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  • Hassel Smith

    United States

    Art Brokerage: Hassel Smith American Artist: b. 1915-2007. Hassel Wendell Jr. Smith was born in Sturgis, Michigan in 1915. Over the next several years, Smith moved with his family to Denver then on to Los Angeles, San Mateo and Mill Valley in search for a more agreeable climate for his mother, who had contracted tuberculosis while Smith was still an infant. The family returned to Michigan in 1923, staying until 1929 when they moved again to San Mateo. In 1932, Smith graduated from San Mateo Union High School. In 1936, he enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA, now the San Francisco Art Institute) with the intention of only taking courses through the summer. However, by the end of the term, he decided to continue studying there. Over the next two years, Smith studied under artists Otis Oldfield (1890-1969), Spencer Macky (1880-1958), Lee Randolph (1880-1956), and Maurice Sterne (1877-1957) (Nixon 10). By the end of the war, he returned to the Bay Area with Meyers and their son, Joseph. He took a temporary position in the lithography workshop at the CSFA, which eventually led to a full time appointment. He arrived at CSFA just as the school was undergoing a decisive change in its history. Under the tutelage of the CSFA’s new director, Douglas MacAgy (1916-1973), the school became a veritable stronghold in the San Francisco art scene. Between 1948-52, Smith taught alongside Clyfford Still (1904-1980), David Park (1911-1960), Elmer Bischoff (1916-1991), Edward Corbett (1919-1971), Clay Spohn (1898-1977) and Ansel Adams (1902-1984), among others. During the post-war years, the school flourished as a hotbed for new discussions on abstraction (Selz 8). Mark Rothko (1903-1970) and Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) each spent time there as visiting professors. Moreover, while at the CSFA, Smith interacted with students such as Frank Lobdell (b. 1921) and Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993), who would later join him as members of the faculty. After his return, he held teaching stints at both UC Berkeley and UCLA. In 1966, he accepted a position at the West of England College of Art in Bristol, England (which later became the Bristol Polytechnic). He continued to teach there until 1978. During leaves of absences, he taught at UC Davis, alongside Roy De Forest (1930- 2007), Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920), William Wiley (b.1937), and Manuel Neri (b. 1930), among others; at UC Berkeley for two years; and at the San Francisco Art Institute. Until 1978, he taught at the Bristol Polytechnic, Faculty of Art School and the Cardiff College of Art in Wales. Throughout the 1980s, he made several trips to the Bay Area, where he continued to enjoy numerous solo-exhibitions. In 1988, he was awarded the Cunningham Endowed Chair at the College of Notre Dame, and in 1991, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the San Francisco Art Institute.

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