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 Hassel Wendell, Jr. Smith  (1915 - 2007)

About: Hassel Wendell, Jr. Smith


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Lived/Active: California/Michigan / England      Known for: abstract to figurative expression, lithography

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BIOGRAPHY for Hassel Smith
1915 (Sturgis, Michigan)
2007 (Rode, England)

California/Michigan / England

Self portrait - Self-portrait

Often Known For
abstract to figurative expression, lithography

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Abstract Expressionism
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Hassel Smith was born in a small factory town between Detroit and Chicago: Sturgis, Michigan on April 24, 1915.  While attending Northwestern University as an undergraduate, he was exposed to painting at the World's Fair in Chicago.  It was here where he saw the Century of Progress exposition with Duchamp and Dali, and the Diaghilev Company of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, directed by Massine.  It would be Duchamp and Dali's work that would provide Smith's influence as an abstract expressionist.  After graduating in 1936 from Northwestern University with a degree in art history and English literature, Smith moved to California and began a two-year study period at the California School of Fine Arts.

He was active in the local art scene as an exhibitor, and taught at San Francisco State College from 1946-1947, the California School of Fine Arts from 1945-1952, the Presidio Hill Elementary School of San Francisco from 1952-1955, and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) during the 1960s. He was an occasional lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley during the period 1963-1965.

From 1953 to 1959, Hassel Smith lived in Sebastopol, California before moving to Bath, England in 1966.

He is of the opinion that modern art begins at the moment that artists and their viewers establish a distinction between art that is "abstract" and art that is "figurative". Smith's works occurred in phases: oversized abstracts in his early years to drawings completed as a young socialist while working for the New Deal, to pop-art.

Smith is a member of the San Francisco Art Association and has exhibited at the San Francisco Art Association (1938-1946), the Golden Gate Exposition, 1939; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1941; the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 1953; the Pasadena Art Museum, 1961; the San Francisco Art Institute, 1966; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1968; the Oakland Museum, 1973, The Bevan-Thorton Arts, London, England; Holy Names College, Oakland, California, and the Lannetti-Lanzoni Gallery, San Francisco. His works can be seen at the Pasadena Art Museum and the Oakland Museum, among others.

Sources include:
Artists in California, 1786-1940, II, by Edan Milton Hughes
John Natsoulas Gallery.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Sturgis, Michiganon April 24, 1915. After graduating from high school in San Mateo, CA, Smith attended Northwestern University.  He returned to California in 1936 and spent two years at the California School of Fine Arts.  He was active in the local art scene as an exhibitor and teacher at San Francisco State College (1946-47), California School of Fine Arts (1945-52), Presidio Hill Elementary School of San Francisco (1952-55), and lecturer at University of California at Berkeley (1963-65).  He specialized in figurative painting until about 1947 and then Abstract Expressionism.  In 1966 he moved to England and died in Rode on January 2, 2007.

Exhibited: Northwest Printmakers, 1938; San Francisco Art Ass’n, 1938-46; Golden Gate International Exposition, 1939; San Francisco Museum of Art, 1941 (with Lloyd Wulff), 1946, 1975; California Palace of Legion of Honor, 1947, 1953; Ferus Gallery (Los Angeles); 1956; East-West Gallery (San Francisco), 1953; Pasadena Art Museum, 1961; San Francisco Art Institute, 1966; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1968; Oakland Museum, 1973. 

Works held:  Tate Gallery (London); Oakland Museum; Pasadena Art Museum; Whitney Museum (New York City); San Francisco Museum of Art.
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who’s Who in American Art, 1947-70; San Francisco Chronicle, 1-20-2007 (obit).
Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

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