Royal Incubator

“All my early friends were painters because we studied together. And I never conceived of myself as anything other than a painter. Some of the greatest contributions of sculpture to the 20th century are by painters. Had it not been for painters, sculpture would be in a very sorry position.”

–David Smith

David Smith once described his early sculptures of the 1940s and ‘50s, like Royal Incubator, as “drawings in space.” Created from wrought and soldered metals such as steel, bronze, and silver, these expressive and lyrical constructions indeed recall the gestural quality of his drawings. Often mixing found objects and fabricated parts, Smith’s sculptures bring together the real and imagined, resulting in a unique—and at times autobiographical—visual style that weds Surrealism, Cubism, and abstraction. In Royal Incubator, spigots become birds of flight in a lively, dream-like composition that evades clear interpretation.

Image: Royal Incubator, 1949, David Smith, steel, bronze and silver, 37 x 38 3/8 x 9 7/8 in., Gift of the Virginia and Bagley Wright Collection, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2016.17.5, © Estate of David Smith.