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Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

Transatlantic Performances and Bridges by Albert Alexander Smith in the 1920s and 1930s essay by Theresa Leininger-Miller


ne of the most distinctive, multi-talented, and awardwinning New Negro artists was jazz musician, painter, and printmaker Albert Alexander Smith (1896-1940), who expatriated to Paris in 1920 after having served in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Five works by Smith (three oil paintings, a watercolor, and a print) that have come on the market recently are representative of primary motifs in his oeuvre, depicting candid scenes of common folk in musical and theatrical performances, laborers, and centuriesold bridges in the United States, France, and Spain, respectively. Collectively, these demonstrate notable technical skills by an artist with international academic training and imagery cleverly calculated to meet the desires of patrons intrigued by both racialized and tourist content. Born in New York City, Smith was the only child of immigrants from Bermuda. His mother, homemaker Elizabeth A. Smith, and father, Albert Renforth Smith, longtime chauffeur to newspaper publisher and author Ralph Pulitzer (1979-1939), encouraged Smith’s artistic talents, praising his drawings of farm animals and paying for music

lessons. After graduation from Public School No. 70 in 1911, Smith attended DeWitt Clinton High School for two years where he socialized with African Americans, European Americans, and Hispanic Americans. In 1913, Smith earned a Wolfe scholarship to the High School of Ethical Culture, “the first Colored boy to win such an honor.” There, he studied drawing, watercolor painting, poster design, sculpture, and basket making with Irene Weir (1862-1944). The Art Students League approved Smith’s work but refused him entrance “after finding out that he was a Negro.” Smith became the first African American student at the prestigious National Academy of Design (NAD) in 1915. He studied painting under Douglas Volk (1856-1935) and Charles Courtney Curran (1861-1942), etching under William Auberbach-Levy (1889-1964), and mural painting under Kenyon Cox (1856-1919). Smith won numerous awards at the NAD—honorable mention and the Suydam bronze medal in his first- and second-year antique classes (1915, 1916), two prizes from the academy poster competition, and the Suydam Medal for charcoal work in a life class (1917). Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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When the United States entered the war in Europe in 1917, Smith enlisted in the 807 Pioneer Band and served overseas for two and a half months in Army service. In July 1919, Smith received an honorable discharge from the army and returned with renewed vigor to the NAD where he won not only the John Armstrong Chaloner Paris Foundation first prize, of twenty-five dollars, for painting from life—which entered him in the competition for the Chaloner prize for study in Paris—but also first prizes in etching. Smith’s print style developed with aspects derived from two very different sources, that is, Cox’s traditional, representational figures and Auerbach-Levy’s caricatures of celebrities and theatrical personalities. From the latter artist, who published images in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and American Heritage, Smith learned that he could earn an income as an

illustrator. In fact, his earliest known piece is a pen and ink drawing, The Fall of the Castle (1917) that The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races magazine published in February, 1920. A crowd of shovel and pole-carrying black men determinedly ascend a steep, cloud-capped mountain on top of which is perched a castle bearing the label “PREJUDICE.” The composition illustrates the caption: It was a mighty Castle, with massive towers, walls of amazing thickness, and foundations that seem to seek the very roots of earth. It was defended by armed hosts and vast beasts of the air. Men said it would never fall. They said God Himself had built it, to stand Forever and a Day. They laughed at the puny, black folk who attacked it daily, doggedly, with shovel and broom and stave. And yet—IT FELL. Why? It was built on SAND.

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Begun in 1910 by editor W.E.B. DuBois and others (and still operating today), The Crisis is the official magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the oldest Black-oriented periodical in the world. DuBois aggressively sought images from African American artists that would lead to racial uplift. In his famous essay, Criteria of Negro Art, which DuBois delivered as an address at the Chicago conference of the NAACP in 1926, DuBois declared: Thus all art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.

