Untitled (Green Linear Nude), David Smith

David Smith (American, 1906 - 1965) 

Untitled (Green Linear Nude), c. 1964 

Enamel on canvas 

Gift of The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, 2011, and bequest of Mary Elizabeth Sterling, 2007 (TCM.2007.1.5) 

While known primarily as a sculptor who created totemic works of lines, planes, angles and geometric forms in steel, David Smith was also interested throughout his career in drawing and painting. Sometimes the fluid and unpremeditated traits of these two-dimensional media served Smith’s sculpture as generators of ideas for new forms. However, in the case of Smith’s late paintings, referred to as the Last Nudes, a series begun in the winter of 1963-64, he may have used them as a kind of relief or release from the rigors of his monumental stainless steel Cubi sculptures on which he was working during the same period. 

The explosive linearity and spatial openness of the Last Nudes stand in striking contrast to the solid, rigid forms of Smith’s late sculptures, and they offer a fascinating look at another side of Smith’s artistic mind. Smith’s Last Nudes paintings are essentially poured drawings in the manner of Jackson Pollock. Vigorously wrought in enamel paint squeezed from syringes or bottles over canvases spread on the floor, these works are at once full of intense energy but carefully controlled, expressive of emotion as well as the speed of their execution.