Archibald Cary Smith 1837-1911

Cove Scene at Dusk

  • 6 x 9 inches (15.2 x 22.9 cm)
  • Oil on board
  • Signed and dated lower left: A Cary Smith '74
  • 1874

Why We Love It

Luminous coastal scenes have a special place in our hearts and this small gem literally glows. One of the few paintings by Archibald Cary Smith we have ever seen that is not a yacht racing scene, this 1874 work is reminiscent of the painters of the Luminist School, such as Sanford Gifford and John Kensett.

The Value

Since it is estimated that Archibald Cary Smith painted fewer than 200 works, (and most of them paintings of sailing yachts), this oil on board is exceedingly rare. It is in excellent condition and is in a fine period frame.

Artist Background

1837: Born in New York City. His father, Joseph B. Smith, was a ship portrait painter; Until the 1860s: Studied ship building and practiced the shipwright’s trade in New York. Studied painting with M.F.H. de Haas; 1867-77: Concentrated mostly on marine paintings. The majority of his work was complete during this period. Exhibited at the National Academy of Design (NAD); 1877 on: Devoted himself to the yacht design; 1881: Designed “Mischief,” the America’s Cup defender; 1911: Died. He only painted about 200 paintings during his lifetime, making his work quite rare.

Archibald Cary Smith was born in New York City.  He was educated at the University grammar school, and as a young man learned drafting and boat-building skills.  In 1863 he studied painting under Maurice F. H. De Haas, a Dutch-born painter who specialized in maritime scenes.  During the 1860s Smith exhibited at the National Academy of Design and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Smith painted and designed yachts concurrently.  In his paintings his technical understanding of boating is evident. The mastery with which he paints the vessels could only come from one who had an intimate understanding of the ways that boats move in water.  True to the romantic age in which Smith was painting, his works often incorporate elements of drama.  The viewer is always aware of the immensity of the ocean and awesome powers of nature.

Smith’s yacht designs were met with great acclaim.  He was responsible for designing the first iron yacht that was built in Chester, Pennsylvania, and it attracted much attention as an interesting and successful departure from the usual type. Eventually, Smith devoted himself entirely to designing and altering yachts of all kinds, including the yacht Mischief, which successfully defended the America’s Cup in 1881. In 1887 Smith delivered a course of lectures on naval architecture for the Seawanhaka yacht club in New York.  And for many years he was Measurer of the New York Yacht Club.