Jack Wilkinson Smith (1873-1949) holds the distinction as the Jonathan Club's first Artist Member—number A-1—who was admitted on February 18, 1926. Our focus this month is Smith’s Untitled (Seascape with Rocks), c. 1930. This charged painting of water, rocks, and sky is traced to Smith’s interest in the scenic beauty of our Southern Californian coastline and the influence of the east coast American painter Winslow Homer, known for his brewing east coast storms. The subject matter of the vast ocean, the weight of the rocky coastline and the thrashing of the waves invited Smith to work on a larger scale canvas. Late day shadows, dark skies, impending cloud formations and turbulent seas metaphorically speak to the power and fate of man. The tension of the tise rising and ebbing underscores life’s temptations. The water equals purity, while the openness of the ocean offers the viewer unlimited possibilities. Such universal themes are balanced in Smith’s work by the depth and perspective of the sun’s rays on the foam and warmth of the blue tones offset by the artist’s semi-aerial perspective.
Whether we are drawn to the danger of natural storms or the beauty and meditative qualities of Smith’s work on the west coast, we can appreciate the hand of the artist.