Sir Matthew Smith

Sir Matthew Smith was born in Halifax in 1879, and begun his working career in his family’s wire factory. In 1901 Smith enrolled at the Manchester School of Art, and upon his graduation in 1905, moved to London to attend the Slade School of Art until 1907. The year after he left the Slade, Smith went to Pont-Aven in Brittany, where Émile Bernard and Paul Gaugin famously worked in the late 1880s and early 1890s. In 1911, he studied under Henri Matisse in Paris, where he was strongly influenced by the work of the Fauves. In that year, he also showed at Société des Artistes Indépendants. When Smith was forced to return to England upon the outbreak of the First World War, he was enlisted and was made temporary second lieutenant for the Labour Company. He was injured at the Battle of Passchendaele, but returned to active service in 1918. Upon demobilisation, Smith lived in Paris and Aix-en-Provence, and painted in a Fauvist manner.

From 1922 or ’23 Smith lived in Paris with fellow artist Vera Cunningham, with whom he also exhibited. In 1920, he became a member of The London Group, and had his first solo show at Tooth’s Gallery in 1926. Smith’s work was shown at the Venice Biennale in 1938 and 1950, in 1949 he was awarded a CBE, and in 1954 he was knighted.