Publications

Vogue, April 2021, Conde Nast Publications Ltd, London.

Inspired by local produce and how it has brought community together during the pandemic, Ruth Helen Smith, an artist and gallerist in Southern England, has been painting still life, meditating on our relationship to each other and the world. See her work at: www.ruthhelensmith.co.uk, @ruth.helen.smith

Featured painting: ‘Gifts’, oil on canvas, 50.5 x 61 cm, 2020.

Ruth H. Smith ‘Staging Artifice: Aubrey Beardsley at 114 Cambridge Street’, AB 2020, (2020).

Since the Coronavirus pandemic crisis tightened its grip on economies, freedom of movement and social interaction, the home has been on our agenda more than ever. Suddenly the home is the setting for all types of interaction, transformed into a stage where people curate their living space for all to see and perform their job via a carefully orchestrated mise-en-scene. This self-fashioning through the home is of course not a new phenomenon, but at this time it is interesting to consider Aubrey Beardsley (1872-1898), whose home was similarly a place of self-isolation due to poor health, a place of work, and a place through which he built his identity. At the height of his short career, his house became intrinsic to the promotion of his artistic persona and served as the inspiration for a number of his drawings.

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Inside-Out: The Sensory Bodies of Perseus and the Graiae by Edward Burne-Jones’, Immediations, (2019).

Perseus and the Graiae was to be the pivotal scene of Edward Burne-Jones’s Perseus Series. As such, several versions created between 1875-1892 exist in the form of preparatory cartoons, a gilded low-relief oak panel (Burne-Jones’s original intention for the piece), and an oil-painted version created after the original oak panel was unfavourably received. The subject, in which the hero steals the only eye of the Graiae sisters, clearly references themes of sight and blindness. However, contrary to the tendency in previous scholarship to relate this to concepts such as wisdom and spiritual insight, this article proposes that a more literal reading of the body and the senses in relation to the Graiae sisters is appropriate. Furthermore, I suggest that the sensory body was a central line of enquiry in Burne-Jones’s artistic project. Drawing from the psycho-physiological writings of George Henry Lewes on muscular sensation and Walter Pater’s concept of the ‘Diaphaneitè’, I argue that Burne-Jones’s depiction of the sightless Graiae emphasises other, non-visual forms of sensation, especially touch. This draws the viewer’s attention to the Graiae’s heightened haptic sensitivity to their environment, offering us a glimpse of the process of detecting one’s surroundings without sight. Adolf von Hildebrand’s writings on ‘visual’ and ‘kinaesthetic’ looking provide a useful framework for elucidating and dissecting the different mechanisms of sight represented at work in the scene.

James Clow, ‘Who Told You That You Were Naked?’, an essay in response to R. Smith’s ‘And They Knew They Were Naked’, (2019).

‘And They Knew They Were Naked’ is an exhibition of several new paintings by Ruth Helen Smith. This is a cohesive body of work in that the paintings all share the same subject matter: building sites and roadworks. However, within the context of this affinity, one painting immediately catches the eye, if only for its conspicuous absence of eye-catching colour. To the left of it, a larger painting in which a deep orange burns through the surface and to the right, two smaller canvases make use of vibrant blues and yellows. This painting, however, is almost exclusively grey and brown. A flat grey expanse to the top and right, intersected by two dull red lines, describes the surface of an innominate road, while the remainder of the painting is given over to what resides beneath. Visceral, lumpy, impasto marks clod the panel, as much physical detritus as the subterranean rubble it depicts. […]

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Christ on the Cross: Visual Responses Throughout History’, BeThinking.org, (May 2018).

No art depicting the crucifixion exists from the first few centuries after Jesus’ death and resurrection. For an event so well documented, and so repeated, both visually and verbally, this period of artistic silence seems strange. Furthermore, it is astonishing that Christianity spread across the Roman world unassisted by visual stimuli. The Roman era was a period of political propaganda, where emperors demonstrated their rule through abundant images of themselves on coins, seals, and sculptures. It seems remarkable, then, that without any visual aid, people were choosing to make Jesus their Lord and Saviour. […]

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Humility and Transcendence in James D. W. Clarke’s ‘Get Down, Be Low”, (2018).

James David William Clarke’s Get Down / Be Low is a series of two installations. The first, Get Down, was part of a three-person collaboration called Humble to the Ground which participated in Deptford X in September this year. The second, Be Low, was part of another three-person exhibition, opening a month later, called Material Transcendence, at Worlds End Studios in Chelsea. The installations reflected on humility and transcendence in the relationships between the spiritual and physical, art and craft, and idea and material. […]

Lectures

Past

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Appreciating the Work in Artwork’, Art Historical London, three-part practical series, 4 pm – 5 pm Wednesdays 17th February, 24th February and 3rd March 2021.

‘Will Lockdown be remembered as the Still Life of our lives? Perhaps we can capture this strange moment by creating a little art work of your own, whilst learning how the masters use oil paint.’ Acquire a new appreciation for the materials and processes behind the art we have been studying through this practical series! Ruth will guide us through creating our very own still life masterpiece, explain about materials and techniques, and share how great masters have used them.

Book tickets here.

Ruth H. Smith, ‘John Singer Sargent’s Sculptural Approach to Painting’, Art Historical London, 11 am – 12 pm Friday 31st July 2020.

‘Hewn with a Hatchet’ is John Singer Sargent’s language describing to his students how to begin a painting. This lecture examines Sargent’s painterly technique, and how he approached painting with a keen sculptural awareness.

A recording of the lecture can be seen here.

Study notes for the lecture are available here.

Ruth H. Smith, ‘The Aesthetic Movement: Pursuing Beauty in 1860-1900’, Art Historical London, 11 am – 12 pm Friday 12th June 2020.

This week Ruth Smith takes us through an overview of the Aesthetic Movement, introducing its main proponents, and exploring its ideas and paradoxes. Come with us on a whirlwind tour of the re-imaginings of beauty in the period 1860-1900.

A recording of the lecture can be seen here.

Study notes for the lecture are available here.

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Violent Orange: Aubrey Beardsley at 114 Cambridge Street’, Art Historical London, 11 am – 12 pm Friday 5th June 2020.

In this time of Coronavirus, the home takes center stage. Ruth Smith looks at the home of Aubrey Beardsley, which at the height of his career similarly provided a place for self-isolation due to poor health, a space and inspiration for his work, and a medium to built his artistic identity.

A recording of the lecture can be seen here.

Study notes for the lecture are available here.

Ruth H. Smith, ‘Quest, Love and Leisure in the Walled Garden: The ‘Roman de la Rose’ and Edward Burne-Jones’, Winchester Art History Group, 10.30 am – 12.30 pm, Wednesday 18th November 2015.

Delivered to Winchester Art History Group in thanks of their bursary support throughout BA and MA studies at The Courtauld. The subject for this lecture formed Ruth’s BA dissertation on the inspiration Edward Burne-Jones derived from the medieval manuscript, ‘The Roman de la Rose’, at the British Library.

Study notes for the lecture can be found here.