Towle Hill Studio in Corinth will present a retrospective show of the paintings and drawings of Joseph L. Smongeski (1914 - 2001). On Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25, the show, organized by Smongeski’s daughter, Josette Lyders of Peacham, Vermont will also feature the 2009 biography about Smongeski, written by Lyders. Designed by Dean Bornstein, renowned book designer and owner of Perpetua Press, Joseph L. Smongeski: A Life in the Art World will be available for purchase, as will some of Smongeski’s paintings.
The gallery will be open on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. Lyders and her sister, Mary Patch of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, will be hosting a reception with refreshments on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m.
Joseph L. Smongeski studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and began his working career in 1941 in the art department of Western Printing Company in New York City. Five years later, he was invited to join D. C. Heath Company in Boston, where he served as a book designer for 31 years. He painted as well during all these years, creating an extensive inventory of landscapes, portraits and still lifes. In addition, he taught adult art classes for more than 25 years in Quincy, Milton, Weymouth, and Cohasset, communities on the South Shore of Massachusetts.
Altogether, Smongeski had 40 one-man shows including two very large invitational retrospective exhibitions near the end of his painting years, one at The Rahr-West Art Museum in Racine, Wisconsin, and the other at the Milton Art Museum, in Milton, Massachusetts. He also participated in some 30 group shows in Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont. He was elected to membership in the Salmagundi Club of New York City and he was given the honor of “Copley Artist” by the Copley Society of Boston.
Critics wrote favorably about his art. A few remarks regarding the larger exhibitions reveal much about his style and achievement:
From Virginia Freyermuth, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Massachusetts), June 19, 1984, p. 15. “Color, spatial control and simplicity of form give the subject an added dimension of importance. . . .Although the aim of Smongeski’s work is to capture the moment at hand with a concern for color and light, the paintings are not impressionist in style. In fact, there is something very American about his style. . . .”
From Sandy Coleman, The Boston Globe, April 15, 1990, p.9. “The beauty of the painting (“Model in the Garden”) comes in the way the artist allows the light to play throughout, as if a gentle breeze is blowing color here and there. . . . Smongeski creates his vividly striking paintings by building them through layers of ‘constructive color.’ You can almost separate the color into planes, but they all form one harmonious unit, the painting.
From Constance Gorfinkle, The Patriot Ledger, April 19, 1990, p.32. “Color, bold and bright, is what most strikes the viewer about the. . .paintings. Smongeski’s landscapes and street scenes in particular are sunny evocations of a simple life. . . .[his] landscapes convey a sense of peace. . . .Smongeski often celebrates summer in his works. . .yet it is not just the season that we see in his paintings, but its place in our feelings and memories.”
Renowned Cape Cod artist, Richard C. Bartlett, a dear friend of the artist, wrote a tribute to Joseph Smongeski for the Towle Hill Studio show. He noted: “Joe and I were colleagues as book designers at D. C. Heath. . . . Joe had the taste required of a fine artist, and it showed in his judgement in how he presented an author’s manuscript visually. His typographic solutions were reasoned, making the author’s intent crystal clear for the reader. . . .he ran the Bookbuilders of Boston printing workshop with John Manganelli . . . and he taught adult ed classes in painting. If you can believe it, he still found time to paint! We sometimes went out sketching together. Joe could work as rapidly in oils as I could in watercolor, reputedly the quicker medium. . . . When you look at Joe’s paintings, you can tell they are the work of a happy artist.”
Lyders has written in her book about her father: “Perhaps it was the result of his growing up in a very large family and noticing the importance of everyday things on the progress of life. Perhaps it was the huge constraints of his student years in the Great Depression that made grandeur out of reach. Or, perhaps it was just a warm and caring nature that influenced his choice of humble subjects to paint. In my recollections of my father, I see a man who consistently found beauty in the world around him. It could be pastoral scenes, as he found in his visits to Vermont; it could be a small bouquet of flowers given to his wife; it could be in the look on a face. I see a man who never lost the wonder of life. I remember certain observations he would make: “Oh, God, look at that–how beautiful!” and, “I would like to paint that!” His subjects were never grandiose and never done for effect. He found the desire to paint in the intrinsic worth of the subject and he reveled in the joy of transforming that subject into his art.”
For the Towle Hill Studio show, Lyders has selected some twenty works representing different time periods in the artist’s body of work and a sampling of landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and more.
In the summer and fall seasons since 2009, Mark Nielsen, owner of Towle Hill Studio, has presented weekend exhibitions featuring the work of area creative artists, including painters, photographers, sculptors, and more. For more information about the gallery, visit the Web site www.towlehillstudio.com, or email Mark Nielsen at
For more information about the artist and about Lyders’ book, Joseph L. Smongeski: A Life in the Art World , email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images: Sugar Shack #1, 1976, oil, 16" x 22" A Rose, 1941, oil, 12" x 9" Reflections, 1985, oil, 10" x 14"
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