This portrait of an unknown man certainly captures the personality of the chosen sitter. With hat tilted to the side, eyebrow lifted and a half smile of the man’s face, one gets the impression that he is finding the whole process of having his portrait painted rather amusing.
Still in Ireland at this time, the sitter is likely to have been a friend of the artist, from Belfast.
In 1944 there was a group exhibition in Belfast held at the textile business of William Ewart & Sons on Bedford Street. Here Smith showed his works alongside the artists Colin Middleton, George Campbell and David Marcus Robinson. This work is likely to have featured in this exhibition.
Smith was a mural painter and draughtsman, born in Belfast. He was the son of a draper. Smith was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution where he met fellow artist Dan O’Neil, beginning a lifelong friendship. He also attended local College of Art in evenings and had private lessons from R Boyd Morrison.
Smith exhibited at RHA, RUA and RBA. He contributed drawings of air raids and Belfast scenes during World War II to Ulster Museum. He also gained a name painting portraits of American Army Officers. He painted a first mural at British Restaurant in Belfast, then shortly after the war moved to London in 1948 where he established an international reputation as a muralist. One of the finest examples of his murals is The Flight of the Huguenots, a huge dynamic structure which shows Smith’s talent for large-scale compositions and decorative design. It was commissioned by the architect Henry Lynch-Robinson, the most controversial of those who brought Modernism to Ulster after WWII, for the festival of Britain in 1951, and is now stored at the Town Hall in Bangor.
In the mid-1960s he completed a huge mural for the Playhouse Theatre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, under the patronage of Lord and Lady Beaverbrook. He also painted murals in a number of liners, including Canadian Pacific’s Empress of Britain.