Robert C. Smith: An Eclectic Studio & A Remarkable Career

Posted by Liam Otten January 30, 2019


Bob Smith was a Renaissance man—a talented painter, designer, and bookmaker who trained generations of students while earning national renown for his sculptural fountain designs.

In Robert C. Smith: An Eclectic Studio & A Remarkable Career, the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts will showcase more than 100 works—including drawing, painting, sculpture, illustration, photography, and artist books—by the longtime professor, who died last fall at the age of 92.

Bob Smith, “Orangella,” circa 1990s. (Photo courtesy of Des Lee Gallery)

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., Smith served as a Navy airplane machinist during World War II and taught at the Cincinnati Art Academy before joining the Washington University faculty in 1965, where he directed the first- and second-year program and later helped establish the communication design major. In 1972, Smith launched Create Studio, a professional graphic design firm staffed entirely by students—one of the first such firms in the nation. His own clients numbered in the scores, ranging from Baldwin Piano and the University of Wisconsin Press to the St. Louis Zoo, Missouri Botanical Garden and Washington University’s Edison Theatre.

“Bob’s training was rooted in the Modernist movement and his work, for all its stylistic and technical breadth, generally reflects those Modernist concerns,” said Jeff Pike, professor of art and a longtime colleague. “But what I always found most impressive was Bob’s draftsmanship. Whether painting or cartooning, whether drawing the figure or cutting paper, his use of line, shape, volume, and form was always magnificent.”

Robert C. Smith: An Eclectic Studio & A Remarkable Career opens with a reception from 6-8p Friday, February 8, at the Sam Fox School’s Des Lee Gallery, 1627 Washington Ave. Regular hours are 1-6p Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and by appointment.

For more information, call 314-621-8735, email, visit, or visit our event page here or on Facebook.