DuBois published the essay in conjunction with a seven-part series of responses to a symposium, “The Negro in Art: How Shall He Be Portrayed?”, which invited responses by black and white artists and intellectuals to seven questions about the freedoms and responsibilities of African American artists. In the subsequent issue of The Crisis (March, 1920), DuBois published an even stronger image by Smith. In The Reason (To the North), a black man in coat and tie, identified as a “Southern Negro” by the label on the suitcase he carries, hurries away. The reason for his hasty departure is evident as he glances back at a white man gesturing toward a black man hanging from a tree—a lynch victim. A banner streaming from the lapel of the emigrant indicates his destination: “To the North.” Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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As much as Smith may have been in agreement with DuBois about the need for positive images of the New Negro (sophisticated, formally educated city dwellers, as later described by philosopher Alain Locke in his anthology, The New Negro of 1925), he was interested in a wide variety of subject matter. Throughout his career and apparently without experiential knowledge, he would depict images of rural, Southern African Americans that vacillated along an ambiguous spectrum of sympathy, irony, caricature, and stereotype. In strong contradiction to his work for Crisis, meant to undergird outrage against racial oppression (and later, pride in racial heritage), Smith also created illustrations to sell commercial products. That is, Smith worked as a sheet music illustrator and so far, he is the only African American known to have done so. Two examples from 1920 demonstrate his notable agility in adapting style and content for various audiences by producing black material for a white firm and white material for black company. These covers of piano sheet music, with their narrative scenes, capital letters, bold graphics, and saturated colors, attracted buyers. Save a Little Dram for Me is dedicated to Bahamian-born entertainer Bert Williams (1874-1922), one of the most popular comedians and the highestpaid black performer in history at that time, as well as by far the best-selling black recording artist. Beginning in stereotypical vaudevillian roles with George Walker (ca. 1872-1911), Williams performed in classily dressed in burnt-cork blackface for Ziegfeld

Follies and in Broadway musicals in New York and internationally, often as a languorous victim of life’s misfortunes. Between 1918 and 1921, he recorded several records as “Elder Eatmore,” an unscrupulous preacher, as well as songs concerning Prohibition, such as Save a Little Dram, which he performed as Parson Johnson. During an era when 10,000 sales were considered laudable, Williams had four songs that sold between 180,000 and 250,000 copies in 1920 alone. On this music cover (available in either blue or brown ink), a circular photographic insert in the lower left features a half-length portrait of Williams in top hat, suit and tie, white gloves, and blackface with a widened and whitened mouth looking dolefully at the viewer. Smith depicted him in the same guise in the upper left but with a more assertive expression and cocked right eyebrow, as he fingers a Bible page in left hand and points to a congregant with his right forefinger. The preacher’s church, albeit with a stained-glass window, has seen better days, as indicated by a board tacked diagonally on the front of the pulpit and the pistol dangling from a ribbon hung on a nail on the lectern’s side. Smith adroitly has rendered eight churchgoers’ varying interests and expressions. To the preacher’s left stands a wide-eyed, bald, bearded elder with spectacles pushed up on forehead and mouth agape. He nervously holds a tambourine upside down as a makeshift collection basket. In the middle distance, a man in silhouette has turned around in his pew to chat with a fashionable woman. Her beribboned hat with a tall plume is echoed by a

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larger, polka-dotted one in the foreground, adorned with a horizontal feather. In the lower right cowers the object of the preacher’s admonition with large, upturned eyes in his pew. Nattily attired in a checked jacket, he holds a bottle of gin close to his chest while three other men look at him askance. The man in the middle, a dandy in striped vest, patterned tie, and large, starched wing-tip collar, seems amused; he smiles and waggles his fingers at the drunkard’s discomfort. The chorus goes: Oh! Brethern if you wants more preachin’, save a little dram for me (Glory Hallilueh). Drinkin’ Gin ain’t against my teachin’. Treat me with equality. Now from that “Smell” it’s plain to see Somebody here is “Holdin’-Out-On-Me.” So Brethern if you wants more preachin’, save a little dram for me. Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Skidmore Music Company is a division of the Jewish-established firm of Shapiro Bernstein & Co., Inc. Owner Will E. Skidmore and Marshall Walker co-wrote the words and music. The circumstances of his hire of Smith are unknown, but it seems apparent that Skidmore offered artistic license. Smith ran with this, expanding and complicating the scene more than in the lyrics, inserting humorous passages, and increasing dramatic interest with the intersecting glances of multiple characters. Already at a young age, Smith was savvy about meeting audience expectations and desires. He produced a radically different music cover, both in style and content, for the black-owned firm, Perry Bradford Music Publishing Company, located in the Gaiety building at Broadway and 45th on Times Square. Bradford (1893-1970) was a jazz pianist, minstrel, and vaudevillian with such a stubborn streak that his nickname was “the Mule.” His wife, Marion Dickerson, penned the lyrics for It’s Right Here for You (If You Don’t Get It—Tain’t No Fault O’Mine). The composer was another African American woman, Edna Belle Alexander (d. 1972), wife of composer and music publisher Maceo Pinkard (1897-1962). Alexander used the pseudonym of Alex Belledna for this piece. A black female songwriting team was extremely rare in the early twentieth century. The composition was on the reverse side of the record, Crazy Blues, written by Bradford. “The Queen of the Blues” singer Mamie Smith (1891-1946) made history by recording Crazy Blues in August 1920 with Okeh Records. She was the first African American female popular singer to lead a commercial

