ONE OF TWO WORKS BY THE ARTIST IN MY SHOP, (the other a large and significant, museum-worthy oil), this is an original watercolor and gouache painting, 14" by 19" inside the old mat, 23 1/2" by 28 1/2" as framed, the subject a United States Navy jet in circa late 1950's or early 1960's markings, streaking through the cloud-filled sky. The painting is in excellent condition, with only the mat yellowed a bit and in need of replacement. Smith (1914-2001) is considered the master of American aviation art. A hard cover book, "The Man and His Work, R.G. Smith", was published a few years back, and the Los Angeles Times devoted a half page to his obituary. Born in Los Angeles, Smith began working for Douglas Aircraft in 1936 as an engineer, producing design proposals for combat aircraft. He was essentially self-taught, with a depth of aviation and engineering knowledge that enriched and enlivened his art. Smith was concerned with accuracy of details, and the power of suggestion; his works are not technically photo-realistic or hyper-realistic, which is why they are works of art rather than technically perfect commercial drawings. A keen observer of detail, he was asked to go to Vietnam in the late 1960's to observe carrier and ground operations. This experience translated into outstanding works of aviation art. Smith created some 2,000 paintings, according to a website featuring his art; only a minority are not aviation-related. In 1973 he was named an Honorary Naval Aviator, and, later, an Honorary Blue Angel. The National Museum of Naval Aviation and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum hold his paintings in the permanent collections; the latter in the year 2000 held an exhibition, "The Old Master of the Sky", featuring his original works. I believe I read that his works are actually near the Apollo exhibits, giving some indication of the esteem in which they are held. Smith's paintings also hang in the hallways of the Pentagon, in other military office settings, and in distinguished collections in the US and abroad. His works have often been reproduced in high quality prints, and plates and even ash trays bear his images. Note that the streaks at right center, appearing to be on the paper itself, are actually on the inside of the glass; apparently a careless former owner had this in the sun, causing condensation, which fortunately remained on the glass only. .
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