Vincent Smarkusz

Undiscovered American Genius in Modern Art

Smarkusz - Early Years galleries: 1939 to 1951

Life Inspires Art - Figurative Expressions in Subject, Style, and Media

This group of Early Years galleries contain some of the artist's most academic, yet highly original art, created between 1939 and 1951.  They begin with Smarkusz's earliest sketches from Hartford Art School in Connecticut, and conclude with him settling in Boston to live, work, and study.

The intervening galleries in this section display Vincent Smarkusz's:  Drawings he created while in the Army Air Force stationed in the Pacific during WWII; Postwar paintings created in San Miguel, Mexico;  and a collection of Figurative Expressionist lithographic prints in black ink, created in his last two years at Hartford Art School from 1948 to 1950.

Before moving from Hartford to Boston in 1950, Smarkusz studied for one semester at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where Zolton Sepeshy was the director of painting at the time.

Once in Boston, Smarkusz painted out of his apartment studio located in the historic Beacon Hill district.  There he continued his studies in both Abstract and Figurative Expressionism at the Museum School, where Boston Expressionist painters gathered under the direction of Karl Zerbe.


ENTER the EARLY YEARS galleries .......


1918 to 1934 - Difficult Beginnings in "Little Poland" of Connecticut:

On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918 - "The Great War" ends
Poland is devastated and "Spanish Flu" spreads from the war trenches to the world
Many American fathers and young men are killed or crippled in WWI, or die of the flu
Vincent's father dies of the flu at age 28 during "The Great Influenza Pandemic" of 1918
His mother is widowed with two toddler boys, while six months pregnant with Vincent
Vincent is born on Feb.18th, 1919, into the "Little Poland" district of the "Hardware City"
- a Polish-American working class neighborhood in the factory town of New Britain, CT.
1929 - Great Depression -Third terrible "Great" in early 20th c. America - Vincent is 10
1931 - First ever Surealism exhibition in the U.S. at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford.
- Smarkusz will start attending the Hartford Art School at the Atheneum in 1938 
Vincent graduates from Sacred Heart School and enters New Britain public H.S. in 1934


1934 to 1938 - Coming of Age in a Life Inspired by Art:

1934 - First ever Picasso retrospective in the U.S. is held at the Hartford Atheneum
- in celebration of the opening of the museum's new Avery Memorial Wing.
Smarkusz will begin attending Hartford Art School held within the Avery Wing in 1938
The A.L.N.B. "Art Club" and Federal Art Project artists in hometown New Britain, CT 
Early influences: Social Realism, Regionalism, Expressionism, Surreal and Abstract Art
1936 - Vincent enjoys art, theater, dance, literature and mythology while in High School
He also becomes fascinated with theism, existential philosphy and Christian mysticism.
Vincent realizes he is gay but must deny it in a time when it is illegal and dishonorable.
Vincent's prefers the nickname "V" and reinstates the Z at the end of his signature 
He loves figure drawing and begins developing his style of Figurative Expressionism


The Early Years Galleries (1938 to 1951):

1938 to 1940 - Hartford Art School:

Smarkusz is accepted into Hartford Art School - held in the Avery Wing of the Atheneum
It is his oasis of creativity and culture within a desert of conformity and industrialization
An abstract use of form and color appears in his earliest renderings of human figures


1940 to 1948 - World War II and Paradise Lost:

Sept 1939 - Radio Warsaw - Germany brutally invades his parent's motherland of Poland
Vincent is drafted into the U.S. Army in the spring of 1941, and serves five years in WWII.
He creates drawings during downtime in the beautiful sub-tropical Islands of the Pacific
May 1945 -VE Day - Hitler defeated and concentration camp atrocities revealed in Poland
Airman Smarkusz serves as an aerial gunner over the Philippines and Okinawa
Vincent's brother Hank serves in the Navy, fighting off Kamikaze attacks in the Pacific
Aug 1945 - "The Bomb" is dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan, ending WWII
Hartford Art School Art Show and endorsement from James J. Sweeney of MoMA in 1946 
"GI Paradise" on the GI Bill - Painting in Diego Rivera's state of Guanajuato, Mexico
Paradise Lost - the Red Scare closes Bellas Artes in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico


1948 to 1951 - The "Professional" Artist:

Returning to Connecticut, Vincent creates "Noir" Lithographic prints to sell his work 
1950 - Smarkusz finally graduates from Hartford Art School with a B.A. in Fine Arts!
He studies at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, under painter Zolton Sepeshy.

1951 - Settling in Boston:

Smarkusz takes classes in the Museum School at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 - alongside Karl Zerbe and the Boston School of Figurative Expressionist painters
Vincent continues developing his own unique blend of Figurative and Abstract art.....


NEXT: The Middle Years Galleries - Crucible of Art:
Symbolism and the Surreal .....
The Night Watchman and his Dreamwork .....
FUSIONISM - "Dreams and Nightmares"