If An Lanntair’s mission is to connect and inspire through the production of extraordinary and creative programmes that are uniquely rooted in a sprit of place, then it is little wonder they are going all out with the upcoming exhibition of work by the late Donald Smith. Smith was born in rural Lewis in 1926, and as Gray’s School of Art Principal Ian Fleming wrote in 1958, he was “the outstanding student of his year… unquestionably a man of great ability as an artist.”
He went on to be exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, Society of Scottish Artists, Aberdeen Artists, An Lanntair and elsewhere, with his work acknowledging movements in both Europe and America. International in outlook, he remained resolutely local in terms of his subject matter, however, and from his studio on the West Side of Lewis from 1974, up until his death in 2014, his intense, lyrical images of Island fishermen and women celebrated the “indomitability of the human spirit.”
Murdo Macdonald’s feature in the current issue of Art North elucidates further the intricacies and underlying influences of Smith’s art in connection with An Lanntair’s upcoming retrospective (see details below); and now there is a book to accompany the show, too, titled Donald Smith, The Paintings of an Islander from the publisher Acair, established in 1977 to provide Gaelic language materials for a bilingual education project in the Western Isles. Richly illustrated with drawings, paintings and portraits, along with insightful essays in both Gaelic and English, Donald Smith, The Paintings of an Islander adds considerably to the scholarship on Modernism as it touched the Outer Hebrides.
An Lanntair’s Head of Visual Arts & Literature, Roddy Murray, states, “Donald Smith’s art was, quite literally, drawn from the community he was born into. He imbued his paintings of fishermen, herring girls and crofters with the respect working people deserved but were seldom afforded. In which sense he was political. Never sentimental or romantic, always radical. Powerful yet understated, a vital chronicler, interpreter and champion of the islands of his time.” Of the accompanying book, adds Agnes Rennie, Manager of Acair: “It’s been a real privilege to work with Donald Smith’s family and close friends to make this unique book a reality. Donald Smith’s work spoke for a way of life now mostly gone but the landscape he recreated on canvas still lives on.”
Stornoway, Isle of Lewis
Exhibition Preview: 5 July 2019, 5pm-8pm
Exhibition: 6 July - 17 August 2019