Frank Vining Smith


Paintings by Frank Vining Smith are at Doll & Richards, Newbury street, [sic] Jan. 29-Feb. 10.

To be dramatic without being theatrical is an important part of Mr. Smith’s professional equipment. Trained as an illustrator, Smith had a marked readiness in selecting compelling motives for depiction. Innate and trained good taste enabled him to register these motivations in a broad, simple, and dignified way. He ennobles his subjects without departing from actuality. He tells you about something happening without the subject becoming anecdotal.i

Chicago art critics in the 1920s were quite vocal in their appreciation for his work.   Local reviewers proclaimed of his large canvases, “These pictures, in spite of their accuracy and fidelity to fact, have a large and graceful decorative quality,”ii while his smaller compositions drew from them no lesser praise:

In the smaller pictures, action is the keynote. They are terse statements of specific episodes, all of them truthful as well as picturesque, and always conscientiously designed and painted. In spite of their vigor, there is no haste or carelessness about Mr. Smith’s workmanship.iii

Chicago appears to have been as eager and receptive a market for Frank Smith’s work as his native Boston –if not even more so. His exhibitions became, in but a handful of years, highly anticipated annual events greeted warmly by an approving and art-savvy public, as evidenced by the following write-up from the Chicago Post Evening Magazine in May of 1927:

Each year about this time a group of Frank Vining Smith’s paintings of sailing ships is brought to the Anderson galleries. And each year the exhibition presents new material and fresh approach by the artist to a task which has absorbed him for many years in a realm that has very definite boundaries.
The exhibition of Mr. Smith’s paintings which opened at Anderson’s yesterday is no exception to this rule. The artist’s improvement as a technician is paralleled by the fertility of his invention. He does not repeat the same old ideas in the same old way. He finds new ones and treats each in an individual manner. In the present exhibition at Anderson’s there is little repetition either in relation to the show itself or to Mr. Smith’s previous work.
The accuracy of Mr. Smith’s knowledge of ships and the sea is acknowledged by sailors, probably the most merciless critics an artist can have. Even to the lowly landlubber he can make clear the difference in character between the clipper and the whaler, the troopship of the ‘50s and the windjammer of today. His presentation of them in heavy weather or calm rings true, as does his painting of the sea. His storms are never grandiose, his calms never idyllic. iv


10 Comments for this entry

  • Denise Martin

    I have been looking for months for information on what we believe is a print of a Frank Vining Smith piece. It measures approximately 25 x 31, and on the paper on the back is stenciled “#19 Before the Driving Wind”. It does not look like an original work, more like a print on some sort of canvas.

    The signature is clear, and looks like the ones on other works of his I have found on-line.

    I can not find much mention of this as a painting, except that the Smithsonion website has it listed as one of Vining Smith’s works.

    Do you have any suggestions where I can find more information on this?

    Thank you in advance for any help you can give.

    Denise Martin

  • Denise Martin

    Correction – it was the Library of Congress where I found mention of the work ‘Before the Driving Wind’

  • Tarky7

    Hi Denise,

    Let me see if I can find some information for you. This site is a pre-site for the publishing of the Frank Vining Smith Book – I can reach out to the publisher and see if there is any available information. It might take some time. Why are you looking for information about this particular print ?


    Kit Latham

  • Peter

    Kit, We have Sold over 200 Smith paintings overthe last 40 yrs and have photos and letters from Smith . Are they looking for more info on Smith for the book?Great to see a book coming out on the artist. Also most people that call me at thegallery have one of his Prints on board.. I have to break it to them that it is not an oil. Thanks Peter Kiernan Marine Arts Gallery. Salem Ma 978-745-500 www.

  • Denise Martin

    Kit – thanks for the reply.

    It was my parents’. Neither my sister nor I really remember where it came from, we just know that it was always just there. The earliest we can date having it was December 1971, but it certainly could have been earlier than that and it just not in any other pictures. My uncle was in the Navy, and we have a few items that we believe he picked up in his travels, or purchased because he like sea-faring works. We have no family left that might know anything about it.

    Because we can find no mention of this anywhere, we would be interested in it for in any information regarding it.

    I’ll be sure to look for the book next summer!


  • C. Campbell

    Dear Frank Vining Smith Website,
    My husband and I own the John Alden yacht built for Mr. Smith and launched in 1938. We would love to correspond with someone regarding this beautiful piece of history. Is there any way to contact the site, or someone who would like to know more about the vessel?

  • Corena Panaccione

    To C. Campbell.. from Corena Panaccione.
    I would love to know more about your vessel ..the John Alden yacht built for frank Vining Smith…my Grandfather. My e mail is
    I live at Harkers Island North Carolina near Cape Lookout Natl Seashore. P.O. Box 357 Harkers Isl. NC 28531
    Thank you.

  • Don Millar

    Dear Denise. I to have a signed print of “Before the driving wind” and like you can find little to no info about it..Love to know how old it is and if it was a mass distributed work of Vining Smith..

  • Elie Masri

    Dear Frank Vining Smith website,
    I bought the John Alden yacht of Frank Vining Smith, the boat now is in Beirut Lebanon in pristine condition

  • Bill Chapin

    About 15 years ago I bought at a Cape
    Cod auction a carton of Frank Vining Smith’s personal papers including his Christmas cards signed by Mr.& Mrs. Smith with personal notes, correspondence from Mr. Lilly of Heritage Plantation,photographs, probate information, part of a sketch pad, etc. If of any interest please contact. Enjoy Thanksgiving.

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