Richard Smith (1931-2016)
The English painter and printmaker, Richard Smith, was among the most influential figures active in 1960s Britain. He was closely associated with Pop Art, of which he was a pioneer, as well as abstract painting, managing to meld these two distinct spheres that at the time were considered entirely incompatible. A distinctive and original thinker and practitioner, he brought his Pop sensibility to abstraction with a pared-down, formalist aesthetic that fused the two tendencies to create a wholly personal vision.
Born in 1931 in Letchworth, Hertfordshire, Smith studied at the Royal College of Art (1954-7) in London alongside the Pop artists Peter Blake, Joe Tilson and Robyn Denny, before earning the Harkness Fellowship which allowed him to travel to New York. The city’s slick advertisements, glam imagery and saturated colour made a lasting impression upon his oeuvre, and during this initial stint in America, he attracted much attention from significant artworld players such as the curator Henry Geldzahler and gallerist Richard Bellamy, who in 1961, hosted a solo show of Smith’s work at his Green Gallery which proved to be the first exhibition of ‘Pop Art’ in America.