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Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance

Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance June 28, 2023
Photo of a painting by David Smith.
Untitled (Piat) 1946. The Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society. (ARS) NY

‘Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance,’ the first exhibition anywhere to explore the modernist sculptor’s fascination with the performing arts, opens at the Hyde Collection on June 24 and will remain on view through September 17.

“The landmark ‘Songs of the Horizon’ is the highlight of our 60th anniversary season,” said John Lefner, The Hyde’s CEO, who noted that the exhibition will be a destination for Smith scholars, collectors and admirers as well as anyone curious about the intersection of art, dance and music, especially as it manifested itself in the southern Adirondacks.

According to Jason Ward, chair of The Hyde Collection’s Board of Trustees, ‘Songs of the Horizon’ affirms the many connections between the museum and Smith, who lived and worked in Bolton Landing from 1929 until his death in 1965.

“David Smith was not only one of The Hyde’s earliest trustees, he curated The Hyde’s very first summer exhibition, installing his own sculptures on the lawn,” said Ward.

‘Songs of the Horizon’ will be the first major exhibition of Smith’s work in the Lake George area since The Hyde’s own 1973 exhibition, “David Smith of Bolton Landing: Sculpture and Drawings.”

“I am thrilled to see my father’s work back at The Hyde Collection, where he shared his own work when the Museum first opened sixty years ago. It is meaningful to present this art in an institution in this rural region where it was made and where the artist worked,” said Rebecca Smith, one of the artist’s two daughters.

Dr. Jennifer Field, Executive Director of the Estate of David Smith, is the show’s curator.

“The Adirondack region that encompasses Bolton Landing and Glens Falls was inseparable from Smith’s artistic practice,” said Field. “A dialogue with nature—the mountain landscape, the change of seasons, the flight of birds—is reflected in his artwork in every medium.”

“Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance,” comprises thirty-one pieces from a variety of public and private collections, among them: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Harvard Art Museums, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Estate of David Smith and The Hyde Collection itself.

In addition to work displayed in The Hyde’s galleries and historic house, two tall vertical sculptures have been installed on The Hyde’s lawns for the duration of the exhibition.

“Songs of the Horizon” also includes work by David Smith’s first wife, Dorothy Dehner, who played an integral role in Smith’s engagement with the performing arts, dance especially.  

Starting in the mid-1930s, Smith used the photographs that he took of Dehner in dance poses as a basis for a sustained study of the female figure in dynamic postures.

In the 1940s, inspired by musicians’ performances and productions such as those staged by modern dance choreographer Franziska Boas, in Bolton Landing, Smith began depicting performers – musicians and dancers – absorbed and even possessed by music.

Among the works in “Songs of the Horizon” is “Boaz Dancing School” (1945), a significant yet rarely shown work that commemorates the artistic, social and political community that Smith and Dehner helped create in Bolton Landing.

Music was so important to the life of sculptor David Smith that he hoped his two daughters would become musicians – going so far as to hire Bolton Landing organist and harpsichordist Hugh Allen Wilson to give them private lessons.

A drawing that Smith gave to Wilson, based on a concert by the harpsichord player Sylvia Marlowe, is now owned by The Hyde Collection and will be included in “Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music, and Dance.”

“Songs of the Horizon” reunites this drawing with two related drawings, also owned by Wilson, The Hyde stated in a press release.

“This lively suite of works prompted a series Smith then executed on the theme of Euterpe and Terpsichore, the ancient Greek muses of music and dance, which culminated in a pair of abstract and technically innovative sculptures,” The Hyde stated.

In 1946, Smith created an especially fine piece inspired by music, “Untitled (Piat),” based on the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who lived near Smith and Dehner in the Adirondack community of Elizabethtown in the1940s.

“Untitled (Piat)” as well as others in a related series of works depicting music and musicians, are also included in the exhibition.

“Smith captured the psychological intensity and the fundamentally geometric configuration of the cellist and his instrument in a group of paintings and in the sculpture “Cello Player.” These works are accomplished examples of the complex and abstract direction Smith took his paintings and sculptures in the mid-1940s,” The Hyde stated, explaining that “Untitled (Piat)” as well as others in a related series of works depicting music and musicians are also included in the exhibition.

“Songs of the Horizon” is accompanied by a catalog with essays by Rebecca and Candida Smith and prominent scholars of the work of David Smith and Dorothy Dehner.

The exhibition opens with a gallery tour led by guest curator Jennifer Field and a discussion with Rebecca Smith and Candida Smith moderated by Lake George Mirror editor Tony Hall, both on June 24.

For more information about programs related to “Songs of the Horizon: David Smith, Music and Dance,” visit

The Hyde Collection, which is located at 161 Warren Street in downtown Glens Falls, will be open Mondays as well as Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm from June 26 through September 11. For information, call 518-792-1761.

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