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(b Decatur, Ind., 9 Mar. 1906; d nr. Bennington, Vt., 23 May 1965). The most original and influential American sculptor of his generation. He began to study art at Ohio University in 1924 but soon dropped out of the course, and in the summer of 1925 he worked at the Studebaker motor plant at South Bend, Indiana, where he acquired the skills in metalwork that stood him in good stead later in his career. From 1926 to 1930 he studied painting at the Art Students League of New York, while supporting himself by a variety of jobs. Among his friends at this time were Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. He turned to sculpture in the early 1930s, making his first welded iron pieces (probably the first by an American artist) in 1933. These were inspired by Julio González, to whom Smith said he owed his ‘technical liberation’, but he always maintained that there was no essential difference between painting and sculpture and his aesthetic outlook was more influenced by Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Cubism.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)


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