America has produced two sculptors of surpassing greatness: Augustus Saint-Gaudens in the nineteenth century and David Smith in the twentieth. Of the former’s life we know a great deal, thanks to the two volumes of memoirs he penned and Burke Wilkinson’s fine biography, which appeared in the 1980s. Of Smith’s, however, we know far less. Smith’s own writings and statements, as well as interviews with members of his family and his circle in the years after his death in an automobile accident at the age of fifty-nine in 1965, have until now been the main source of information about his life. The large lacuna has just been filled by David Smith: The Art and Life of a Transformational Sculptor, the long-awaited biography by Michael Brenson, a former art critic for The New York Times whose principal interest is sculpture.

 

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