recording and within a month of release, the record sold 75,000 copies. The song was the first significant hit recording in the blues ever issued and it was the first recording with a blues title by a black artist. Mamie Smith also sang It’s Right Here for You. When Bradford published the sheet music for that piece, however, he pitched to a crossover audience by including a photographic insert of white singer Sophie Tucker (1886-1966), “The Last of the Red Hot Mommas,” known for entertaining delivery of comic and risqué songs, on the cover along with an Art Nouveau-inspired illustration by Albert Alexander Smith of a stylish white couple in profile with small facial features. Smith’s red, white, and blue design is a bold explosion of patterns. “Mandy Green,” a young woman with bobbed titian hair who sports an elaborate feathered headdress, a lowcut, spaghetti-strap white gown with red polka dots, and blue crisscrossed ribbons on ankles. She sits on a curvilinear divan striped in red, white, and blue, and props one shoe on a ruffled footrest. With right hand on hip, she appeals to her suitor with an open left palm. “Jim Jackson” presses both palms on the sofa armrest, cane in left hand and looks at Mandy intently beneath his top hat. His duds include a natty red cravat, white vest, blue jacket, blue and white striped trousers, and white spats. Behind each character are dramatic curtains filled with arabesques. Smith has imagined a row between an upper-class twosome. In the lyrics, Jim complains that Mandy was cruel, making him walk in the park but refusing to kiss him. Mandy retorts:

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It’s right here for you, if you don’t get it, ‘Tain’t a fault of mine. You know there’s honey in each rose for the bee; It’s up to him to get it, you will agree. I’ve got a lovin’ disposition, So, dear, I’m in the same position. It’s right here for you, and if you don’t get it, ‘Tain’t no fault of mine, great goin’, babe! ‘Tain’t no fault of mine! Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Despite high sales, it is unlikely that Smith earned much beyond a freelance salary for these two compositions. A music publisher may have commissioned Smith to produce Plantation Melodies (Sud des États Unis), 1920, Music covers bearing the popular, generic, two-word title date back as early as 1847. Various composers, both black (like Harry T. Burleigh) and white (such as Stephen Foster) used the term to name pieces published in 1850, 1897, 1901, 1905, 1907, and 1918. Given that Smith opted to make an etching rather than a drawing, however, it is more likely that he created the print on his own as a work of fine art. Smith’s Plantation Melodies depicts a group of African American people enjoying music at dusk in front of a log cabin. Four male musicians perform: seated on a bench are a young guitarist and two older, bearded men who play a banjo and fiddle, and in the right foreground sits a barefoot youth playing a harmonica. Between him and the cabin stand two men, one a barechested teenager spellbound by the music and the other, a middle-aged fellow in a straw hat smoking a corncob pipe. Behind the fiddler is a mule. In the upper right, a woman wearing a bandana leans against a doorframe holding a toddler. A pendant pair, on the left, beneath a tree and in front of a picket fence, is the silhouette of a woman with hoop earrings holding a little girl aloft. Women and children frame the scene, appreciating the men’s talent.

