David Smith

Eng No. 6

Not on view



Red and white tempera and oil on paper

Sheet (irregular): 29 13/16 × 42 1/4in. (75.7 × 107.3 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Agnes Gund and an anonymous donor

Rights and reproductions
© Estate of David Smith / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


While David Smith is best-known for his welded metal sculptures, he began as a painter in the late 1920s, and two-dimensional work remained an essential component of his practice throughout his career. By 1953, he was executing between three hundred and four hundred drawings annually. While not a study, Eng No. 6 might represent a flattened version, or cross-section, of one of Smith’s sculptures: it exhibits the singular blend of edgy protrusions and lyric biomorphism that characterizes his three-dimensional works, and also shares their decentralized compositional arrangement. But unlike his labor-intensive sculptures, works on paper such as Eng No. 6 allowed Smith an opportunity for speed, immediacy, and improvisation. The drawing’s medium is a mixture of tempera and India ink, which is more viscous than pure ink or paint, permitting Smith greater control of the pigment’s density and absorption as well as flexibility in application.