RUFUS WAY SMITH (American, 1840 - 1900)
Rufus Way Smith was an accomplished landscape painter active in Cleveland and the Deep South from 1879 until 1897. Born in Bedford, Ohio, his family moved to Cleveland in 1850 where he learned the basic principles of a painter’s trade at a very young age in the studio of Jarvis F. Hanks, a venerable Ohio artist. The death of Hanks in 1853 disrupted Smith’s career plans, and he subsequently studied law at Hiram College and Ohio University. For eight years he was a successful lawyer in Cleveland until, as an 1894 biographer put it, “his love of art became a force too potent to be resisted.” He then began pursuing art exclusively, studying for two years in Philadelphia and New York before returning to Cleveland in 1877 where he had his first exhibit at the Cleveland Art Academy. He achieved considerable success during the next eighteen years as a painter of Ohio and New England scenes, but in 1885 he journeyed through the Deep South to New Orleans. The long shadows from morning sun and the pastoral panoramas of the Deep South inspired Smith to create some of his best work there. He returned with many sketches from which he produced some of his most memorable scenes including his much lauded "Treme Market, New Orleans". From the romantic detail of his early woodland scenes, to the bucolic beauty of the grazing animals depicted in his later work, Smith's paintings remain as affectionate reminders of the beauty of the American landscape at the turn of the century.