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Sale At Auction of an Important Jules André Smith Artist’s Sketchbook Lot 329 November 17, 2012

Neal Auction Company


Lot 329 - November 17th, 2012 Jules André Smith (American/Florida, 1880-1959), Artist’s Sketchbook, 1927-28, a

bound

collection

of over 475 miniature compositions in watercolor and crayon (ranging in size from 3 ¼ in. x 2 ¼ in. to 2 ½ in. x 4 in.) for drawings, paintings, portraits and prints, with the artist’s monogram on front and back covers; inside front cover inscribed in the artist’s hand, “These date from my first winter in Florida / 1927-28”, and in a different hand, “Property of A[ttilio]. J. [‘Duke’] Banca [1901-1984], Stony Creek, Conn.”, the handsomely half-leather-bound album contained in a fine archival clamshell box under linen covers, with Smith’s abstract watercolor composition from the interior album cover reproduced in silkscreen on the outer cover, and with a reproduction of his added date of “1931-32”. [$5,000 / $7,000] Note: Born to American parents in China, where his father was a shipbuilder, then moving with his widowed mother and brothers to Hamburg in Germany in the late 1880s before settling in New York, Smith enrolled in 1898 at Cornell University, from which he took his B.A. degree in 1902, as well as a Master of Science in Architecture in 1904. Following a two-year traveling fellowship from Cornell to



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study European architecture, he dedicated the next five years to an architectural apprenticeship, and three more to professional practice, before his prints attracted notice in New York (e.g. Whistler-esque architectural subjects in Avignon 1910 and other European towns). Smith was thus able to set up as an independent artist: such early prints as these won him a Gold Medal at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. The fundamental influence on his career, however, was the triumph of Modernism in the “Armory Show” of 1913 in New York; his large Untitled composition in a precisionist Cubist style reminiscent of Léger, for example, dates from c. 1913-15. Another profound influence on his art came from one of the youngest contributors to the Armory Show, Stuart Davis (1894-1964), whose experimental style strongly underlies (among many others of his works) Smith’s Collage of 1924. After attending an Officers’ Training School at Plattsburgh, NY in 1917, Smith was commissioned a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and worked with camouflage units in the Engineer Reserve Corps before his assignment as an active-duty Captain with the American Expeditionary

Forces;

he

eventually

designed

the

Distinguished Service Cross. He continued to work mainly in Modernist abstraction upon his return to the U.S., but varied that idiom with prominent Surrealist motifs, and with his inclusion of representational Christian themes. Like Davis, he also experimented with “close-up” landscapes of a street or a few buildings rendered in simplified forms and primary colors. This is witnessed in the sketchbook offered here by the astonishingly varied and appealing sketches. This album in fact records the prodigious output of his “first winter in Florida,” to which he had been introduced by his



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close friend ‘Duke’ Banca, the later owner of this book. Deciding to settle in Winter Park, he began by painting sets for Annie Russell’s theatre, where he met his most devoted patron, Mary Louise Bok, in 1935. Smith acquired a sizeable property in neighboring Maitland, where beginning in 1937 he constructed a sort of ideal artistic compound, which he named The Research Studio. It grew considerably larger and its program became more elaborate after its opening in 1938, but from the outset it was conceived as a kind of haven during the winter months for a small group of “Bok Fellows” in Residence (among the first of whom was the great Ralston Crawford, 1906-1978), who typically lived in its individual artists’ quarters from November to April. It had a precarious existence, including a variety of legal challenges, after Smith’s death; but it survives today as the Maitland Art Center. In the buildings he designed for The Research Studio in the later 1930s and following, Smith introduced

extensive

motifs and imagery from the Mesoamerican world, as well as iconographies suggestive of Christianity, Buddhism, and other faiths; but the early album offered here showcases his fundamental devotion to abstract modernism. Its beautifully composed small compositions are mainly executed in grisaille watercolor, though other media are often incorporated, culminating in brilliant color especially in his tightly concentrated landscape studies. Smith’s major publication was a



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privately-printed book of 1937 called Art and the Subconscious, in which he espoused the concept of “automatic” composition: its 38 illustrations—each accompanied by an 8-line poem—reproduce drawings that he made at a uniform “12 by 17 inches” similar to the smaller rectangles of the same proportion in this album. Their unifying thread is markedly Surrealist; but the “purer” abstractions offered here succinctly summarize his first twenty years of artistic experience, and offer a comprehensive encyclopedia of the motifs that organize and illuminate his extraordinary art. References: André Smith, Art and the Subconscious [“In Explanation;” “Drawings;” “Verses;” and “Postscript” apparently issued in separate fascicles], Maitland, FL, 1937; Ginny C. Seibert, The Legacy of André Smith, M.A. thesis, University of Central Florida, Orlando, 2005

Contact Michelle LeBlanc Leckert for inquiries 800.467.5329 michelle@nealauction.com



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Lot 329 • November 17th, 2012

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The Jules Andre Smith Artist Sketchbook