Alice Ravenel Huger Smith images and biography
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(1876-1958)

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See also: Charleston Renaissance; American Art; Women Artists

"Alice Ravenel Huger Smith was the leading figure in Charleston's renascence as an art center in the early twentieth century. The energies she put into this task - as painter, printmaker, author, illustrator, historian, and historic preservationist - were both enormous and deliberate. As Martha Severens, Curator of the Gibbes Art Gallery, has written, Alice Smith, who came from a distinguished South Carolina family, "associated the year of her birth, 1876, not with the nation's centennial, but with the resurgence of the South. For her, 1876 was the year that saw the determined uprising of the people of South Carolina against the terrible Reconstruction government" (Martha Severens, "Lady of the Low Country," South Carolina Wildlife, March-April, 1979, p. 16).

"Inspired by her family's recollections of the past, and particularly by her father's wide-ranging knowledge of South Carolina history and wildlife, she set about in diverse ways to reconstruct an image of South Carolina that was both positive and poetic. In doing so, she inspired her Charleston contemporaries - among them, Elizabeth O'Neill Verner and DuBose Heyward - to exert their own considerable talents on Charleston's behalf.

"Informed early in life by her grandmother that she was to become an artist, Alice Smith studied painting and watercolor in classes held at the Carolina Art Association in the 1890s. She chose not to venture to New York City or to Europe for formal training, believing that the direct study of nature would provide her with sufficient inspiration and practice. At first she painted place cards, fans, glove cases, and other fancies; then she turned to picturesque sketches of blacks and watercolor copies of old portraits. In about 1910, she met Birge Harrison, founder of the Woodstock Art Association, who had come to Charleston for relaxation, and who obtained instead an interested friend in Alice Smith. Harrison became the only artist whose influence Smith would acknowledge; his own poetic view of nature and inclination to filter landscape through memory jibed well with her tendencies, which were then strongly reinforced by her growing knowledge of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints.

"Although she did a number of her own woodblock prints, as well as etchings and paintings in oil, by 1924 she had come to concentrate on the watercolor medium exclusively. She explained:

I began to broaden and loosen my method of watercolor - and I dropped oils altogether. Perhaps because, although the latter is the easier medium, I had the feeling even then that this country, in its soft haze and quiet distances, its usually gentle character and simple friendly intimacies, was more easily depicted by the more transparent medium (cited in Severens, op. cit., P. 19).
"Smith's approach to the use of her medium depended on memory, the absorbing in her mind of what she had seen, and the subsequent rendering of its general effects rather than its literal appearance. Helen McCormack, in her biographical sketch of Smith, related how, "on long buggy rides, boat trips into marshes, dawn expeditions into swamps, moonlight excursions to beaches, 'Miss Alice' silently looked and absorbed while others were lost in the enjoyment of the moment." (cited in Alice Ravenel Huger Smith: An Appreciation on the Occasion of Her Eightieth Birthday, from Her Friends, privately printed: Charleston, 1956, p. 7).

"In the resulting paintings, Alice Smith captured the evanescent moods of the Carolina lowcountry, its slow changes over times of day and seasons, and its more rapid shifts with the weather. The transitory nature of her beloved environment was symbolized most in the presence of water, which reflected all changes, and by the great herons, egrets, and pelicans who inhabited the land only in passing through it.

"But Smith's paintings were only one facet of her contributions to the revival of an indigenous Southern (and specifically Carolina) self-awareness. With her father, D. E. Huger Smith, she wrote or illustrated The Dwelling Houses of Charleston (1917), a biography of the Charleston miniaturist and portrait painter, Charles Fraser (1924), A Carolina Rice Plantation of the Fifties (1936), and A Charlestonian's Recollections, 1846-1913 (1950), the latter two being completed after her father's death. She was an active member of the Carolina Art Association, and helped to organize many of its exhibitions, and "she took part in the movements which stirred the city in the Twenties and Thirties, sharing responsibility of membership in the Museum and Poetry Society, the Historical Society, and other organizations" (McCormack, in Alice Ravenel Huger Smith, op. cit., p. 8). Like other major Southern painters of the early twentieth-century (for instance, Alexander Drysdale, Elliott Daingerfield, or Will Henry Stevens), Alice Smith's unwavering perception of the South was both idealized and actively affirmative."

- From "Art and Artists of the South: The Robert P. Coggins Collection"

Alice Ravenel Huger Smith works offered to purchase at Castile Galerie

Launching of the Ship
Watercolor on paper, framed
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Carriage House, Mother and Children
Pringle House Print, Plate XIV
Print on wove paper
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Courtyard Chores
Pringle House Print on wove paper, Plate XV
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Pringle House View
Pringle House Print on wove paper, Plate XVI
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Gate, Mother and Child
Pringle House Print on wove paper, Plate XVII
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Outside Gate with Flower Seller
Pringle House Print on wove paper, Plate XVIII
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View of Rooftops
Pringle House Print on wove paper, Plate XX
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