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A sculpture of brown painted and green finished metal.

The metal sculpture has elements that have been painted brown and elements that have a green finish. The work rises from a brown base which supports on one end, a vertical extension of two-half moon shapes is topped by a z-shape ending in a sharp point. A half-moon extends from one side of the base from which a sinuous green metal shape rises vertically ending in four prongs of different lengths. At the other end a brown square is attached to a short vertical arm. A long green metal shape extends from the square and snakes through to the opposite end.

Gallery Text

Smith began his career as a painter, but spent most of it endeavoring to incorporate color and space into his sculptures. Here he combined two methods of working metal, welding steel and casting bronze, then highlighted the differences by painting the former and patinating the latter. While both elements refer to birds and flight, only the fluid bronze forms appear to soar, emerging from the static picture frame implied by the steel. This hybrid, like Smith’s drawings for the Medals for Dishonor, recall the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, in which individuals take turns writing a sentence or drawing a picture without knowledge of the whole, creating a work that can be humorous or disturbing. In Flight, the contrast between the angular steel and the biomorphic bronze, especially the single liquid “drip” of solid metal, creates a similarly uncanny result.

With more than sixty objects in all media, the Harvard Art Museums have the largest and most complete representation of the work of David Smith in any museum, due primarily to the generosity of Lois Orswell.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
David Smith, American (Decatur, IN 1906 - 1965 Bennington, VT)
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link


Level 1, Room 1310, Modern and Contemporary Art, Surrealism
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Physical Descriptions

Welded steel with brown paint and cast bronze.
82.9 x 86.4 x 52.1 cm (32 5/8 x 34 x 20 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
David Smith, sold; [through Marian Willard Gallery] to Lois Orswell, Pomfret Center, CT, (1957-1994), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1994.

State, Edition, Standard Reference Number

Standard Reference Number
Krauss 253

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

  • Emily Genauer, "Art and Artist's: Museum's Vast Scheme for Sculpture Show Ends in a Mediocre Display", New York Herald Tribune (New York, 1951), n.p., ill.
  • "The Sculptor's Turn", Time (1951), vol. 58, no. 25, p. 64, p. 64
  • Belle Krasne Ribicoff, "A David Smith Profile", Art Digest (1952), vol. 26, no. 13, p. 12, p. 12, ill.
  • "In a Brown Winter --The Warmest Browns", Harper's Bazaar (1952), p. 136, p. 136, ill.
  • Henry McBride, "Met Meets U.S. Sculpture", Art News (1952), vol. 50, no. 9, pp. 18, 20, pp. 18, 20, ill.
  • David Smith, "The Language is Image", Arts and Architecture (1952), vol. 69, no. 2, p. 21, p. 21, ill.
  • Barbara Baer, "The Welder Artist as a Liberating Force", Modern Lamps and Accessories (1952), vol. 1, no. 6, p. 14, p. 14, ill.
  • F. Stahly, "Pariser Kustchronik", Werk (1953), vol. 40, no. 6, p. 92, p. 92, ill.
  • Alfred V. Frankenstein, "Two Kinds of Sculpture at S.F. Museum of Art", San Francisco Chronicle (1955), p. 5, p. 5
  • Worden Day, "Why Painters Turn Scuptors", Art Voices (1965), p. 55, p. 55, ill.
  • Jane Harrison Cone, David Smith 1906-1965: A Retrospective Exhibition, exh. cat., Thomas Todd Co. (Cambridge, MA, 1966), p. 72, no. 203
  • Rosalind E. Krauss, The Sculpture of David Smith, a Catalogue Raisonné, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, NY, 1977), cat. no. 253
  • 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. 209, figs. 70, 91, pp. 148-149, 230 (note 15), 231
  • Hilton Kramer, "Stalwart Lois Orswell Allowed David Smith His Great Career", New York Observer (2003), p. 16, p. 16, ill.

Exhibition History

  • American Sculpture 1951: A National Competitive Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 12/07/1951 - 02/24/1952
  • David Smith: Sculpture and Drawing, Marian Willard Gallery, 04/01/1952 - 04/26/1952
  • The One Hundred and Forty-Eighth Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 01/25/1953 - 03/01/1953
  • Twelve Modern American Painters and Sculptors, Musée National d'Art Moderne, 04/24/1953 - 06/07/1953; Kunsthaus Zürich, 07/25/1953 - 08/30/1953; Kunstammlungen der Stadt, Düsseldorf, 09/20/1953 - 10/25/1953; Liljevalchs Gallery, 11/24/1953 - 12/20/1953; Taidenhalli-Konsthallen, Helsinki, 01/08/1954 - 01/24/1954; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, 02/18/1954 - 03/07/1954
  • David Smith: Sculpture, Drawings, Graphics, Cincinnati Art Museum, 05/19/1954 - 06/13/1954; Wisconsin Union, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 07/11/1954 - 08/20/1954; South Bend Art Association, 09/19/1954 - 10/03/1954; Indiana University, 10/28/1954 - 11/17/1954
  • Art in the Twentieth Century: Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of the Signing of the United Nations Charter, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 06/17/1955 - 07/10/1955
  • David Smith: 23 Related Sculptures, Drawings, Paintings, Fogg Art Museum, 01/01/1972 - 02/29/1972
  • David Smith: Sculpture, Drawings, and Paintings, Fogg Art Museum, 10/01/1979 - 11/25/1979
  • David Smith: Sculptures and Drawings 1906-1965, Fogg Art Museum, 06/09/1990 - 08/05/1990
  • Lois Orswell, David Smith, and Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/21/2002 - 02/16/2003
  • HAA 1 Survey Course (S421): Landmarks of World Art and Architecture [Spring 2009], Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 02/12/2009 - 05/10/2009
  • 32Q: 1310 Surrealism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at