Smith, Richard (1 of 24).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2010-09-15, 2010-09-16, 2011-10-03, 2011-10-31, 2011-11-04, 2015-06-24

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's studio at Patchogue, Long Island, America; British Library, London; Richard Smith’s 2011 exhibition at Flowers, Cork Street gallery

  • Interviewees

    Smith, Richard, 1931-2016 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Courtney, Cathy, 1954- (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Session one 16 September 2010. [2:10:59] [some interference from mic, RS scratching mosquito bites] Tracks 1 – 8 recorded in RS’s studio at Patchogue, Long Island, America. Charles Richard Smith, known as Richard Smith [RS] [Dick Smith]. Charles was name RS’s father [Charles Smith [CS]]. Periods when RS has been known as Dick Smith. CS known as ‘Sandy’. [2:54] RS’ mother’s maiden name, Chandler [Doris Chandler, Doris Smith [DS]], born in Gateshead; details her family background, including siblings who emigrated to America before First World War, some of whom RS met when he first came to America in 1959. RS’s maternal grandfather ran chemical firm. Maternal aunt Nora and DS remained in England, were close. Maternal grandfather died before DS was 21; DS was a nurse and midwife, met CS when he in hospital after First World War. Parents married c 1928. RS born 1931. [6:21] Further details DS’s family; RS’s visit to maternal relatives in America. [25:00] DS born 1901; her childhood. Photographs of RS’s maternal grandmother; probable values of these grandparents. DS and CS lived in Letchworth Garden City after marriage. DS’s education; her accent; her nurse’s uniform. [12:30] DS and RS traveled to Gateshead to see where DS grew up. [14:47] RS taught in Newcastle with Richard Hamilton c 1965; returned to teach approx 10 years ago. Details teaching at Newcastle; RS had made rainbow tent in America; students included Mark Lancaster, Stephen Buckley. RS and Hamilton were already close friends, Hamilton’s wife, Terry [Terry O’Reilly] had died suddenly; Hamilton made cube for Terry’s ashes, RS the only person with him when he incinerated the cube and ashes. Hamilton as teacher in Newcastle. RS’s feelings about north east of England. [21:21] RS’s cousin Paddy, daughter of Nora, is closest of maternal relatives now; Abraham family, Nora, her husband Bob and Paddy were evacuated and stayed in RS’s family home for period in Second World War; Paddy’s adult life, her sons, one of whose daughters is lighting designer [Paule Constable]. [25:00] RS brought up in Church of England; joined Baptist Sunday School and became a Crusader; RS was asked to illustrate text, signing in book using India ink. RS didn’t pass Eleven Plus, was a year at Pixmore School during Second World War, hated school; applied for Hitchin Grammar School and gained entrance the following year, remained there until 17. Further details Crusaders. Degree to which was aware of death as a child; DS had a stillborn baby, RS didn’t realize what had happened until later; paternal grandmother’s death. [32:00] Paternal relatives in Leicester. [32:36] RS and religion in adult life; son and daughter-in-law and their children belong to Congregational Church. Son went to Friends’ Seminary when RS moved to America. RS and church-going in America, late 1990s, St Thomas’s, Fifth Avenue. [35:07] Further details DS’s family. DS and CS’s politics. DS and nursing. DS and CS marriage. DS ill-health. RS and DS together a lot, CS a printer for Hansard, worked many night shifts, meals timed around his timetable. [40:24] CS’s family background, originally from Suffolk; RS’s paternal grandfather had horse carting business of Brick Lane, London; CS’s siblings; RS close to paternal uncle, Fred. RS’s interest in sample books belonging to paternal uncle, Albert, upholsterer in Leicester; paternal aunt, Nel’s shop in Leicester; RS’s grandmother lived nearby; using sample books for dolls DS made for RS; visits to Leicester as child; using matchboxes to make models. Paternal grandmother; RS would knit her potholders. [48:00] CS prior to marriage; First World War; [53:00] RS childhood holidays in Margate. CS’s schooling; religion; siblings; Brick Lane neighbourhood. RS stays with friend [Polly Hope] near