It is not clear why Smith chose this subject matter and packed it with so many gendered and Southern black markers. There is no evidence that he ever travelled in the South, although he may have done so briefly during his military training. Perhaps his travel abroad gave impetus to the work. It may be that Europeans who met Smith questioned him about the history of slavery, the birth of jazz, and life in the South. The parenthetical French title of the print suggests that Smith had a bilingual audience in mind. At any rate, the work, striking in its unusual portrayal of southern black musicians as ordinary people entertaining themselves rather than as outlandish caricatures performing for whites, immediately won Smith acclaim. The Crisis published a reproduction of the print in August, 1920, with a column devoted to Smith’s achievements and the announcement of his study abroad; he had set sail on June 12, never to live in the United States again. Brownies Book, a short-lived publication by the NAACP, awarded the etching second prize. Plantation Melodies struck a chord with black and white audiences alike, because it seemed to be a sympathetic treatment of the rural and folkloric, in the vein of work by other African Americans who were also depicting southern black culture with seriousness, such as Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Banjo Lesson (1893), some of Langston Hughes’s poetry, selected Bessie Smith lyrics, and Jean Toomer’s novel, Cane (1923).

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Lot 152 • Plantation Melodies, 1923 etching 8 7/8 x 11 7/8 inches (image) 13 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (sheet) signed and titled in margin Courtesy of Black Art Auction Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Albert Alexander Smith, Works celebrating important Black historical figures L to R: Toussaint L’Ouverture, Booker T. Washington, and Frederick Douglass, all from the Melvin Holmes Collection of African American Art.

The years 1920 to 1926 were filled with travelling throughout Europe. Smith took on itinerant jobs as a musician with various bands. Unlike most of his colleagues, he had no financial backing for his sojourn abroad, although Schomburg sought monetary aid for him from newspaper publisher, Ralph Pulitzer, to no avail. During his first two years overseas, Smith worked as “a musician by night and a struggling artist by day” and mostly produced tourist or sightseeing scenes of bridges, ports, and marketplaces in France and Luxembourg. He exhibited some of his etchings at the New York Public Library in 1921 and 1922, and in the Tanner Art League exhibition, Washington, D.C., in 1922, where he won a gold medal. Smith spent the first half of 1922 in Italy, performing music and studying the works of Piranesi and Michelangelo in Rome, and other Italian masters in Naples and Pompei and in the Pitti and Uffizi galleries in Florence. Again, he mostly produced tourist scenes of streets, bridges, rivers, and ports. He

then launched a series of portraits of notable people of African descent, such as French novelists René Maran and Alexandre Dumas, American writers Phillis Wheatley and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, abolitionists Bishop Richard Allen, Harriet Tubman, and Frederick Douglass, educator Booker T. Washington, British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Haitian military leader, Toussaint L’Ouverture. Smith also began to celebrate international black achievements and racial uplift in compositions such as Visions of Ethiopia, 1923, and The Builders of the Temple, 1924. He also produced scenes of racial violence and discrimination in the United States, as in Lords of Lynching, 1924 and Untitled drawing (Justice), 1924 that appeared on the cover of Crisis magazine. It depicts a classically robed white woman whose blindfold is lifted by a hand emerging out of the inky background. Justice’s scales are tipped wildly out of favor against the black man. Smith makes it clear that he has left behind the unjust American system; his signature,

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the date, and “Brussels” appear on a vase in the lower right. Smith exhibited his works in that Belgian city at the Galerie Royale. Smith studied etching and lithography at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Liège under the Belgian master François Maréchal (18611945), 1923-24. Maréchal was one of the best known painter-etchers of his time, recognized for his landscapes, depictions of popular types, and more than four hundred graphic works of plants and insects. Under Maréchal’s direction, Smith continued executing prints of tourist sites, such as a Japanese gate and a marketplace in Liège, the latter of which he exhibition along with a Street in Rome at the Brooklyn Society of Etchers, December 1924-January 1925. From early 1926 to mid-1928 Smith focused primarily on depicting European

