Alice Ravenel Huger Smith (1876 - 1958)
Charleston Gate, n.d.
Watercolor on paper
14 x 10 1/2 inches
Initialed at lower right: A R H S -
Alice Ravenel Huger Smith was one of the leading artists of the Charleston Renaissance in South Carolina, 1915 to 1940. A descendent of several distinguished families, she was largely self taught and had neither enough money nor inclination to go to school. She learned by observing Japanese prints and did numerous woodblock prints using the same principles including a reverence for nature in her subject matter.
New York artist Lovell Birge Harrison was her only real mentor, and their friendship began in 1908, when he and his wife first stayed in Charleston. They lodged at an inn where there was no studio space, and the friendship began when Smith offered him one of the buildings behind her family home. He encouraged her inclination for soft-edged atmospheric landscapes.
In 1917, Smith and her father published a book titled The Dwelling Houses of Charleston, South Carolina, which has been described as "the seminal volume of the Charleston Renaissance" (Magazine Antiques, 11/98). The book reinforced local pride in the city's historic architecture, and represented Smith as the primary figure in the local architectural preservation movement.
She was also the founder of the Charleston Etcher's Club in 1923, which sponsored exhibitions that led to widespread national circulation of views of Charleston through prints in newspapers, magazines, and books.
Although she received recognition for her woodblock prints, watercolor was the medium she loved most for her numerous architectural landscapes and genre paintings.