Brick Lane; rented a studio for period when making kites for Terence Conran [TC] Bluebird restaurant. RS’s friendship with Polly Hope, painter; when RS showed at Venice Biennale in 1970 RS and wife Betsy [Scherman] [BS] took boat to Rhodes to stay in Polly’s house. Brick Lane environment now. [59:43] Mentions exchanging studios with Gary Hume. [1:00:14] CS’s working life. [1:04:03] Letchworth Garden City; house RS was born in had no electricity; taking batteries for radio into town to be charged. Family moved house when RS aged four. RS an only child. Description of Letchworth. [1:18:11] Description childhood house and garden; RS and garden when he and BS lived in Wiltshire. DS lived in same house for rest of her life. RS and outdoor life as child. CS. [1:26:00] CS and RS to London Olympics at White City 1948; to Munich Olympics, 1972, when RS designed poster for Olympics; RS’s interest in track and field sports; RS’s Munich poster, and other artists who made suite of posters; feelings about the poster. [1:30:41] When RS moved to NYC moved some belongings from England, stored some material, including paintings in storage with Momart in London, cost of this eventually too high; Flowers gallery shared building with Momart, retrieved RS’s 3-dimensional paintings, showed them in Flowers East. [1:32:00] Had shown this work at Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, when Nicholas Serota in charge; evolution of RS’s series, Butterfly Paintings, details. Butterfly paintings constructed by same people who made Riverfall. Butterfly Paintings. Architect and writer friend, Nathan Silver, has one of the Butterfly Paintings, which was excluded from show. [1:35:54] Pairing of shapes in RS’s work; Gift Wrap. Stretching canvas over three-dimensional wall works, using staple gun. Mentions work, Staggerly. Prints in Butterfly series made with printer, White Ink, RS introduced to printer by Gordon House [GH], worked from drawings rather than on plates, photographic process. Working with series of panels; using the mark of a join as part of work. Butterfly series was last of the 3-D paintings RS made, reasons why. [1:40:00] Beginning of making kite pieces, single panels with string. Led to making kites in space; income from this. [1:42:17] Further discussion Butterfly Paintings; studio in home (former school) in East Tytherton, Wiltshire; grey kite painting belonging to Arts Council painted here, developments following this. Problems to be solved relating to kite paintings. [1:45:42] Further discussion Butterfly Paintings, paint surface of large ‘Untitled’ piece achieved with compressor. Paul Huxley told RS he had bought all of a certain green acrylic (probably Liquidex) in London, used shop in Islington. Description of surface of Butterfly Painting under discussion. Collector who wanted to buy Butterfly Painting for museum from Flowers show. Further details colour in painting under discussion [reference to image in 2008 RS Flowers catalogue, in RS’s file at British Library]; use of brush; surface RS wished to achieve; physical construction of the piece evolved through making a model; further discussion this piece. [1:55:00] RS is left-handed, implications of this for marks he makes. RS describes stages of constructing the Butterfly Paintings; stretchers made by carpentry firm in Bath; Stephen Buckley’s involvement. Assistant [Martin Potts] who began working for RS at time of kite pieces is on day of recording working for BS. Continues account of stages of making Butterfly Painting under discussion; green a recurring colour in his work; layers of paint. Colours within the Butterfly series; their relationship to the floor; piece owned by Nathan Silver, husband of Roxy Beaujolais, her clubs, Three Greyhounds, The Seven Stars and restaurant. RS met Silver on ship crossing Atlantic from New York. Silver’s marriages. Details Roxy Beaujolais. [2:07:21] Butterfly Painting entitled Dalcroize; Adolphe Appia. RS’s awareness of Edward Gordon Craig as a young adult; when RS left grammar school wanted to learn theatre design at Bristol Old Vic; careers master told CS that RS should go to art school, went to Luton Art School, part of technical college where had wonderful time. [RS coughing.]

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