For David Smith, America's greatest sculptor of the twentieth century, there is little difference between drawing, painting and sculpture. He easily moved from one medium to the next and indeed one subject to the next, such that a drawing could be a unique object in its own right or a sculpture could in turn be inspiration for a drawing. A factory worker during World War II, Smith found his muse in materials and heavy equipment. These years were lean for a sculptor due to a shortage of available industrial scrap metal and Smith found himself working most feverishly with brushes and ink on paper.
The limits of drawing on a two dimensional surface can for many sculptors seem very limiting, the distance between the pictorial markings on a surface and the rendered form in three dimensions being insurmountable. For Smith, line is language whether in two or three dimensions. This Untitled drawing from 1951 finds secure placement within Smith's strongest graphic works of the time. There is a unique and vibrant electricity in it's coloration and a tangled constellation of linear form that anticipates Smith's later detachment from specific iconographic references. Untitled, 1951 begins to exhibit his final sculptural destination resulting in a formal reduction of form and existential dematerialization.
Smith worked with a puritanical approach to art making, believing that through consistent effort and dedication to process, truth would become form. Smith's idealism is apparent through the words spoken during a drawing lesson as recalled by his daughter Candida.
"Feel your body and its natural movement. Draw from deep inside, feeling the brush move the paint across the surface of the paper. Do not censure or force forms to come forth. Wait for the disciplined reception of the inner impulse. After that is resolved into form, you may feel free to build upon it. Each gesture comes out of the one before. Be Bold." (C. Smith, "The Voice of the Artist", David Smith: Draughtsman. Between Eros and Thanatos, Valencia, 2004, p. 13).