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“A piece of sculpture emanates from such deep personal introspection that it truly is a part of the artist."
Born in Trenton, NJ in 1920, Madeline Smith first manifested an interest in drawing in elementary school. She graduated from the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut in 1964 and then went on to receive private instruction from several noted artists, among them Dr. Jacques M. Dowling, Ben Solowey, William A. Smith, Helen McCook, and Dr. Selma Burke. Although Smith began her career as a painter, she soon switched disciplines and devoted herself to sculpting.
Smith experimented with a wide variety of mediums, including clay, stone, stainless steel, alabaster, and bronze. She developed a knack for portrait sculptures and grew skilled at working from live models, many of whom were family members. Smith encouraged her models to converse and behave naturally when they posed for a head-in-the-round or bas-relief, as this allowed her to observe their natural expressions, producing a more relaxed portrait. In Smith’s opinion, children make excellent models since they are generally more animated than adults. Smith also took into account an individual’s bone structure when choosing a model because a clearly defined bone structure yields the best results.
Once a model was selected, a typical portrait head required two months to finish. The first step in the process was to sculpt a clay form of the head, which Smith did over the course of four to six 2-hour sessions. Next, she took a mold from the clay form and allowed it to dry. Once the mold was properly dry, Smith poured in her medium of choice, which likewise needed to dry completely before the patina could be applied. Given the time-consuming nature of her method, Smith’s policy was to only accept two commissions per year. This enabled her to make a living while still having ample time to spend on projects of personal interest.
Smith’s early exposure to drawing proved very important to her sculpting. Smith believed that drawing is the backbone of sculpture and that a firm grasp of anatomy, bone, and muscle structure is indispensable. Smith was a vocal advocate of sculpture as an art genre, which she considered to be underappreciated in the art world, and she particularly championed the cause of female sculptors.
Smith exhibited widely in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including solo exhibitions at the Pennridge Art Gallery, the Woodmere Art Museum, the Warminster Free Library, and the Lambertville House. Her work is represented in several permanent collections, notably those of the Museo Nazionale dell’Academia Italia in Florence and the Richard Nixon Library. One of Smith’s most famous commissions is the design for the Pearl S. Buck Women’s Award, which features an Amerasian child holding a rice bowl and is presented annually to a woman who has done much to improve the quality of life for children worldwide. Smith was the recipient of several awards for her sculpture and in 1972 was invited to the White House to present her bas-relief of President Nixon.
Madeline Smith, image courtesy of Pearl S. Buck International. James A. Michener Art Museum Library.
Education and Training
Famous Artists School, Westport, CT, 1964
Influences and Teachers
Smith received private sculpting lessons in her home once a week for three years from Dr. Jacques M. Dowling of The Upstairs Gallery in Lahaska, PA. Dowling taught her to sculpt heads-in-the-round and reliefs and brought her to art museums to study their sculpture collections. Smith also received instruction from William A. Smith of Pineville, who is well-known for his postage stamp designs, Ben Solowey, who taught her oil portraiture, Helen McCook and Dr. Selma Burke.
Connection to Bucks County
Smith was a longtime resident of Wrightstown Township, having moved to the area in 1954. She lived in an 18th century farmhouse known as “Dogwood Acres” in Penns Park. Her studio was originally located on the third floor of the farmhouse, but was relocated to a barn on her property at a later date.
Affiliations, Memberships, Schools
Charter Member, International Society of Artists
President, Doylestown Art League, 1974-1976
Member, Allied Artists of America
Member, Women’s Caucus for Art, Washington, D.C.
Honorary Member and Sculpture Chairman (1973-1974), Yardley Art Association
Director & History and Arts Committee Member, Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce
Founder and president (1937), Earhart Noonan Aviation, Trenton, NJ
Committee member, Bucks County Historical Society
Selection committee member, 3rd Arts Alliance of Bucks County
Member, Old York Road Art Guild
Member, International Playform Association
Member, American International Association Sculptor’s Symposium, Inc.
