|American Paintings — James David Smillie - On the Hudson|
|James David Smillie - On the Hudson
Medium: Oil on board
Dimensions: Board size: 14” x 12”; Framed size: 19 1/2” x 17 1/2”
Signed and dated l.l.: JDSmillie/ June 76
James David Smillie is perhaps best known for his remarkable career as an engraver, producing some of the most notable American prints of the nineteenth century. Smillie was born into a family of engravers and learnt his trade from his father, James Smillie (1807-1885). By the age of eight James David had produced his first engraved plate. He continued to work with his father until the age of 31, creating the engravings for Emory’s Mexican Boundary Survey in 1857. One of his most inspiring contributions was to Volume I of Picturesque America, published in 1872. Smillie not only wrote the section on the Yosemite Valley but also illustrated it with over twenty engravings. Moreover, many of the fine etchings, commissioned by the American Art Review, were printed under Smillie’s supervision. His influence was such that during the late 1880’s, Smillie was commissioned by the Smithsonian Institute to create drypoints, mezzotints, soft ground etchings and aquatints as examples for other artists to follow.
However, James David Smillie also received considerable recognition as a landscape painter and like his younger brother, George, sought inspiration in the works of the Hudson River School of artists. A trip to Europe in 1864 seems to have provided him with the impetous to try his hand at the landscape genre and the mediums of watercolor and oil as opposed to engraving. He made several trips West, on one occasion in the company of Thomas Moran, and painted many of America’s great mountain ranges including the Sierras, Adirondacks, Rocky, White and Catskill Mountains. In 1884 Smillie returned to Europe and in particular France where he painted the coastline around Entretat, already popularized with the general public by such artists as Monet and Courbet.
Although Smillie travelled widely he always returned to the city of his birth, New York, and as can be seen in his painting, On the Hudson, seems to have relished the landscape of his home state, glorifiying its idyllic beauty. The luminist tradition is ever present in this spectacular little painting. Reflections of the cascading waterfall, cliffs and village glow in the stillness of the river water. The effect is celebrated in equal proportion to that of the landscape, filling half of the overall composition.
James David Smillie was a founder of the American Watercolor Society in 1866, and served as its president from 1873 to 1879. He was also a member of the Century Association from 1877 to 1909 and a founder of the New York Etching Club in 1877, later becoming its president. He was a teacher at the National Academy of Design in 1868, the year in which he was elected an associate member, and became a full member of the Academy in 1876.