Gallery Text

Smith revolutionized the sculptural process. Instead of beginning with a small-scale model, he arranged pieces of steel on the studio floor, which he had painted white for contrast, and welded them together after the central portion of the composition was complete. This method allowed him to compose free of concerns about gravity, moving parts around until the desired effect had been achieved. The light-colored background allowed him to envision the role of negative space in the finished work, an important consideration for a sculpture he intended to place in the fields outside his home. The relationship between the steel forms and the spaces between them creates a record of the artist’s movement, much as droplets of paint on a canvas trace the movement of Pollock’s arm. Doorway on Wheels exemplifies Smith’s notion of sculpture as “drawing in space,” the crux of his achievement as the preeminent American sculptor of the mid-twentieth century.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
David Smith, American (Decatur, IN 1906 - 1965 Bennington, VT)
Doorway on Wheels
Work Type
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1200, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction I
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Physical Descriptions
Steel with paint
233.7 x 96.5 x 54 cm (92 x 38 x 21 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: On base: David Smith, Signed Date: 1960
David Smith, sold; to Mrs. Lois Orswell, 1963, gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1994.
State, Edition, Standard Reference Number
Standard Reference Number
Krauss 487
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lois Orswell
© 2020 The Estate of David Smith / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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Publication History

Irving Sandler, "9 Shows for Spring: David Smith", Art News (1960), vol. 59, no. 1, p. 38, p. 38, ill.

Kenneth Sawyer, "Dazzling David Smith Sculpture", The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, 1960), p. 4

David Smith, "Notes on My Work" (Arts, 1960), vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 46-47

Robert M. Coates, "The Art Galleries: A Sculptor and Two Painters", The New Yorker (New York, 1960), vol. 36, no. 3, p. 128

Jane Harrison Cone, David Smith 1906-1965: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., Thomas Todd Co. (Cambridge, MA, 1966), p. 78, no. 388

Rosalind E. Krauss, Terminal Iron Works: The Sculpture of David Smith, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA, 1971), p. 9, fig. 3b, ill.

Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith, a Catalogue Raisonné, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, NY, 1977), cat. no.487

E. A. Carmean, Jr., David Smith: Seven Major Themes, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C., 1982), pp. 31-33, 174-177, 179, ill. p. 175, fig. 3 and p. 32, fig. 15

Frank A. Pasquale, "David Smith's Abstract Identity", The Harvard Crimson (Cambridge, MA, 1995)

Christine Temin, "Sculpture that won't let you stand still", The Boston Globe (Boston, 1995), p. 49

Sarah Kianovsky, David Smith: This Work is My Identity, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1995), reproduced in b/w p. 6

Ann Wilson Lloyd, "Museums and Galleries: David Smith at the Fogg Art Museum", Sculpture (1996), vol. 15, no. 1, p. 79, p. 79

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 200, ill. p. 201

Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Christine Temin, "A Collector Who 'Bought with Her Guts and Her Heart'", The Boston Globe (Boston, 2002), n.p.

Marjorie B. Cohn and Sarah Kianovsky, Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 216, p. 348, fig. 168 on p. 350 (color), p. 379

James Panero, "Exhibition Notes: Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art", New Criterion (2003), vol. 21, no. 6, p. 50, p. 50

Richard Mulholland, "Of Dreams and Visions and Things Not Known: Looking at David Smith's Drawing Media" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2003), Unpublished, pp. 1-43 passim

Sarah Hamill, Anglo-American Exchange in Postwar Sculpture, ed. Rebecca Peabody, J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles, 2011), pp. 91-92, fig. 1, ill. (color), 99

Sarah Hamill, David Smith: Works, Writings, Interview, Ediciones Poligrafa, S.A. (Barcelona, 2011), p. 68, ill.

Sarah Hamill, David Smith in Two Dimensions: Photography and the Matter of Sculpture, University of California Press (Oakland, 2015), p. 119, pl. 19, ill. (color)

Susan Cooke, ed., David Smith: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Interviews, brochure, University of California Press (Oakland, 2018), p. 337, 432, fig. 26, ill. (color)

Exhibition History

David Smith: Sculpture, French and Company, Inc., 02/17/1960 - 03/19/1960

Monumental Sculpture, Fine Arts Associates, 06/01/1962 - 07/31/1962

Six Sculptors and Their Drawings, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 05/07/1971 - 06/07/1971

David Smith: 23 Related Sculptures, Drawings, Paintings, Fogg Art Museum, 01/01/1972 - 02/29/1972

Terminal Iron Works: The Sculpture of David Smith, Fogg Art Museum, 07/05/1972 - 09/15/1972

David Smith: Sculpture, Drawings, and Paintings, Fogg Art Museum, 10/01/1979 - 11/25/1979

David Smith: Five Sculptures in the Courtyard, Fogg Art Museum, 07/22/1981 - 09/20/1981

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

Modern Art at Harvard, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 07/31/1999 - 09/26/1999; Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Kagawa, 10/09/1999 - 11/14/1999; Matsuzakaya Art Museum, Nagoya, 12/02/1999 - 12/27/1999; Oita City Museum, Oita, 01/06/2000 - 02/06/2000; Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki, Ibaraki, 02/11/2000 - 03/26/2000

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

David Smith, Related Clues: Drawings, Paintings and Sculpture 1931-1964, Gagosian Gallery, New York, New York, 03/05/2004 - 04/17/2004

Re-View: S118 European & American Art since 1900, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 09/13/2008 - 04/09/2011

32Q: 1200 Mid-Century Abstraction I (Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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