HUGHIE LEE-SMITH (1915 - 1999) Mabel (Portrait of the Artist's Wife).
Oil on canvas, 1940. 585x480 mm; 23x19 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: collection of the artist, Chicago; painting reportedly missing, circa 1947; William McBride, Chicago, 1975; Henry Adams Fine Arts Gallery, Chicago, 1999; Patricia Lee-Smith, New Mexico.
William McBride is listed as lending "Mabel" to the 1978 exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He was also a WPA artist from Chicago, and an avid collector of works by his fellow artists. In 1999, the painting was included in an exhibition at the Henry Adams Fine Arts Gallery in Chicago where it was purchased by Patricia Lee-Smith, the artist's third wife.
Exhibited: New York/Chicago: WPA and the Black Artist, The Studio Museum in Harlem, November 13 - January 8, 1978.
Illustrated: New York/Chicago: WPA and the Black Artist, The Studio Museum in Harlem.
Early Hughie Lee-Smith paintings are extremely rare, and this sensitive portrait of Mabel Louise Everette was painted just at the time they married and moved to Detroit in 1940. In Mabel, Lee-Smith's handling of the paint demonstrate his growing confidence and talent as a painter--combining the fluid brush strokes with keen attention to the details that capture her likeness. The artist's estate also has preliminary pencil sketches of this pose, which demonstrate the time and care the artist put into this portrait.