En Plein Air: Seeking a Sensation, by Raymond Smith

November 11 - December 23, 2012

Hoboken’s physical character is known for its storied waterfront, its compact and walkable streets, and its rows of well-preserved late-Victorian homes. But not since the Elysian Fields were converted to industrial use in the early 1900s has it been known for its natural vistas.

The crush of modern urban living poses a challenge to Raymond Smith, a painter who has been seeking to capture the sensation of light and atmosphere in natural settings in the “plein air” tradition favored by the Impressionists. It’s hard to avoid the jarring elements that can ruin the mood he’s trying to render on canvas, but the artist perseveres and has developed a process that translates these fleeting sensations into oil on canvas. The results can be seen in his second show in the Museum’s Upper Gallery, En Plein Air: Seeking a Sensation, by Raymond Smith, which will be on view through Dec. 23.

Click here to see a virtual gallery of the exhibit.

The scenes in his paintings range from a sun-drenched beach filled with brightly colored kayaks in Hoboken Cove, to a moody, fog-blanketed tugboat moored to a pier, to a thoughtful young woman sitting on a patch of grass or a buoyant woman (the artist’s wife) in a bright sundress and hat strolling along the edge of the water.

To explain what inspired this series, he refers to a quote from an essay by Henri Matisse: “One starts off with an object. Sensation follows.” He says he keeps his mind open to receiving sensations or ideas and then he works on how to translate them on canvas. Each painting is the result of a careful process of making notes and sketches on site, with color swatches and measurements that he uses later to recreate on canvas the feeling he responded to in the first place.

Sometimes in working with a model, he says, “the expressions or postures before or after the sitting are what strike me the most—the unguarded moments are most revealing.” He enjoys painting outdoors, but doesn’t like the disruptions. If someone wants to talk to him while he works, he’ll put his paintbrush down and talk to them, at which point they tend to move along. But if it’s a young kid, he says, “I’ll let them take a brush and make a few strokes.”

In addition to his fine art, Smith is an art instructor and professional illustrator, who has worked for many brand-name companies. A couple of his iconic works include the 9/11 Memorial Flag composed of children’s handprints that hangs in the Board of Education meeting room, and the “Greetings from Hoboken” image reproduced on t-shirts, posters, mugs and greeting cards. For more information on Smith’s work, visit his website, www.raymondsmithart.com.

The exhibit is supported by a block grant from the State/County Partnership program for the Arts, administered by the Hudson County Division of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.