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Hughie Lee-Smith (1915-1999)

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The Promise


In the course of a distinguished career that spanned over 50 years, Hughie Lee-Smith developed a complex personal style that is always engaging, often startling, and deeply evocative. It only takes a glance at Lee-Smith's haunting, introspective works to realize that this award-winning artist was influenced by a rich variety of life experiences. As an African American man born in the early part of this century, Lee-Smith brought an utterly unique perspective to his art -- he lived through the Depression, World War II, and the Civil Rights movement. A largely unsung hero in the art world until the first retrospective of his art was held in 1988, Lee-Smith has now taken a place next to such modern American masters as Edward Hopper and Romare Bearden.

Lee-Smith trained extensively as an artist, but he also studied theater and dance. Full of light and dark tones, images of decay and optimism, motion and stillness, his works are unfolding dramas -- they fill those who look at them with intense emotion. His works are astonishing since thay are not only exquisite to look at, but also tremendously thought-provoking. As an artist, he was one of our century's most astute social commentators.

In 1994 Hughie Lee-Smith was commissioned to paint the official City Hall portrait of former Mayor David Dinkins. He was a member of the National Academy of Design and received an Honorary Doctorate from the Maryland Institute College of Fine Art in Baltimore 1995. Lee-Smith's paintings are in many public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; The Detroit Institute of Arts, MI; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and in many private collections, including those of Mrs. Edsel Ford and of the late Malcolm Forbes.

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