Review of Solowey & Smith: Works on Paper

"Damn him, how various he is," declared old-time English portrait painter Thomas Gainsborough about his contemporary Joshua Reynolds.

Now two American artists, both quite versatile, are featured in a twin-bill exhibit, "Solowey and Smith: Works on Paper," at the Ben Solowey Studio. While this show spotlights mainly drawings and watercolors by these well-known Bucks County painter-illustrators, it is played out against a background of their impressive versatility. In both cases, works are shown that summarize the phases of their careers. These were artists who found their themes, program and method fairly early and stuck to them.

Ben Solowey (1900-1978), in a small, reclining nude and a portrait of his wife, Rae — both in red Conté crayon — makes permanent the transitory nature of beauty. He often bathes his watercolors of Rae, his rural landscapes and still lifes in soft, translucent, naturalistic paint-handling that seems almost Victorian in its careful patina and luster. This also is a signature feature of his oils.

William A. Smith (1919 - 1989), traveling further afield in drawings made in China, Turkey and Europe, possesses quite a sure touch. He applies it to down-to-earth people and animal subjects that exude an intimate warmth and have verve. While this art is shown as if Solowey might walk into his studio at any moment, there is also an emphasis on bringing it to the viewer.

Victoria Donohoe
Philadelphia Inquirer Art Critic