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David Smith

Hudson River Landscape

1951

Artist

David Smith (1906-1965)

Title

Hudson River Landscape

Date

1951

Medium

Welded painted steel and stainless steel

Dimensions

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

Edition information

Unique

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number

54.14

Object Label

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.

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