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Leon Polk Smith (American, 1906-1996)

Art

Birth Place: Chickasha, Oklahmoma

Biography:

Who is painter Leon Smith?

Leon Smith was an American painter whose Hard-edge, minimalist paintings were often compared to Mondrian. Smith was absolutely motivated by the work of the Dutch painter and used his work as inspiration when founding the Hard-edge school. His paintings were beautiful, minimalist pieces that were often known to utilize strange frame shapes -- or even eschew a frame altogether.

Smith was well regarded by the art community during his lifetime. As such, his work is found in many museums throughout the world, specifically the US, Europe, and South America. Most famously, the Brooklyn Museum has 27 of the artist’s paintings on display -- at the bequest of Smith himself. Smith never wavered from his aesthetics, leaving behind a trailblazing career as one of the US’s best known geometric abstractionists. He helped to inspire a wave of painters who came after him, including Ellsworth Kelly and Al Held.

What kind of art did Leon Smith make?

Leon Art was a painter whose work overwhelmingly explored the limits of geometric abstractionism. This led him to several prominent art movements of the 20th century, including De Stijl, the Hard-edge School (of which he was a founding member), and minimalism. Smith took minimalism to heart, maximally reducing his subjects to their reduced forms -- often just two colors on a canvas. His use of tondo canvases was revolutionary at the time, and led to more experimentation with frame shapes, sometimes removing the frame altogether. He was included in The Responsive Eye exhibition in 1965 at New York’s MoMA, an iconic exhibition that would cement his place among the greats of 20th-century American art.

How did painter Leon Smith get started?

Leon Smith was born in 1906 in the tiny town of Chickasha, Oklahoma -- a full year before Oklahoma became a state. The eighth of nine children, Smith was forced to labor on his parents homestead for much of his young life. His years after high school consisted of him working several odd jobs, including as a ranch hand, a construction worker, and even a telephone lineman. Eventually, Smith enrolled at Oklahoma State College with the goal of becoming a teacher. After graduation, he moved to New York City to attend Columbia’s graduate-level teacher’s school. It was during his first semester there that a teacher took him to see the Gallatin Collection at NYU. This proved a seminal moment for the young artist, who was especially inspired by the work of Mondrian and Jean Arp.

How much are Leon Smith paintings worth?

Leon Smith paintings can be worth anywhere from around $4,000 for a lesser-known work, up to $336,500 for his better-known pieces. Smith’s work has recently become in-vogue again thanks to his fun color choices, and beautiful minimalist aesthetics. The most ever paid for a Leon Smith painting at auction is $336,500 for the piece Black Over Red (1960) which sold on November 13th, 2018. This is certainly an outlier (no other piece has sold for over $123,200), but his position in the art community, his legendary output, and his prominence in creating the Hard-edge art movement all are favorable factors in any Smith valuation.

Where to buy Leon Smith paintings for sale?

See the works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on the artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Leon Smith paintings?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.


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Leon Polk Smith Original Art values sold at auction

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