Oil on linen canvas, circa 1975. 813x660 mm; 32x26 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: private collection, Florida.
This untitled urban landscape is a very fine example of Hughie Lee-Smith's painting, a transitional work between his "metaphysical phase" of the 1960s and his late period body of work of the 80s and 90s. Despite the painting's intense, bright light, the subject of a dilapidated Victorian building recalls Lee-Smith's earlier and darker 1950s paintings. The only sign of a recent human presence is a single blue balloon, also abandoned and left on the street.
Detroit photographer J. Edward Bailey III's (1923-1982), Portrait of Hughie Lee-Smith, 1975, in the collection of Wayne State University, captures Lee-Smith painting a scene in front of a similar landscape of abandoned houses. Lee-Smith continued to paint urban scenes that harken back not just to Detroit, but his life in Cleveland during the Depression. Here Lee-Smith shows a singular economy and clarity in his vision. With little drama, he evokes the existentialism of the 1970s --the deterioration of America's historic urban areas and communities during periods of great growth and prosperity in the country at large.