types, encouraged, no doubt by Maréchal’s success in this area. Where Maréchal, however, concentrated on the Walloon people in the industrial areas of southern and southeastern Belgium, Smith covered a wider range of Europeans, especially Spaniards and the French. In the first half of 1926, Smith travelled through Spain, to Seville, Bilboa, and Madrid, where he studied the works of Velázquez and Murillo at the Prado Museum. It is likely that Smith painted The Road to La Carolina, Spain, ca. 1926, about this time. The work is curious for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that the apparent title seems to have little or nothing to do with the subject matter of three men in a minstrel skit. La Carolina is a small town in the Jaén province of southern Spain, known as “the gateway to Andalusia.” Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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The Road to La Carolina, Spain is a highly original work, compelling for its heightened theatricality, combination of racial/racist caricatures and candid expression, tension between stasis and movement, contrast between bright light and shadows, disparity in the figures’ heights, cross-dressing, vantage point from above, dynamic use of diagonals, and shallow space. As though from a box seat, we look down slightly at an angle at three performers who stand in a row downstage left on a narrow frontage edged with a short black board hiding footlights before a pleated, cream-colored stage curtain, as though they are about to take center stage. Strong lights cast tall shadow up behind the first two figures only. All of the characters (race uncertain) wear burnt cork blackface with widened and whitened mouths and white gloves. The lead actor evokes Bert Williams (who passed away in 1922), with a kinky hair wig, bowler hat, shabby suit, spats, and cigar dangling from his lips. The slant of the bamboo cane held in his left hand echoes the decline in height from this tall comedian to the third entertainer and converges with the pitch of the rising toe kick in the lower right. This fellow faces toward center stage but turns his head left and looks in the direction of the stooge behind him. Bareheaded, that man, also in spats, stands facing forward, in a green jacket and red vest. He holds his hat upside down in his left hand and points with his right hand at the figure behind him. Eyes bulging

and eyebrows upraised, he looks past the shoulder of the lead man. The last thespian appears to be a male dwarf dressed as a woman. Like the first character, he stands in profile, looks over his left shoulder, wears a hat, and carries a prop at an angle, in this case, a yellow umbrella. Together, with their clothing and poses, the two function as bookends or parentheses to the gesturing man in the middle. The short man wears a red coat with a furry white collar, a too-small, tilted yellow chapeau bedecked with a feather and cherries, and round-rimmed spectacles. The lenses are opaque white, hiding eyes, yet it is clear that the three men do not see each other as all look in different directions, the first and third seeming to apprise the audience or something in the wings. The beveled gold frame of the painting echoes the cropped frame in the lower left of the composition, propped up against the stage apron. Only the truncated final capital letters of the sign are visible; from top to bottom, “S, “M,”, “E.” In sum, this is a riddle of a painting, a mélange depicting the fading tradition of vaudeville in chiaroscuro lighting from Baroque artists with contemporary motifs of racialized and gender-bending spectacle. Although restricted by stock toles and confined to a tight space, these characters demonstrate a range of emotions in a spontaneous, semi-private moment as they ready themselves for yet another rote, public performance.

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The Road to LaCarolina, c. 1926 oil on canvas 26 x 19 inches signed; paper label verso

Courtesy of Tyler Fine Art, St. Louis, MO Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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The oil painting, Puente de San Martin Bridge, Spain, 1926 was part of the same Long Island collection as The Road to La Carolina, Spain. Sometime between 1926 and 1928, Smith travelled further in Spain, visiting Pasajes and Toledo. He viewed this medieval bridge that crosses the Tagus River in the latter city, and depicted it from some distance on a rocky bank at midday, though curiously unpeopled. Only a handful of bridges in the world were as long as St. Martin’s Bridge—forty meters—at the time of its construction. It linked the old town from the west complementing the older Puente de Alcántara connecting to the east. Both stone edifices were heavily fortified with towers, one of which is featured in this composition on the left, with a glimpse of town buildings in the upper left. The bridge has five arches, the largest in the middle. Smith cropped the construction after the third arch. Sunlight pours through the vaults and sparkles on the blue, green, and golden river. The late 14th-century structure has a timeless quality and sense of stability with strong horizontals in a landscape format.

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Lot 104 • Puente de San Martin Bridge, Spain, 1926 oil on canvas 25 x 39 1/2 inches signed, dated, and inscribed, “Toledo” (Spain) Courtesy of Black Art Auction Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Pont Neuf, 1938 oil on canvas 28 x 16 inches signed lower right

Provenance: former estate of Smith, Paris Courtesy of Tyler Fine Art, St. Louis, MO

