• Post-War & Contemporary Mornin auction at Christies

    Sale 2220

    Post-War & Contemporary Morning Session

    11 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 105

    David Smith (1906-1965)

    Untitled (Study for Death by Gas)

    Price Realised  


    David Smith (1906-1965)
    Untitled (Study for Death by Gas)
    ink and gouache on paper
    16½ x 21½ in. (41.9 x 54.6 cm.)
    Executed circa 1939.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Contact the department


    Douglas Crockwell, gift of the artist
    By descent to the present owner

    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Descendants of Douglas Crockwell

    Douglass Crockwell, primarily known as a successful commercial artist who contributed numerous cover illustrations to the Saturday Evening Post, was also involved in avant-garde experiments of his own. In the early 1930's David Smith began spending much of his time in Bolton Landing, in close proximity to Crockwell's home in Glenn Falls, New York. When the two were introduced through their mutual friend John Graham they quickly cultivated a close and lasting friendship. When in 1964 Crockwell became acting director of the Hyde Collection in Glenn Falls he mounted David Smith: Sculpture and Drawings in the summer of that year, marking the first temporary exhibition to take place at the museum.

    Through Smith, Crockwell was introduced to the complexities of surrealism which served as inspirations for much of his personal artistic exploration. Their creative inquiries were greatly in line at this moment and in 1934 when Crockwell began experimenting with alternative mediums and stop motion animation Smith in fact collaborated on numerous dream-like, surrealistic sequences for a series of short films.

    The two works, gifted to Crockwell by Smith, are extremely vivid and rare examples of Smith's early drawings. These works are labored over and feature detailed surfaces that trace both the subtle outlines of evil apparitions and the rough and heavily worked surfaces of gruesome pseudo-humans with psychologically ravaged souls. Smith was morally opposed to war and the plague such violence brings to the world, these two brutally allegorical works leave little room for doubt concerning those true feelings.