1876–1958

Smith, Alice

Artists

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1760-1865 1866-1945 1946-Present
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One of the catalysts of the Charleston Renaissance, Alice Ravenel Huger Smith was a native and lifelong resident of that city. Though largely self-taught as an artist, she did take some classes in drawing and painting at the Carolina Art Association (now part of the Gibbes Museum of Art). The noted Tonalist landscape painter, Birge Harrison, was on an extended visit to Charleston in 1908 when Smith made his acquaintance. This association had a profound influence, and she credited Harrison as a mentor in her lyrical approach to landscape subjects. Smith likewise found inspiration in the Japonisme aesthetic of another Charleston visitor, Helen Hyde. Smith immersed herself in studying and creating Japanese style prints from 1917-1919, producing a body of work characterized by refined design and a sense of serenity.

Smith is best remembered for her scenic views of Charleston streets and poetic marsh vistas in which she captures the mystical aura of the Carolina Lowcountry. From 1924 on, she painted almost exclusively in watercolor, finding that medium most conducive to achieving the atmospheric effects she sought in her landscapes. In these works, her hope was to convey through memory and imagination an essential idealized representation of subjects. Smith was also a noted illustrator, contributing visuals to two volumes her father, the historian D. E. H. Smith, authored on Charleston history and architecture, as well as other books relating to South Carolina.

Along with her friends Elizabeth O'Neill Verner, Alfred Hutty, and Anna Heyward Taylor, Smith was at the center of Charleston's artistic reawakening during the early twentieth century. She was an active contributor to the city’s cultural development and a founding member of the Charleston Etcher’s Club and the Southern States Art League. She was also involved in the Historic Charleston Foundation, Carolina Art Association, and Music and Poetry Society.

Smith exhibited widely through the South, but also in the Midwest and the Northeast, gaining a national reputation. Her work can be found in many notable permanent collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, High Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, among others.

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