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Bridges were a motif throughout Smith’s life, metaphorically in terms of the connections he forged with people through the U.S. and Europe, and literally, in multiple compositions. Twelve years later, Smith painted Pont Neuf, 1938, the oldest standing bridge across the Seine in Paris, by the western point of the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the river that was the birthplace of the City of Light. The bridge features two separate spans, one of five arches and another of seven, but Smith depicted just two, both cropped at an oblique angle, from ground level. Above two abstracted pedestrians stand in sunlit a turret connecting the arches, framed by two lampposts. In the foreground, a mustachioed captain in a blue jacket and cap chats with another fellow in a red jacket and white cap while two laborers work with miscellaneous small cargo. In the lower right, a man bends over to adjust a ladder propped from the dock to a simple wooden boat under one of the bridge’s arches. In the middle distance,

a sailor guides a small skiff under an arch, tipping a chimney with rope as smoke billows into the upper left. The picturesque scene of daily French life is made more inviting by trailing vines or tree branches in the upper right. Twelve years earlier, Smith made a lithograph, 1924 with similar features, that is, dock workers, tree at right, and the same boat with tilted smoke pipe. The print version, however, depicts onlookers on a quay at bridge level in the lower right and a distant view of the city. Smith produced similar bridge/ dock/port compositions in other cities, such as Ponte Vecchio—Florence, Italy, 1928 and Le Port Honfleur, 1933; he exhibited these two works at the Harmon Foundation in New York. Many artists depicted the Pont Neuf, including African American compatriots Palmer Hayden and Hale Woodruff. When Woodruff painted the bridge en plein air in 1927, he counted thirty-one other artists also rendering the famous landmark. Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Pont Neuf shows Smith’s interest in documenting ordinary people at work in addition to typical tourist views. In an untitled and undated watercolor (Men Clearing Stone), two barefoot men with shaggy dark hair haul a boulder with ropes in a sun-baked, desolate landscape. Both bend over with the strain, each with one leg planted ahead. On the right, a drudge in a white shirt and blue pants hefts the load over his left shoulder. The peasant in the middle of the composition, wearing a white neckerchief, a tan shirt, and cream trousers, uses his core strength to pull the burden by wrapping the lasso around his waist, looping two coils of rope in his clenched hands. Sweat glistens on his forehead and cheek. Smith neatly bisected the scene horizontally, according a light blue, cloudy sky above and a dry, furrowed dirt ground below. Although just nine by twelves inches, the watercolor expresses a monumentality by foregrounding heroic figures. Are they French, Italian, or Spanish? No matter the nationality, Smith demonstrates his compassion for the working class.

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Lot 105 • Untitled (Men Clearing Stone), c. 1925 watercolor on paper 9 x 12 inches signed

Provenance: Private collection, Paris Courtesy of Black Art Auction Albert Alexander SMITH (1896-1940)

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Despite his award-winning career, Smith had no guaranteed income and had to compete constantly for sales and musical gigs. He exhibited with the American Artists Professional League in Paris every year, 1935-1938, but spent most of his energy performing at Zelli’s and the Café de Paris, doing radio work, and making recordings. He wrote to librarian Arthur Schomburg, “Well, every failure is a whip to drive me on to further heights. I used to feel discouraged, but that feeling is gone now and as I can see it’s a long and rough road, I must go on all the harder.” In his drive for success, Smith may have overworked himself. He died suddenly in France on April 3, 1940, only forty-four years old.

audiences. While he played to the desires of a white public, he also responded to the requests of Arthur Schomburg and W.E.B. DuBois, as well as to Alain Locke’s call for racially representative art, with dignified portrayals of African culture. He turned a biblical curse—and subsequent racial slur—into an affirmative celebration. In the book of Genesis, Noah condemned Canann, son of Ham, to be a “servant of servants.” Hamitic-speaking peoples, however, ruled North Africa. Two years before his death, Smith announced to Schomburg that he, too, was proud to be “a son of Ham.”

Smith was a conflicted artist who made conscious decisions about his depictions of musical and theatrical performances and major tourist attractions, such as bridges, carefully choosing specific imagery for separate

For more information about Albert Alexander Smith, please see Theresa Leininger-Miller, New Negro Artists in Paris: African American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922-1934 (Rutgers, 2001). q

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Profile for Tyler Fine Art/ BLACK ART AUCTION

Albert Alexander Smith (1896-1940)  

A companion book for a collection of works by Albert Alexander Smith presented with the essay Transatlantic Performances and Bridges by Albe...

Albert Alexander Smith (1896-1940)  

A companion book for a collection of works by Albert Alexander Smith presented with the essay Transatlantic Performances and Bridges by Albe...

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