Oil on linen canvas, circa 1964. 660x914 mm; 26x36 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: acquired from the Detroit Artists Market (circa 1964); private Michigan/Florida collection; thence by descent to a private collection. This painting was owned by a lady from Grosse Pointe, MI, who took painting lessons from Hughie Lee-Smith at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial in the early 1960s.
This painting by Lee-Smith is a very fine and unusual example of his mid-career work from his "metaphysical phase" in the early 1960s. This painting's intense, bright light gives this sunny scene little of the period's later brooding atmosphere. Many of these paintings, however, do share figures with their backs turned to the viewer, flying banners and an L-shaped, cracked concrete pier. Lee-Smith's continued interest in the subject of solitude--both psychological and social--combined with the death of his wife in 1961, leads to a change in his painting style. The artist described the transition himself: "The metaphysical phase really began in earnest in the early 1960s. In an almost unconscious, not at all deliberate way, it crept in. I was still with Janet Nessler Gallery, and it became much more pronounced in the late sixties. In that period my whole palette changed. There was the introduction of more white--so that the greys began to take over and a kind of fatality, I felt, developed in terms of the paint values themselves. I suppose this was an unconscious effort on my part to gain a feeling of forlornness. I never sat down and thought about it." Bearden/Henderson p. 333.