Egyptian Barnyard

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
wrought and soldered silver on wood base
Dimensions
14 1/2 x 24 x 5 1/2 in
Credit line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Alsdorf
Accession number
60.279
Collection
Not Currently On View

David Smith did not allow a preconceived image to dictate his sculpture, rather, he let his open-form works unfold during their construction. Of Egyptian Barnyard, Smith wrote that he had "no special motivation except ‘sculpture.'" He chose the title for this work after it was completed. Egyptian Barnyard is the first silver casting that Smith created for himself and displayed at home.

Smith was among the first American artists to sculpt with industrial metals and techniques. Widely associated with Abstract Expressionism, Smith considered his raw materials and forceful welding process to be primary aspects of his work. In this sculpture, the artist welded and soldered sterling silver just as he would with iron or steel, not treating it as a precious metal.

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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Widely hailed as the most important Abstract Expressionist sculptor of his generation, David Smith trained as a painter, but soon began building up his two-dimensional surfaces into three-dimensional reliefs. Moving into the realm of sculpture, he created open-form, welded-metal constructions inspired in part by the Cubist and Surrealist sculpture that Pablo Picasso and Julio González created in the early 1930s.

Around 1938, Smith started making silver castings, beginning with a group of small medallions. In 1954, the same year that he contributed work to the exhibition Sculpture in Silver from Islands in Time, Smith created Egyptian Barnyard-the first silver casting that he made for himself and displayed in his home. Smith titled the work after he completed it, perhaps alluding to the central form, which resembles an Egyptian mummy.

Born in Decatur, Indiana, Smith lived in the Midwest until he was twenty-one. In 1929, he started visiting Bolton Landing, New York, on the hills overlooking Lake George. He moved there permanently in 1940 and named his studio Terminal Iron Works. Although best known for his large-scale steel sculptures, which are often described as drawings in space, Smith also produced paintings and drawings that demonstrate a close connection to his three-dimensional work. Seven of Smith's drawings are in the IMA collection.

[It is] a good sculpture and the only one I'll probably ever make with such delicacy.
-David Smith, 1957