Jul 20–Aug 12, 1948

Charles SmithBlock Paintings

The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago announces an exhibition of block paintings by Charles Smith, of Charlottesville, Virginia from July 20 through August 12.

A reception for the artist for members of the Renaissance Society and guests will be held on Tuesday evening, July 20, from 8 until 10 o’clock.

Mr. Smith will demonstrate his technique of block painting in the galleries during the first two weeks of the exhibition.

Charles Smith, a Virginia born artist, is well known in America and abroad for his abstract paintings, his wood-cuts, and for his block paintings, a process of his own invention. He is represented in twenty-three museums and in many private collections. Among the museums owning his work are: The Museum of Modern Art; Guggenheim Museum of Non-Objective Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; Yale University Gallery of Fine Arts; The Seattle Museum of Art; the Portland Museum, Oregon; Newark Museum; Honolulu Museum; Institute of Modern Art, Boston; The Whitney Museum of American Art.

The late Sherwood Anderson, commenting on Smith’s work said, “Here is some more work out of the South—the Virginia hills—life in it—odd charming real little angles of American life. I like that, the effort so obviously honest. I think Charles Smith is a southerner, by his work rather than his pretensions, to stand up and be counted. It seems like health to me. It is another real southern voice.”

It may be soon, from this quotation, that Smith’s earlier work was representation in character. But this early work owed its effectiveness to his feeling for arrangement, and this feeling was developed until the representational quality was completely eliminated.

The son of a pattern maker for a foundry which manufactured steve deers, he was accustomed to the use of gouges and chisels from his earliest childhood, for his father carved these patterns from white pine in massive abstract designs in great variety. Art training at the University of Virginia, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Yale School of Fine Arts followed and Charles Smith naturally turned to the use of wood working tools in the making of block prints as a professional artist. Through his architectural subjects, book illustrations, books entirely of block prints and portraits he became well known but his unique contribution has been the development of the method of block painting which will be demonstrated in the Renaissance Society’s exhibition.

Where block paintings are done by imprinting, one at a time, various carved wood shapes which combine to form a composition. These compositions resemble paintings in their use of under-painting and over-coating, their textural variety and their color, Each is approached as a single work and cannot be repeated.