hughie Lee-smith

Painter and printmaker, Hughie Lee-Smith (1915 – 1999) developed a refined figurative art that reflected the challenges and complexities he found in urban society. Born in Eustis, Florida, Lee-Smith’s distinguished career began in Cleveland where he graduated from the Cleveland School of Art with honors, and was inspired by the art of the Harlem Renaissance. Lee-Smith was part of the first generation of modern African-American artists who overcame tremendous odds during the Great Depression. Lee-Smith was also part of a group of American artists whose career benefited from the opportunities provided by the WPA, or Works Progress Administration, of the New Deal. His well-known subjects of isolated figures in desolate landscapes are associated with the urban places he has lived in - from Cleveland and Detroit in the Midwest to New York and New Jersey in the East. 

His unique style of social realism is best known by his 1953 painting The Piper which was awarded the Founders Prize and acquired by the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Lee-Smith also won the prestigious Emily Lowe painting prize in 1957, and was elected a member of the National Academy of Design, New York in 1967. His paintings, prints and drawings have been included in numerous solo museum and gallery exhibitions including a 1988 retrospective at the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ. His paintings are in important museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and many other important institutional and private collections. 

“My pervasive idea is a social one. I see the bare facts of reality—the clashes of social forces in a changing society.”

”The road art must travel in a given society is charted by the historical necessities of the times. It is determined by the needs of the people at any given historical period.”
— Hughie Lee-Smith