Lois Gross Smiley

(American, 1925-2019)

Lois Gross Smiley was an abstract expressionist who specialized in landscape, still life and figural painting in oils and pastels. Born and raised in New York City, Smiley’s artistic training coincided with the emergence of the New York abstract expressionist and gestural abstraction painting movement. 

Born in New York City in 1925, Smiley attended the prestigious Dalton School in New York’s Upper East Side, where she studied under two prominent artists: the well-known Mexican muralist Rufino Tamayo and the abstract expressionist Vaclav Vytlacil.  Tamayo, who is considered a figural abstractionist, also taught Helen Frankenthaler at Dalton. Vaclav Vytlacil co-founded the American Abstract Artist Group, the predecessor of the New York School and Abstract Expressionism that contributed to the development and acceptance of abstract art in the United States.  After Dalton School, Smiley went on to major in painting at Sarah Lawrence College where she received her Bachelor of Art degree in 1946.  While at Sarah Lawrence, she studied art history under Kurt Roesch, a German born expressionist painter.  Smiley also studied etching and engraving under Stanley William Hayter and Japanese woodblock printing with Bill Paden. 

Smiley’s work can be described as combining Cubist-inspired spatial concerns with an expressionistic approach to line and color.   She worked in oils, pastels and watercolor and says of her work “Although my paintings seem abstract, each has a subject that derives from nature, felt and observed.  I hope to arrive at an essence strong enough to evoke a shared recognition with the viewer.”

In addition to painting, Smiley worked at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers as the Assistant Curator of Exhibitions from 1970-1973 and taught drawing and painting in various New York studios from 1964-1990. In 1960 and 1976, Smiley received awards for watercolors she exhibited at the National Association of Women Artists held at the National Academy, New York City.  She had her first solo exhibition in 1962 at the Riverdale Neighborhood House, New York and another at the Carlton Gallery, New York in 1976. In 1972, she participated in the Hudson River Museum juried group show and in 1978 she was invited to participate in the Bronx Museum of Arts “Arte, Arte, Kunst” exhibition.  Smiley was a member of the National Art Association, The National Association of Women Artists, and the Cambridge and Concord Art Associations.  

In 1951, Lois Gross married Dr. Douglas G. Smiley by whom she had two daughters.  In the 1940’s, Smiley signed her work with her maiden name “Gross,” then she began using her married name. In 1988, after her husband passed away, she moved to Wellesley, Massachusetts where she quickly became part of the New England art community, teaching drawing at the Cambridge Art Association and the Concord Art Association, where she also exhibited.   In 1993, she held a solo exhibition at the Harvard Neighbors Gallery in Cambridge and from 1987-1996, she participated in several exhibitions at Douglas Parker’s “On the Vineyard Gallery.”

Smiley maintained a studio in Wellesley. Her art is represented by Gallery Art in Giving, where 50% of the sale of her paintings go to help fight childhood cancer.  In a recent interview, Smiley spoke of the importance of using the finest quality materials in her work.  Not only has she always used linen canvas, the artist also made her own stretchers and frames and even created her own pastels.  Many of her paintings are in private and corporate collections.

 “Although my paintings seem abstract, each has a subject derived from nature, felt and observed. I hope to arrive at an “essence” strong enough to evoke a shared recognition with the viewer. I work in oils, pastels, watercolors and drawing.

I studied painting in New York with Vaclav Vytlacil and Rufino Tamayo and painting, drawing and art history with Kurt Roesch at Sarah Lawrence College where I received my BA in painting. I also studied etching and engraving with Stanley William Hayter and Japanese wood block printing with Bill Paden. I have exhibited at multiple galleries in New York, Massachusetts and across the country, and was assistant curator of exhibitions at the Hudson River Museum.”

Lois Smiley's Work

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