Monday, 13 June 2011

Jack Smith, the Post-War British abstract painter, dies at 83

Jack Smith 'Shimmer' oil on canvas, 1962
The British abstract painter Jack Smith died this weekend at the age of 83. Smith was known in his early career during the 1950's, as one of the 'Kitchen Sink' artists, a British cultural movement. Alongside John Bratby, Derrick Greaves and Edward Middleditch, Smith established himself as a realist painter, exploring grim, dark interiors of the post-war era. However, in 1956 he abandoned realism and developed a more direct and abstract approach, exploring the effects of light. In addition his work reflected the influence of Constructivism on British artists at the time. Unfortunately, much like his contemporary Victor Pasmore, Smith was never forgiven by some artists for his switch from bleak realism to the brightly coloured jazz inspired abstract works.

Jack Smith, title unknown, oil on canvas, c. 1990's

He studied at St.Martin's School of Art and the Royal College of Art under John Minton, John Ruskin-Spear and Carel Weight. He taught at Bath Academy of Art at Corsham Court with the likes of William Scott, Peter Lanyon, Peter Potworowski, among many other significant abstract painters of the period. His work is represented in many collections worldwide, including the Tate Collection and is represented by Flowers East Gallery, London. Matthew Collings curated a now seminal show at Flowers East, entitled British Abstract Painting 2001 and included Smith's work among others of his generation. A retrospective of his work is well over due..


  1. How dare he change his mind and try something new! The idea that an artist must plough the same furrow for fifty years to maintain a sliver of ever-elusive 'credibility' is infuriating. A prison sentence.

  2. How things have changed, Jason. Perhaps we are more market driven than ideologically minded these days?..

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  4. Do I need splendid tones that are inverse to the point that they vibrate when you see them? For example, green and purple, yellow and blue. Or then again do I need colors that fit when you see them making your eyes move in a mitigating design over the canvas?