Gerald Smith (1929-2015) with some of his large format portraits.
A Memorial Exhibition of the Art of Gerald Smith runs at the Ottawa School of Art until Monday 29th February. Gerald was a longstanding instructor at the Ottawa School of Art, teaching for 19 years until 2013.
Gerald was a light-keepers son, brought up on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia. He was inspired to follow a path in art after seeing an exhibition by the Group of Seven. Moving from the maritimes, he obtained his Masters in Studio Art and taught in Saskatchewan, following which he and his family came to Ottawa. Gerald was a prolific artist, producing over 800 works.
Until fairly recently, I knew none of this… it’s curious how little instructors at the Ottawa School of Art actually see of each other on a daily basis. We come and go to suit our teaching requirements. Gerald and I both taught portraits, so we were invariably scheduled on different days. I knew him for his large-format portraits and remember that we were introduced by a mutual student, in a coffee shop near Ottawa U. I believe we were both attending a seminar. I liked him immediately. Thoughtful and understated, he accepted me as a fellow art traveler.
I only glancingly learned about his full range of art: his large paintings of heads, wonderful figures in gallery settings, seascapes, even ringing abstracts and sculptures. Fine examples of all of these are on display in the Memorial Exhibition.
Two from Gerald Smith’s “Art Gallery” series
The Memorial Exhibition includes a wide range of Gerald’s art
The last time I saw Gerald was at a solo exhibition of his at the Shenkman Centre in 2013. This was to be his last solo show. It was all quiet at the end of the day and he showed me ’round each of the works he’d selected. It was the first time he had exhibited some of his “Art Gallery Series” of paintings in decades. Then we just sat and talked – about exactly what I can’t remember. I very much regret not having known him longer.
The Memorial Exhibition runs for only 10 days and closes this Monday evening. It’s an all too brief tribute to a wonderful artist, instructor and person. If you can find yourself downtown this weekend, I highly recommended it – well worth the detour.
The Gerald Smith Memorial Exhibition at the Ottawa School of Art