Frank Hill Smith, A Girl On A Staircase

Frank Hill Smith, A Girl On A Staircase

An exquisite little oil painting depicting a girl descending a flight of stone stairs by American artist, Frank Hill Smith (1842-1904). 

Smith’s rendering of the cold stone is sublime - with its twisting forms and dramatic lighting. He had a keen eye for buildings as he also worked as an architect, which explains the precise nature of the angles.

He led a fascinating life and it’s been interesting to learn more about his story. It seems that he could turn his creative hand to various disciplines including frescos, architecture, stained glass windows, drawing, painting and interior design. One of his better-known projects was to design his own home in Boston’s Beacon Hill, which a local newspaper described as follows:

“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. ...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.”

During the 1870s, Smith was one of the foremost figures within the Boston art scene and well connected within a circle of highly regarded artists. His works include portraits, scenes and landscapes, which are often referred to as ‘luminist' in style. Luminist landscapes emphasise calmness and tranquillity through their use of light and perspective. 

The painting is signed/dated in the lower left and housed within a 19th-century gilt frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 21½” x 25½” / 55cm x 65cm
Year of creation: 1873
Provenance: Denmark
Condition: Areas of craquelure. Frame with some age-related wear.
Artist’s auction highlight: £3,764 achieved for ‘Breton Girl’ at Christie’s in 2019.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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