Member, Fantasy Artists Network
Member, Bucks County Council on the Arts, Friends of Rodman House
3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 14th Annual Bucks County Sculpture Shows, Rodman House, Doylestown, PA, 1980-1986, 1991
Bucks County Artists’ Studio Tour, 1990
1st and11th Open Juried Art Exhibition, Doylestown Art League, Art Center at Rodman House, Doylestown, PA, 1979, 1985
Solo exhibition, Frame Factory and Gallery 10th Anniversary Reception, Doylestown, PA, June 1985
Deep Run Festival of the Arts, Deep Run Presbyterian Church, Bedminster Township, PA, 1982
Bas-relief of President Ronald Reagan, Western Electric Corporate Education Center and Gallery, Hopewell, NJ, 1981
Portrait of Dr. Selma Burke, The Human Figure exhibit at Rodman House Galleries, Doylestown, PA, 1981
4th Annual Sculpture Show, History-Arts Committee of Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, Rodman House, Doylestown, PA, 1981
Paintings and Sculpture by Bucks County Artists, Gentle Winds Gallery, Doylestown, PA, 1980
Pennridge Art Gallery, solo exhibition, Sellersville, PA, 1979
International Platform Association, solo exhibition, Washington D.C., 1979
Woodmere Art Museum, solo exhibition, Philadelphia, PA, 1979
Phillips' Mill, solo exhibition, New Hope, PA, 1979
Warminster Free Library, solo exhibition, Warminster, PA, 1979
Arts Alliance, group exhibition, 1978-1979
Regional Council Community Art Centers, Philadelphia, PA, 1978-1979
Pennwood Branch of the Bucks County Free Library, Langhorne, PA, 1978
2nd Annual Juried Exhibition, Arts Alliance of Bucks County, Lahaska, PA, 1978
Fidelity Bank, Independence Mall Office, sponsored by the Regional Council of Community Art Centers, 1978
Doylestown Art League Juried Exhibition, Meierhans Gallery, Hagersville, PA, 1975, 1976, 1978
Artist Studio Tour, sponsored by the Doylestown Art League Inc., 1977
Rolling Hills Elementary School, Community Artists Exhibit, Holland, PA, 1977
Yardley Art Association 22nd and 23rd Juried Art Exhibits, Yardley, PA, 1976-1977
Franklin, Doylestown Art League Bicentennial Art Exhibit, Doylestown, PA, 1976
Poquessing Middle School, Bucks County Art Exhibit, Langhorne, PA, 1976
Serenity and Janis, Philadelphia Museum of Art (Gallery 74), Philadelphia, PA, 1974
Crest Galleries Inc., Yardley, PA, 1974
Lambertville House, solo exhibition, Lambertville, NJ, 1973
Jury Lounge, Bucks County Courthouse, Doylestown, PA, 1972-1973
Bas-relief of President Nixon, White House, Washington D.C., 1972
Ansley Electronics Corporation, Cross Keys, PA, 1972
Portrait head Janis, Industrial Valley Bank, Doylestown, PA, 1972
Acker Mansion and Museum, Los Angeles, CA
New Hope Art Show, New Hope, PA
Museo Nazionale dell’Academia Italia, Florence, Italy
Mother and Child sculpture of Pearl S. Buck, Pearl S. Buck Estate, Hilltown Township, PA
Serenity, sculpture of Dr. Jacques M. Dowling, Fred Clark Museum, Carversville, PA
Portrait head of President Lincoln, House of Representatives, Office of Congressman Peter Kostmayer
Bas-relief plaque of President Nixon, Richard Nixon Library, Yorba Linda, CA
Designer of the Pearl S. Buck Women’s Award
Bronze relief of the Bicentennial Seal for Wrightstown Township, PA, 1976
Teaching and Professional Appointments
Guest Lecturer, New Hope Art League, St. Philip’s Chapel, New Hope, PA, 1987
Associate Director, “Celebrate Bucks County”, Bucks County Council for the Arts at The Rodman House, Doylestown, PA, 1985
Assistant Director, 8th Annual Bucks County Sculpture Show, The Rodman House, Doylestown, PA, 1985
Director of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Annual Bucks County Sculpture Shows, 1981, 1982, 1983
Director, 2nd Annual Garden Festival and Art Show for benefit of the Bucks County SPCA, New Hope, PA, 1982
Co-chairperson, Moravian Tile Works Sculpture Show, Doylestown, PA, 1979
Sculpture Instructor, 10-week class at her studio in Penns Park, 1978
Lecturer, Bucks-Mont Art League, Warminster General Hospital, Warminster, PA, 1977
Judge, “Gallery in the Park” competition, Lake Lenape Park, Sellersville, PA, 1977
Art Director, Kalmia Club, 1974-1975
Director, Doylestown Art Day, 1972-1973
Gold Medal for Artistic Merit, International Parliament for Safety and Peace, 1984
Bucks County Award for Excellence in the Arts, Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, 1983
Diploma and Golden Centaur medal, Museo Nazionale dell’Academia, 1980
Effective Action Award, Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce, 1978
First Prize for professional sculpture, Cheltentham Art Center, Cheltenham, PA, 1978
Honorable Mention for Cameo, Yardley Art Association 22nd Art Exhibit, 1976
First Prize for Roman, New Jersey Women’s Federation of Clubs, Somerville, NJ, 1975
Second Prize for Serenity, New Jersey WFOC Convention, Atlantic City, NJ, 1974
First Prize for Serenity, New Jersey WFOC, New Brunswick, NJ, 1974