Smith, Richard (6 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; 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 6: [Session two; September 17 2010] [2:20:05] Describes self after National Service. Picasso play RS wanted to put on whilst in Hong Kong. Friends from National Service period, including son of Radio Times illustrator with whom stayed friends and who introduced him to Jaisa Reichardt, Reichartdt’s Polish relatives. Through Reichardt’s relatives, RS introduced to Schwitters’ work; details Reichardt’s relatives. Going to 100 Club in Oxford Street with Reichardt. RS a keen dancer. Mentions Film Forum, NYC100 Club. Records RS bought. [13:58] Further details Reichardt, who typed RS’s thesis for NDD. [16:11] RS’s interest in Schwitters. Dada graphics in Library at Victoria and Albert Museum [V&A]; relationship RCA and V&A. [20:22] Awareness of work of Eric Gill; visit to house of Michael de Viezey Haig (sp) on Gill’s compound; eating in Hong Kong restaurant in London with Michael during RCA years; meeting with Michael years later. [24:48] Further comment experience National Service. [29:00] RS returned to Hong Kong re kite piece commission for shopping mall, visited with his sons. Discussion of colour used in kite pieces; lighting of kite pieces; ephemeral quality of kite pieces. [34:00] Details RS kite piece in building on 55th Street, NYC, Acquavit restaurant; damage to piece when it was taken down, pieces RS saved. RS was sometimes doing two or more kite commissions per year; Acquavit commission came through Museum of Modern Art, NY. Other kite commissions came through art representative/dealer. RS’s working in huge malls, details. RS worked in rented spaces in Los Angeles [LA]. [39:00] RS’s 1973 work for Mr Chow restaurant, LA, survives, details RS’s work for Michael Chow in London and elsewhere; meeting Barbara Rose with FS, her later marriage to songwriter, link to Chow’s restaurants. [43:00] Influence on RS of seeing John Chamberlain piece hanging above mantelpiece of FS and Rose’s home. FS’s purchase of RS painting from Kasmin; FS’s offer to sell the painting and give RS the money; RS still sees FS but less than would like. RS’s financial position. [46:37] Attitude to the English when RS in Hong Kong during National Service. [48:02] Returned to live with parents after National Service. Art school experience at St Albans; enjoyment of ‘Look’ magazine, ‘House and Garden,’ ‘Studio’. RS wore colourful American bow ties; had suit made at Burtons. [55:12] RS was close to Norman Adams and his wife; stayed with them in Clapham, London; Adams as a teacher; mentions GH as a friend of Adams. [1:01:11] St Albans NDD course; little recall of own work there except for self-portrait. Interest in William Coldstream’s method of painting. Memory of drawing Quentin Crisp. St Albans and RS’s life generally at this period; visits to London; impact of Roland Petit ballet. [1:10:23] Chagall Tate exhibition, c 1951. Mentions liking Tate Ben Nicholson paintings, Brancusi, Turner, Constable. [1:13:15] RS’s student thesis; degree to which he was politically alert; changed attitude to newspapers now; Daily Mail cartoon which DS would send RS when he was away on National Service. RS didn’t attend protest marches as student. Visited U.N [United Nations] building when came to New York, chiefly to look at the art. [1:17:03] Degree of awareness of Festival of Britain. [1:18:35] Decision to apply to RCA; portfolio, interview, Robin Darwin; RS said he admired Ben Shahn; RCA building. Local council grant to go to RCA. Move to London. First days at RCA; meeting life-long friends; RS was on painting course. Tutors. [1:28:17] Life classes. Robyn Denny became close friend; Denny was having professional shows as student. Peter Blake, Joe Tilson both a year ahead of RS, became friends. Tony Messenger, his wife; Messenger’s painting of James Dean’s car crash. RS’s friendships with Blake, Denny, Denny’s wife, Anna [Anna Teasdale]; Joe Tilson, Joslyn Tilson. RS and Blake shared accommodation in Notting Hill Gate. RS lived off Kensington High Street towards end of time at RCA. [1:36:15] RS’s work at RCA; awareness of American Abstract Expressionists; magazine images; Tate exhibitions; RS’s response to Mark Rothko’s work [now in MoMA, NY]. Mentions collector, Ann Bass, whom RS knew through Richard Feigen, her Rothko paintings. Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still. RS wrote piece for art paper about Whitechapel Pollock show; mentions Lawrence Alloway. RS’s response to work by Pollock; RS’s visit to Pollock’s studio approx 8 years ago and subsequently. RS awarded Pollock Krasner Award approx five years ago; low period for RS at time of moving to Patchogue; three year award which RS took for only two years, reasons why; mention of Jasper Johns. Reasons for RS feeling low following move to Patchogue. [1:47:29] Building of current studio (where recording is taking place). RS and ambition; turning down last part of Pollock Krasner grant. RS’s financial position in past few years. [1:50:10] RS’s use of magazine photograph of Manhattan from air as subject for early large painting; use of hardboard; painting was bought by female fellow-student. RS and use of grids. RS’s use of Xerox machine in graphic studios at RCA. RS’s life painting kept my RCA; RS’s painting, Susannah and the Elders also kept by RCA. [1:55:08] Impact of seeing American Abstract Expressionists; John Minton crit with RS and Denny; details Minton and his position. Little of RS’s work from this period survives. Further details RS, Denny and Minton. [2:03:41] Carel Weight. 1956 RS’s traveling scholarship; Toni del Renzio recommended places for RS to visit in Italy; Milan; Florence; Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Reference to RS’s later work with paper re Anne Seymour’s essay of his having postcard of Ghiberti doors in Florence. Further details traveling scholarship; Rome; Ravenna; Giotto in Padua, idea of painting in buildings. Travelling alone. [2:12:00] On return to England stayed with GH and Jo House; GH had earlier been turned down by RCA; Jo House; RS was best man at Houses’ wedding; their children. [2:15:32] 1956 George Mattieu exhibition at ICA [Institute of Contemporary Art]; Toni de Renzio. ICA. This Is Tomorrow exhibition, important to RS. Friendship with Richard Hamilton and his wife, Terry. Eduardo Paolozzi. [coughs] Hamilton and RS shared interests. [coughs]

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