Hirebecca, David Smith

Hirebecca, 1961

David Smith (American, 1906 - 1965)  

Welded and painted steel 

Purchase, 1972 (4092.1) 

Born in Indiana, David Smith moved to New York City in 1926 to pursue art. Through the artist John Graham, Smith met avant-garde artists and discovered the welded sculptures of the Spanish-born artists Pablo Picasso and Julio González, which profoundly inspired him. In 1932, Smith installed a forge and anvil in his studio at Bolton Landing in upstate New York. At first he made three-dimensional objects from wood, wire, soldered metal and other found materials but soon graduated to using an oxyacetylene torch, welding together pieces of steel in much the same way that a painter applied paint to a canvas. Smith said, “I belong with the painters,” and he often painted the surfaces of his works. 

Many of Smith’s sculptures made after 1954 bear titles incorporating the names of his daughters, Rebecca (born 1954) and Candida (born 1955), such as Hirebecca, Hi Candida, Rebecca Circle, Bec-Dida Day. He remarked that they would stand as perpetual greetings or salutes to the two girls. At the time they were made, there was scarcely any interest on the part of museums and collectors in Smith’s sculptures, so he placed them in the fields of his farm at Bolton Landing, often in rows, creating his own personal sculpture garden.