Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Tony Smith

Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

Tony Smith

American, 1912-1980

Born in South Orange, New Jersey in 1911, Smith studied at the New Bauhaus in Chicago before working for Frank Lloyd Wright (1938-39). In the 1940s and 1950s he was an architect, draftsman and teacher in New York and California, while also making paintings. He became friends with the artists Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Clyfford Still in the 1950s. Smith was also connected with the Pacific Northwest; in 1944 he built a home in Mt. Vernon, Washington for his wife's father. Recovering from an automobile accident in 1961 he first experimented with small-scale tetrahedral sculptural shapes, and in 1962 made his first sculpture in steel. Coinciding with the ascendance of minimalist art, Smith's severe, geometric sculptures were mistakenly identified with that movement, whereas his strongest affinities are found among the Abstract Expressionist painters, particularly Barnett Newman who identified myth, spirituality, totemic form, and humanism as foundations for American art-making after World War II.

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

Learn more about Equity at SAM