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 William Twigg-Smith  (1883 - 1950)

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Lived/Active: Hawaii/California / New Zealand      Known for: island landscape and marine painting, illustration, camouflage

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William  Twigg-Smith
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Twigg-Smith (1883-1950)

William Twigg-Smith was a New Zealand-born American painter who lived most of his adult life in Hawaii.

Born in Nelson, New Zealand, he moved to the U.S. in his late teens, living first in San Franciso, where he studied painting with Evelyn Almond Withrow, and then in Chicago, where he worked with Harry M. Walcott at the School of the Art Institute. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and first visited Hawaii in 1916.

While in Hawaii, he became locally known for his on-site paintings of active volcanoes. In a news article in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (December 9,1916, p. 8), he was said to have exhibited “a sequence of volcano paintings—an attempt to catch Madame Pele in a systematic series of her changeful moods.” A later article in the same year (December 26, p.4) reported that the “crater Mauna Loa is smoking…[and Twigg-]Smith is anxious to get to the Big Island and paint the crater in action.”

In 1917, he collaborated with two other artists on three Pan-Pacific Carnival dioramas. Five months later, he would leave to join the U.S. Army as a camouflage artist. To enable him to travel to the training camp in Washington D.C., a large exhibit of his work was mounted in the Pan-Pacific building in Honolulu, with proceeds from the sales to go to paying his enlistment costs.

He joined the American Camouflage Corps, located on the grounds of Camp American University. According to a news article (Allen, 1917), he “was about the first man on the ground [at the training camp], and he carries No. 1 card showing him to be the first member of Company F, 25th United States Engineers, Camouflage, the official name of the unit.” Soon after, he was joined in that unit by Iowa-born sculptor Sherry Edmundson Fry, Everett (or Everit) Herter (brother of statesman Christian Herter), and New Hampshire muralist Barry Faulkner (cousin of Abbott H. Thayer, frequently referred to as the “father of camouflage”).

In Faulkner’s autobiography (1973), he recalls that when he, along with Fry and Herter, first arrived at their tent, “we found a minstrel [Twigg-Smith] easing his solitude by playiing Hawaiian airs on a ukelele. He came from the islands and was pleasant and companionable.”

In February 1919, having returned from France but still in Washington DC , Twigg-Smith was among a dozen artists who were listed as having contributed “posters and decorations” for a philanthropic fundraising event (Washington Times, February 9, 1919, p. 11).

Later that same year, he settled permanently in Hawaii, where he worked as an illustrator for the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association, and became the second flutists for the Honolulu Symphony. By his marriage in 1919 to Margaret Carter Thurston, he became related to the American entrepreneurs (descended from the original missionary settlers) who had engineered the overthrow of the Hawaiian royalty. He was the father of Thurston Twigg-Smith, former publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser.

Sources
Allen, Riley H., “Camoufleur Twigg Smith Is Wearing Corporal’s Stripes” in Honolulu Star-Bulletin (October 20, 1917), p. 8.

Anon, “Twigg Smith Exhibit Open to Friday Night” in Honolulu Star-Bulletin (December 26, 1916), p. 4.

Anon, “Smith Paintings Viewed by Many” in Honolulu Star-Bulletin (July 21, 1917).

Anon, “Twigg Smith Leaves to Join Battaliion of Artists at Front” in Honolulu Star-Bulletin (August 8, 1917), p. 6.

Behrens, Roy R., Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research in Art, Architecture and Camouflage. Dysart IA: Bobolink Books, 2009.

Faulkner, Barry, Sketches From An Artist’s Life. Dublin NH: William Bauhan, 1973.

Forbes, David W., Encounters with Paradise: Views of Hawaii and Its People, 1778-1941. Honolulu Academy of the Arts, 1992).

Written and submitted by Roy R. Behrens, Writer, and Professor of Art and Distinguished Scholar at the University of Northern Iowa


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Twigg-Smith (1883-1950)

After the U.S. entered World War I, the U.S. Army initiated a camouflage unit, largely made up of artists, architects and theatre set designers.  The officer in charge was Lieutenant Homer Saint-Gaudens, son of the celebrated sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  The first three enlisted camoufleurs were muralist Barry Faulkner (who was a cousin of Abbott H. Thayer, and had been Saint-Gaudens roommate at Harvard), Iowa-born sculptor Sherry Fry (who had been a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens), and architect Everett Herter (later killed in action in France in 1918, he was the brother of diplomat Christian Herter).  A fourth initial camouflage artist was William Twigg-Smith.  In his autobiography, Faulkner (1973) recalls that when the first three arrived at their tent at the training camp on the outskirts of Washington D.C., “we found a minstrel [Twigg-Smith], easing his solitude by playing Hawaiian airs on a ukelele. He came from the Islands and was pleasant and companionable” (p. 89).

Sources:
Barry Faulkner (1973), Sketches from an Artist's Life.  Dublin NH: William Bauhan.
Roy R. Behrens (2002). False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage.  Dysart IA: Bobolink Books.
Roy R. Behrens (2009), "William Twigg-Smith" entry in Camoupedia: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage.  Dysart IA: Bobolink Books.

Submitted by Roy R. Behrens.

These Notes from AskART represent the beginning of a possible future biography for this artist. Please click here if you wish to help in its development:
Born in Nelson, New Zealand on Nov. 2, 1883. Twigg-Smith left home at age 16 to study at the AIC and with Harry M. Walcott. He was a resident of San Francisco in 1911. He settled in Hawaii in 1916 and remained there until his death in Kona on April 21, 1950. In: Honolulu Academy of Arts; Univ. of Hawaii.
Source:
Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
American Art Annual 1925-29; Who's Who in American Art 1936-40; Encounters With Paradise.
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.

Biography from Douglas Frazer Fine Art, Ltd.:
Of the various artists making names for themselves in Hawaii in the early twentieth century, William Twigg-Smith has the distinction of being the only immigrant from New Zealand. Born in Nelson, New Zealand in 1883, Twigg-Smith specialized in landscapes and marine subjects.

Twigg-Smith trained for an art career at the Art Institute of Chicago, and it was while en route there at the age of sixteen that he first visited Hawaii. He returned in 1916 in time to team up with Lionel Walden and D. Howard Hitchcock on the famous Pan-Pacific Carnival dioramas exhibited in 1917. That year marked his first exhibit in Hawaii, in an inaugural show sponsored by the Hawaii Society of Artists.

Later in 1917 Twigg-Smith returned to France to work on army camouflage for World War I, then he returned permanently to Hawaii in 1919. In 1923 he was hired to be a full time illustrator for the Hawaii Sugar Planters Association. He had to paint in his spare time after this, though he did have a one-man show at the Honolulu Academy of Arts in 1927.

Though painting primarily landscapes, Twigg-Smith varied his subject matter to include fishing activities, harbor and urban scenes, gardens, sugar cane fields, and of course, volcanoes.

He was also a talented musician, and supported himself by playing the flute while in Chicago. For a number of years in Hawaii he played second flutist with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra.

In 1946 Twigg-Smith retired to Kona. He painted many of this island’s features before dying there in 1950.

Sources include:
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
David Forbes: Encounters With Paradise;
William Gerdts, Art Across America, Volume 3

By Sarah Nelson





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William Smith is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Artists who painted Hawaii

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