Gallery Text

Smith began his career as a painter, but spent most of it endeavoring to incorporate color and space into his sculptures. Here he combined two methods of working metal, welding steel and casting bronze, then highlighted the differences by painting the former and patinating the latter. While both elements refer to birds and flight, only the fluid bronze forms appear to soar, emerging from the static picture frame implied by the steel. This hybrid, like Smith’s drawings for the Medals for Dishonor, recall the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, in which individuals take turns writing a sentence or drawing a picture without knowledge of the whole, creating a work that can be humorous or disturbing. In Flight, the contrast between the angular steel and the biomorphic bronze, especially the single liquid “drip” of solid metal, creates a similarly uncanny result.

With more than sixty objects in all media, the Harvard Art Museums have the largest and most complete representation of the work of David Smith in any museum, due primarily to the generosity of Lois Orswell.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
David Smith, American (Decatur, IN 1906 - 1965 Bennington, VT)
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Level 1, Room 1310, Modern and Contemporary Art, Surrealism
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Physical Descriptions
Welded steel with brown paint and cast bronze.
82.9 x 86.4 x 52.1 cm (32 5/8 x 34 x 20 1/2 in.)
David Smith, sold; [through Marian Willard Gallery] to Lois Orswell, Pomfret Center, CT, (1957-1994), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1994.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Krauss 253
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. 253

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 209, figs. 70, 91, pp. 148-149, 230 (note 15), 231

Exhibition History

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

HAA 1 Survey Course (S421): Landmarks of World Art and Architecture [Spring 2009], Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 02/12/2009 - 05/10/2009

32Q: 1310 Surrealism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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