< Back to collection


Leon Polk Smith was born in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) a century ago. After receiving a Masters in Art Education at Columbia University in 1938, he had his first one-person exhibition in 1941. Since then his work has been featured in countless exhibitions worldwide.

An admirer of the abstract paintings of Piet Mondrian, Smith decided early in his career to dispense with the recognizable object as part of his paintings. In the mid-1940s he began painting abstract compositions based on the relationships of basic geometric elements, which he gradually reduced to a minimum.

Jubilee, one of Smith's late works, is an extreme example of this economy of means. The four lines seem to move across the canvas, suggesting spatial relationships and depth of field. The painting illustrates well a statement of the artist's creative principles that he wrote in 1961: "Three elements which interested me in art are line, color, and the concept of space and its use as a positive force."

Brooklyn Museum Logo