Throughout the history of printmaking certain artists have been particularly sensitive to the potentialities of the print media. And have made the special qualities of the print an essential part of the creative process. This is not merely a question of mastering the technical manipulation of plate or block, but encompasses a whole series of perceptual attitudes related to knowledge of the kind of line, texture, and color of which each of the print media is capable. Rembrandt had that sense, as did Ensor, Pissarro, and Toulouse-Lautrec (to pick a few examples of relevance to Moishe Smith's work), which is why their prints have such an appropriate feeling of scale, tonality, and "color," and why we respond to them as such direct personal expressions.
Moishe Smith (1929-1993) is an artist of this kind. His command of the intaglio plate is profound, and in print after print he displays his understanding of how to use it to evoke a peaceful landscape or a vibrant city square. He is not a miniaturist: his plates are large and his compositions simple, yet his prints have at the same time a sense of intimacy and a feeling of spaciousness. They are complex without being fussy, allusive without being obscure.
His feeling for landscape has been evident from his very earliest prints, and he remains a figurative artist - always concerned with the re-creation of the visible world. But like Ensor, whose work he echoes (but does not mimic) in the "Peasant's Entry into Brussels" and "A Gothic Tale," Smith adds to the familiar world a substantial component of fantasy.
Some of his finest prints are pastoral, like the lyrical "Four Seasons" or the intimate "Pines of Rapallo," but Smith has also remarked on the more grotesque aspects of modern society in a number of satirical works that are almost unknown even to those who have enthusiastically followed his careen. In his most recent plates, such as "Roman Holiday" or "The Glory that was Rome," he pulls together the several strands of his earlier work, combining social comment, the exploration of architectural and natural, the treatment of the human figure in the city square, and adds a new sense of disciplined form and line.
Above all, the prints of Moishe Smith are exceptionally personal statements, acknowledging a tradition of masterful printmaking, but commenting with freshness and individuality on the world in a way that deserves our admiration and assent.
Moishe Smith (1929-1993) was one of the most accomplished etchers of the 20th century, as technically sophisticated as Whistler, but with the vigor of an American regionalist. Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois and studied first at the New School of Social Research (B.A. 1950), and then at the University of Iowa with M.L Lasansky (M.F.A 1953). Smith went on for further work at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Academy of Florence. He began teaching first at the University of Wisconsin (1966-67), then Ohio State and the University of Iowa in 1971, and then became an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin (1972-77). He was a professor at Utah State University from 1977 until his death. His honors included both Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships and his work is in many public collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum, the Galleria Degli Uffizi in Florence, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.