Find, Learn, Price Art
Enjoy the comprehensive art database we've compiled since 1987
Membership Details
Images, sales charts, bios, signatures, 30 artist Alerts and more ...
Art auction records:  Millions of references for pricing research
Or, register for Free Alerts
To track 10 artists.

Already a member?  Sign in here

Jack Smith

 (1928 - 2011)
Jack Smith was active/lived in United Kingdom.  Jack Smith is known for painting.

Jack Smith

Biography from Sotheby's London, New Bond Street

The more our art is serious, the more it will tend to avoid the drawing-room and stick to the kitchen' (W.R. Sickert, 'Idealism', Art News, 12th May 1910).`…the kitchen has a hallowed place in the history of art…The marmites of Chardin, the flayed chickens of Soutine, the eggs and frying pans of William Scott, are all part and parcel of the great mythology of European art' (Anonymous review, 'Paintings for the Kitchen', Art News & Review, 12th December 1953, Vol.5, no.23, p.2).

In an article written for the magazine Encounter in 1954, the critic David Sylvester unwittingly gave the 'Kitchen Sink' label to the four painters also often grouped together as the 'Beaux Arts Quartet'; John Bratby, Derrick Greaves, Edward Middleditch and Jack Smith.  However, recent art historical research has sought to look afresh at these painters, their relationship with each other and their position in the British art world of the 1950s.  Now, with over half a century of hindsight, it is becoming possible to see not only how these paintings are informed by the spirit and concerns of the time but also how they fit into both a tradition and context of European social realism.

The 'Kitchen Sink' tag was the painters' equivalent of the contemporary writers' 'Angry Young Men' and whilst it became a convenient form for associating a particular genre, it tended to mask the very real differences between the artists and their work.  Press attention was focused on Bratby, whose shabby proto-beatnik image came to typify the public perception of the left-orientated artist at the time, but it was Smith whose painting clearly had the social-realist edge.

Usually stark in colour and subject, Smith's work has its roots in his upbringing in working-class Sheffield.  Between 1952 and 1954 he painted a series of domestic interiors which are still startling in their treatment of the depiction of the lives of the poor.  Baby in Sink was almost certainly painted in the basement kitchen of his lodgings at 44, Pembroke Road, London and is closely related to the large Mother Bathing Child (Tate Collection, London) of 1953 which depicted his sister-in-law Barbara Smith bathing a small child in a Belfast sink under the bleaching glare of a naked, low-wattage bulb.

The unremitting realism of these paintings masks a very sophisticated compositional ability and acute capacity for rendering texture.  Baby in Sink is, by comparison to other paintings by Smith of the period, extensive in the collection of objects which surround the child sitting placidly in the tin bowl in the deep sink, hip-deep in water which one instinctively knows to be hardly better than lukewarm. 

Using a painterly style which consciously rejected the 'tricks of the trade', Smith gives us totally believable pressed glass, scrubbed wood, swollen lead piping and worn enamel, as well as a single leek and a cut marrow that could make a still life of their own.  Perhaps most impressive is the rendition of reflected electric light on the window above the sink, a detail which places the picture more clearly in the hours of darkness than could a clock.

Assisted by his part in the 1956 Venice Biennale exhibition 'Four Young Painters' and winning the 1957 John Moores Prize, Smith's work of this period is extremely rare with many of these paintings now in municipal collections.

Biography from Christie's London, South Kensington
Between 1959-1960, Jack Smith began to focus on the movement of light on everyday objects and became preoccupied with the pictorial expression of light.  Norbert Lynton comments, 'There is no doubt that these pictures are made of paint, with a brush moving mostly horizontally both to record the action of light and to hold real light and shadow in the ridges and grooves' (see N. Lynton, Jack Smith a Painter in Pursuit of Marvels, London, 2000, p. 45).

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Share an image of the Artist

  Full access to biographies is
  free each Friday
Biography photo for Jack Smith

About  Jack Smith

Born:  1928
Died:   2011
Known for:  painting