Art of the Carolina Lowcountry

Paintings by South Carolina artist Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (1876–1958) from The Johnson Collection are shown in the major motion picture, Where the Crawdads Sing—the film adaptation of the New York Times best-selling book of the same name by Delia Owens. Crawdads includes images of Alice Smith’s watercolors of the Carolina Lowcountry. The film’s director, Olivia Newman, sought inspiration from Smith’s art to “capture [the main character’s] world, the marsh and swamps….We looked at paintings, we looked at photography, and we drew from all of the mediums.”
The film's producer and director, Reese Witherspoon and Olivia Newman, on set with a reproduction of Alice Smith's painting, The Moon in the Mist, upper right (photograph credit: Instagram @crawdadsmovie)

Celebrating Alice Smith's Art

Alice Ravenel Huger Smith's luminous paintings reflect a body of work characterized by her experimentations in various mediums and mastery of watercolors. Smith is best remembered for her scenic views of Charleston and the surrounding wilds of the Carolina Lowcountry. TJC Gallery featured her work in Nature I Loved: Alice Ravenel Huger Smith and the Carolina Lowcountry from July 13–September 24, 2022.

The Johnson Collection's downtown Spartanburg gallery is open Wednesday–Saturday, 124pm and is always free to visitors. 

“Nature I loved and next to Nature, Art.”—epitaph on the artist’s grave marker

A Champion of Charleston

Smith_Alice_charleston_magazine.jpgOne 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. In her memoir, Smith explained that “my own lovely flat country of rice fields, of pinewoods, of cypress swamps, of oaks, lotus, and all their attendant feathered folk would yield me a full harvest if diligently spaded.”


Image courtesy of The Charleston Museum, Charleston, South Carolina