David Smith

Hudson River Landscape

Not on view



Welded painted steel and stainless steel

Overall: 48 3/4 × 72 1/8 × 17 5/16in. (123.8 × 183.2 × 44 cm)

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

David Smith worked in welded steel to produce what he called “drawings in space.” In Hudson River Landscape, he transformed steel agricultural tool fragments and foundry castoffs into a semi-figurative sculpture. As its title indicates, this work is a landscape, one that, in the artist’s words, “came in part from dozens of drawings made on a train between Albany and Poughkeepsie, a synthesis of ten trips over a 75 mile stretch.” The sculpture includes abstracted, but recognizable forms evoking clouds, railroad tracks, and stepped terrain; the spring-thawed, ice-laden Hudson River is airily frozen in steel. But formal considerations are also important. Smith capitalized on steel’s tensile strength and his own welding virtuosity to construct new sculptural forms that balanced mass and weightlessness. While Hudson River Landscape’s outlined, rectangular format recalls Smith’s training as a Cubist painter, the sculpture’s almost calligraphic line moves swiftly in space with a sense of animation and energy akin to the gestural paintings of Smith’s Abstract Expressionist colleagues.   


  • America Is Hard to See

    David Smith, Hudson River Landscape, 1951

    David Smith, Hudson River Landscape, 1951


    Candida Smith: I am Candida Smith. I'm reading from a passage my father David Smith wrote on points of departure, in particular points of departure for the sculpture Hudson River Landscape.

    "Hudson River Landscape started from drawings made on a train between Albany and Poughkeepsie. A synthesis of drawings from ten trips, going and coming over this seventy-five mile stretch. On this basis I started a drawing for a sculpture. As I began, I shook a quart bottle of India ink. It flew over my hand, it looked like my landscape. I placed my hand on the paper, and from the image this left, I traveled with the landscape to other landscapes and their objectives, with additions, deductions, directives which flashed past too fast to tabulate but whose elements are in the finished sculpture. No part is diminished reality. The total is a unity of symbolized reality, which to my mind is far greater reality than the river scene.

    Is my work Hudson River Landscape, the Hudson River, or is it the travel, the vision, the ink spot? Does it matter? The sculpture exists on its own. It is the entity. The name is an affectionate designation of the point prior to travel. My objective was not these words or the Hudson River, but to create the existence of a sculpture. Your response may not travel down the Hudson River, but it may travel on any river, or on a higher level."

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