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David Smith

"If you ask me why I make sculpture, I must answer that it is my way of life, my balance, and my justification for being.  If you ask me for whom do I make art, I will say that it is for all who approach it without prejudice."

— David Smith

American Sculptor, Painter

1906 - 1965


I began writing poetry when I was a junior in high school as a way of expressing my thoughts and ideas.  I was going through a spiritual transition from born-again Christian to non-believer.   The writing helped me to express my concerns about war, racism and hypocrisy.  The poems had no formal structure and did not rhyme.  I am not even sure why I called it poetry other than I gave each one a title and broke them into short lines.  It could have been a journal but I knew even less of about journals than I did poetry.  The poems were philosophical and full of questions about life.  I even had one published in the church's weekly magazine for youth.  When I was a senior, I handed in a paper composed entirely of poems I wrote.  The class was a seminar in philosophy, not English.  My English teacher asked me why I had not shown the poems to her.  I had not even considered it.  I did not associate the poems I wrote with what I read in English class.

Why do you write? Paint? Dance? Sculpt? Draw?  How did you begin?  Why did you begin? 

Creative Practice

Explore this week your creative roots?  Why did you start writing or painting?  What motivated you?  What drove you?  How much have you grown since those early attempts at self-expression?  Why do you continue to create?

About the Sculptor



Considered to be one of the greatest American sculptors of the 20th century, David Smith was born in 1906 in Decatur, Indiana.  His mother was a school teacher and his father was a telephone engineer.  Smith left college after one year and took a job working in the Studebaker automobile factory in South Bend, Indiana during the summers.  He learned how to solder and weld.

In 1927 Smith moved to New York and met and married Dorothy Dehner, an art student.  Smith studies at the Art Students League.  In 1935 Dorothy and David traveled to Europe and met many artists and visit museums.  In 1937 Smith joined the newly organized American Abstract Artists group.  In 1938, Smith had his first solo show at Marian Willard's East River Gallery in New York City. The show included welded iron sculptures and drawings from 1935 - 38.  During World War II, David Smith worked the night shift at the American Locomotive Company in New York, assembling M7 tanks and locomotives.  In 1946, Smith showed 54 sculptures at the Willard and Buchholz Galleries in New York City.  Thirty of these works were made in 1944 and 1945.

In 1950 David Smith received a Guggenheim Fellowship which was renewed in 1951.  His work became more abstract with less narrative.  Dehner and Smith divorced in 1952.  Smith had a solo show at the Willard-Kleeman Gallery in 1952.  In 1953 he married Jean Freas and divorced her in 1961.  In 1965 at the age of 59, David Smith was killed in an automobile crash in Vermont.

Enjoy the sculptures and paintings of David Smith.

Biography Sources:

Quote Source:

Clint Brown.  Artist to Artist.  Jackson Creek Press, 1998.

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