Artist born

Hughie Lee-Smith

*Hughie Lee Smith was born on this date in 1915.  He was a Black artist.

From Eustis, Florida, his parents were Luther and Alice Williams Smith. Later he changed his last name to Lee-Smith after he and his art school classmates decided Smith was too ordinary a name for a distinguished painter.  Lee-Smith began drawing at a very early age.  Shaped by the Great Depression and the WPA federal artists of the late 1930s, Lee-Smith's earliest work was fired by social concerns and longing for a better, more democratic ideal for the future of America.

In 1938 he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, Cleveland, OH, Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts (Center For Creative Studies, College of Art & Design), MI.  1953 he received his BA from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.  Lee-Smith, whose work has brought him many honors and awards, expressed a haunting sense of loneliness and alienation in his paintings of the American scene. Mysteriously, they convey the feeling that something good is missing-and yet somehow about to happen.

His vast skies, desolate scenes, distanced people, and blowing ribbons and colorful balloons, mix realism and fantasy in surrealistic juxtapositions that reflect the contradiction and paradoxes of American life.  Lee-Smith's career, in its way, constitutes one such paradox. Lee-Smith's work is found in many public art collections, including the Metropolitan Museum, The Detroit Institute of Art, and the National Museum of American Art. He died on February 23, 1999, in Albuquerque, NM.

To be an Artist



A History of African American Artists from 1792 to Present
by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Copyright 1993 by Romare Bearden & Harry Henderson
Pantheon Books, NY
ISBN 0-394-57016-2

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