Oct 06, 2022 - Sale 2616

Sale 2616 - Lot 178

Price Realized: $ 137,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 40,000 - $ 60,000
HUGHIE LEE-SMITH (1915 - 1999)
The End (The Pink Door).

Oil on linen canvas, 1998. 1016x1270 mm; 40x50 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.

Provenance: the estate of the artist; thence by descent to a private collection.

The End is a bold and dramatic painting from Hughie Lee-Smith's late series of works inspired by the theatre. His depictions of figures in imaginary, staged environments recall Lee-Smith's early experiences of dance and theatre while working at the Playhouse Settlement (named Karamu House in 1941) during the WPA period in Cleveland. Lee-Smith taught art at Karamu House in the late 1930s in return for the full scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art (now the Art Institute of Cleveland) that the Gilpin Players awarded him in 1935.

The End is a striking painting from this ultimate period of Lee-Smith's oeuvre. With both the figures hidden or turned from the viewer, the only faces on view are the images of a Greek tragedy mask and an African mask painted on the set. The compressed space and floating elements further create a metaphysical, dream-like space that reflects the lasting influence of Giorgio De Chirico. The End is also a very personal reflection on mortality. Painted after his move to Albuquerque in 1997, Lee-Smith was fighting his final battle with cancer at the time - he passed away on February 23, 1999 at the age of 83.