The coherent palette of cool subdued colours brings to life a scene of english summertime. The selected shades of blues have been used across the canvas in the sky, water, cliffs and shadows on the shore, assuring a sense of harmony within the work. Alongside his deft use of colour, Smith’s economy of mark making (an example shown in the simple creation of the sails of the boats out on the water) sets this out an exquisite example of his work.
The work in question is mentioned in a letter from Alfred Baldry to de Laszlo in 1930 ‘I am glad to hear that Hely Smith sold his sea-piece; his work is pleasant and sound and he is himself quite an agreeable person’.
Hely Augustus Morton Smith, more commonly known as Hely Smith, was born on January 15 1862 at Warnbrook in Dorset, the son of a clergyman. Hely Smith subsequently moved to Lincolnshire where he studied at the Lincoln School of Art. After some time spent in London he traveled widely on the European Continent, where he studied at the Antwerp Academy in Belgium. He worked abroad before settling in Looe in Cornwall in 1890 for a while where he moved in with his widowed mother Harriet and here he set up a studio at Belmont House. He also spent some time living and working on the East Coast of the United States. By 1899 he had moved to London.
He was elected RBA in 1901 and became the society’s Treasurer in 1902. He was also a member of the Langham Sketching Club and displayed his work at the Goupil Gallery’s ‘The New Association of Artist’ exhibitions in 1908 and 1909.
Hely Smith work includes marinescapes, shipping, townscapes, portraits and flowers.
Apparently Hely Smith was friends with an Austro-Hungarian portrait painter, Philip de Laszlo, with whom he went on painting expeditions and was also acquainted with Vincent van Gogh. It is known that Smith went to an RBA dinner at de Laszlo’s house in 1931, during the time that the artist was President.
De laszlo later sent a letter to Smith on 29 May 1937 congratulating Smith on his recent achievements; ‘I am delighted to hear that the Silver Medal has been awarded to you by the R.B.A. for your picture of ‘Winter, Dordrecht’. You fully deserve it’.
Smith’s works are currently held by various institutions including the V&A, Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery and Plymouth Art Gallery.