Frank Hill Smith

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Frank Hill Smith

Frank Hill Smith (1842–1904) was an artist and interior designer in Boston, Massachusetts, United States in the 19th century.[1][2] He painted landscapes and figures; and designed wall frescos, stage curtains, stained glass windows, and other decor.[3] Among his works are ceiling frescoes in the Representatives Hall in the Massachusetts State House.

Life and career[edit]

Sunflower House, Beacon Hill, where Smith lived c. 1864 (photo taken 2010)

In Boston Smith trained with Hammatt Billings (c. 1859) and also studied at the Lowell Institute. As part of his training he "drew from the antique at the Athenaeum." He travelled in Europe in the 1860s, studying at "the atelier Suisse, in Paris, and ... with [Léon] Bonnat and other noted French painters" (1865).[4]

In the 1870s "there is no doubt that Smith, [Albion Harris] Bicknell, [Thomas] Robinson, Cole, [William Morris] Hunt, Waterman, and, later on, [Frederic Porter] Vinton, and one or two others, had pretty much the swing of art in Boston for several years. ... They were constantly together, working like brothers in the cause. ... Smith, Robinson, and Hunt used to paint a great deal together; in fact, they formed a triumvirate club to 'sass one another's pictures,' as Hunt termed it."[4]

In 1880 New York's "Union League Club ... contracted with John La Farge, Frank Hill Smith, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Will H. Low to undertake decoration of ... areas in [its] new building."[5] In 1886 Smith was "working on the plans of a Casino, to be erected in Green Bay, Florida. The designs are drawn in a broad, artistic manner, and are the most extensive for comfort and elegance of any known in this country. It is estimated that it will require $350,000 to erect and finish the structure."[6]

Around this time he designed a cottage intended for Walt Whitman; it was never built.[7] He painted an "elegant drop curtain" for the Fairhaven Town Hall auditorium, in Massachusetts, c. 1894.[8] Smith also painted ceiling frescoes in the Representatives Hall in the Massachusetts State House,[9][10] depicting portraits of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, James Otis and Joseph Warren.[11]

Gondoliers, Venice, 1873; painted by Smith

In Boston's Beacon Hill, he lived in the Sunflower House on the corner of River and Mt. Vernon Streets.[12][13] A local newspaper described it:

One of the things to see here is the house of Mr. Frank Hill Smith, the artist. He has transformed an old wooden building at the corner of Mt. Vernon and River Streets into the most attractive and picturesque place in the city. ... The upper story and roof are tiled, the windows are abundant and pretty; on the front of the large gable in the roof is a huge sunflower in high relief; below it, on the upper story, is a winged lion in relief; over the front door is a course of grotesque, open carving; the whole is painted yellow, and is so attractive that people who love light and sunshine hover about it like moths round a candle. There is nothing in New England in the least like it; and Mr. Fields did it no more than justice when he brought it into his lecture on Cheerfulness, a day or two ago,[14] with a hearty compliment to its originality, and its cheering influence.[15]

Smith exhibited works in the Museum of Fine Arts in Copley Square (1877)[16] and Williams & Everett's gallery (c. 1877).[17] He belonged to Boston's St. Botolph Club.[18][19] He also acted as a judge in the 1876 U.S. Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.[20] Around the 1880s he served on the "Permanent Committee of the School of Drawing and Painting of the Museum of Fine Arts," Boston.[21][22]

Smith died at Boston in 1904.[23]

His descendants included artist Fannie Hillsmith.[22][24]


Paintings by F.H. Smith

Designs by Smith[edit]

Ironwork designed by Smith, c. 1897


  1. ^ Frank H. Smith, artist, no.161 Tremont; cf. Boston Directory, 1873
  2. ^ Boston almanac and business directory. 1875, 1876, 1887
  3. ^ New York Times, March 22, 1880
  4. ^ a b c d e Robinson. 1888
  5. ^ Wilson H. Faude. Associated Artists and the American Renaissance in the Decorative Arts. Winterthur Portfolio, Vol. 10 (1975)
  6. ^ a b American Art Notes. American Art Illustrated, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Nov., 1886)
  7. ^ Baxter, S. Walt Whitman in Boston. The New England Magazine, Volume 6. August 1892.
  8. ^ Knipe, Mabel Hoyle (June 1977). "The Story of a "Town House"". Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  9. ^ King's how to see Boston. 1895
  10. ^ a b Massachusetts Art Commission, "Art in the Massachusetts State House," 1986
  11. ^ "Smith, Frank Hill, 1841-1904, painter". Smithsonian Institution. 2004. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  12. ^ Frank H. Smith, architect, house no. 1 River St.; cf. Boston Directory. 1864
  13. ^ For information about the house, see: Douglass Shand-Tucci. Built in Boston: city and suburb, 1800-2000. Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1999
  14. ^ "Cheerfulness: Mr. James T. Field's Lecture". The New York Times. 13 April 1875. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  15. ^ "Old Boston Streets" (Boston Letter to the Worcester Spy), printed in Wayside Gleanings for Leisure Moments. Cambridge, Mass.: J. Wilson & Son, 1882
  16. ^ Art Journal (1875-1887), New Series, Vol. 3 (1877)
  17. ^ "Atlantic Monthly". April 1877. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  18. ^ G. P. Lathrop. St. Botolph Club, Boston. First Exhibition (Opened May 19. Closed May 29). American Art Review, Vol. 1, No. 10 (Aug., 1880)
  19. ^ Doris A. Birmingham. Boston's St. Botolph Club: Home of the Impressionists. Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 31, No. 3 (1991)
  20. ^ United States Centennial Commission. International Exhibition 1876, Official Catalogue, part 1, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Nagle, 1876; p.19
  21. ^ Museum of Fine Arts Bulletin (Boston), Feb. 1925
  22. ^ a b Smith, Roberta (4 August 2007). "Fannie Hillsmith, Distinctly American Cubist, Dies at 96". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  23. ^ American Art Annual, Volume 5. MacMillan Company. 1905. p. 123. 
  24. ^ "Fannie Hillsmith". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 3 October 2010. 
  25. ^ Bacon's dictionary of Boston. 1886
  26. ^ Rich painting and glass: decorations in the New Union League club-house; Mr. Louis Tiffany's yet unfinished work and its agreeable promise - Mr. John La Farge's victory and other painting - work by Hill Smith and Cotter & Co. New York Times, Feb. 16, 1881
  27. ^ Some of the Union League Club Decorators, printed in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, Volume 24. March 1882.
  28. ^ American Architect and Building News, June 21, 1884
  29. ^ American Architect and Building News, Oct. 23, 1886
  30. ^ New York Times, Jan. 10, 1891
  31. ^ State House Construction. Massachusetts Senate document no.3, Jan. 1895
  32. ^ American art directory, Volume 5. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1905.
  33. ^ S. Baxter. Walt Whitman in Boston. New England Magazine, Aug. 1892

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]