Hassel Smith

Hassel Smith was born in Sturgis, Michigan in 1915, a small factory town between Detroit and Chicago. While attending Northwestern University, Smith was exposed to painting at the World’s Fair in Chicago and became inspired by artists Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp. The two artists opened up Smith to new ideas and became the driving force behind his interest in Abstract Expressionism. After graduating in 1936 with a degree in art history and English literature, Smith relocated to the California School of Fine Arts to focus on painting. Smith was very active in the local art scene blossoming in the Bay Area and exhibited frequently while working as an educator. He held teaching positions at the California School of Fine Arts, University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, Berkeley. Teaching alongside him during this time was Clyfford Still, Richard Diebenkorn, and David Park, among others. Along with Robert McChesney and Edward Corbett, Smith founded the Artist’s Guild, a postwar artist-run gallery in San Francisco.
In 1958, Smith was a part of the first exhibition at Ferus Gallery, founded by Walter Hopps. Of Smith’s work, Hopps remarked, “I’m sure you know a good deal about Hassel Smith, painter, man, legend as a renegade, teacher and leading free spirit of art here in the Far West. Hassel has caused some furious storms and is my opinion among the four finest artists to come out of the West: Diebenkorn, Lobdell, Corbett, Smith”. Smith received much acclaim throughout his life, including an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, an honorary doctorate by the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Cunningham Endowed Chair from the College of Notre Dame. His works are part of numerous collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Tate Gallery in London, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

1947 University of Oregon
1947 California Palace of the Legion of Honor
1953 King Ubu Gallery
1958 Ferus Gallery
1961 Pasadena Art Museum
1964 David Stewart Gallery
1964 University of California, Berkeley
1972 Bristol Art Gallery
1977 Paule Anglim Gallery
1981 The Oakland Museum of California
1983 San Jose Museum

Selected Group Exhibitions

1937 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1941 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1945 California Palace of the Legion of Honor
1948 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1950 California Palace of the Legion of Honor
1950 Henry Gallery, University of Washington
1950 Lucian Labaudt Gallery
1957 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
1976 Smithsonian Institution
1984 Paule Anglim Gallery
1996 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Selected Collections

Tate Gallery
The Oakland Museum of California
Pasadena Art Museum
Whitney Museum of American Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Berkeley Art Museum
Crocker Art Museum
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
San Jose Museum of Art
Smithsonian Institution
Sonoma County Museum

Hassel Smith, 1961, 68″ x 48″

Hassel Smith, 1963, 15″x 20″ (2)

Hassel Smith, 1961, 67.5 x 48″

-SOLD-Hassel Smith, 1960-1961, 69″ x 120″

Hassel Smith

Hassel Smith, 1949, 36″ x 34″