© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Detroit Queen is one of many sculptures by Smith that personify identifiable or imagined individuals. These range from the totemic suggestion of figures to compositions that more thoroughly embody the human form. Not simply a phase in the artist’s development, these figural works were preceded and followed by more abstract sculptures. This monumental figure demonstrates Smith’s unwillingness to be categorized by medium or technique; it includes both large welded elements and small casts of machine components, transformed by proximity into body parts and facial features. Like Picasso, whose career he emulated, Smith pursued a variety of stylistic approaches, repeatedly incorporating his earlier interests into successive works. Detroit Queen, whose title may refer to the primacy of the automobile industry, certain components of the sculpture, or the figure’s haughty pose, owes a debt to cubism’s fractured portraiture and the hybrid creatures of surrealism, even as it exemplifies the postwar focus on the human figure.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
David Smith, American (Decatur, IN 1906 - 1965 Bennington, VT)
Detroit Queen
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Level 1, Room 1330, Modern and Contemporary Art, New Images
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Physical Descriptions
180.3 x 63.5 x 64.8 cm (71 x 25 x 25 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: On base: David Smith , Signed Date: 1957
  • inscription: on base: Det. Q.
David Smith, sold; to Lois Orswell, (1957-1994), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1994.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Krauss 417
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
© The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, NY
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith, a Catalogue Raisonné, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, NY, 1977), cat. no. 417

Sarah Kianovsky, David Smith: This Work is My Identity, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1995), reproduced in b/w cover, p. 3

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 212, figs. 84-87, pp. 206-211

Brooke Kamin Rapaport, ed., The Sculpture of Louise Nevelson, Yale University Press (New Haven and London, 2007), p. 9, fig. 8

Exhibition History

David Smith: "This work is my identity", Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/03/1995 - 05/05/1996

Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/21/2002 - 02/16/2003

HAA 1 Survey Course: Landmarks of World Art and Architecture [Spring 2007], Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 02/26/2007 - 04/08/2007

HAA 1 Survey Course (S421): Landmarks of World Art and Architecture (Spring 2010), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 02/05/2010 - 05/09/2010

32Q: 1330 Mid-Century Figurative, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu