THE RALPH MAYNARD SMITH TRUST___ ( Registered Charity Number : 1049843 )
Set up in 1995 to preserve and make known the works of the artist, writer and architect

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Updated July 2017

Shepherd Landscape
1. "Shepherd Landscape". 1929 - 1945. Oil on canvas. 24 x 36 inches. K170.00. Private Collection.
An Account of the Artist’s Development

TO CHART the life's work of an artist on one website page is a challenge. If that artist was active over a period of forty years, the clearest way to show how his work evolved may be to select just four or five groups of typical works produced at key stages of his development.

Largeness of concept, precision of form and depth of space are characteristic qualities of almost everything RMS produced, including many small and apparently casual sketches. These drawings are his answer to an apparently endless flow of ideas, only a small portion of which he was able to develop, but which show him to have been a prolific artist. Although he was successful in producing larger oil paintings like "Shepherd Landscape" and "Circles and Moon", the limitations imposed by his lifestyle meant that such achievements became increasingly rare as time went on.


EXTRACTS from Roger Cardinal’s Introduction to the monograph: “Ralph Maynard Smith : A Haunted Man”:

“Mountain ranges in sharp profile, hills rippling and rearing, stiffened clumps of trees, stealthy streams and contorted plant-life, massed boulders, forked paths, abrupt cliffs and crags, moonstruck beaches and alluring clouds—the spaces imaged in Ralph Maynard Smith’s art are the outcome of a dynamic process whereby reminiscences of actual observations are enhanced and often superseded by the most uninhibited reveries and visionary inventions.”

1920s Mull and Iona to early 1940s Surrey

walls 1   Andante Andante Andante   Self_portrait hills
2. “Walls”. 1928. Oil on canvas. 17 x 21 inches. K.172.00. RMS Trust Collection   3. “Andante”. 1927. Oil on canvas board. 9.75 x 11.375. K.166.00. Private Collection   4. ‘Self-Portrait in the Hills’. 1927. Oil on canvas. 16 x 22.75 inches. K.164.00. RMS Trust Collection
June_greens ___ Edge of Wood, June Edge of Wood, June   Edge of Wood, Winter
5. “June Greens”. 1941. Oil on paper. 7.5 x 5.125 inches. K.542.00. RMS Trust Collection   _6. “Edge of the Wood, June”. 1943. Oil on paper. ___3.75 x 7.5 inches. K.683.00. Private Collection   7.“Edge of the Wood, Winter”. 1942. Oil on paper. 5.125 x 7.5 inches. K.614.00. Private Collection


“The poet Charles Baudelaire once wrote in his notebook that ‘in certain spiritual states which are all but supernatural, the profundity of life is exposed in its entirety through the spectacle that one happens to find before one’s eyes, however ordinary it may be. It becomes a Symbol thereof.’ What Maynard Smith learned to do in his picturemaking was to absorb the shapes he had encountered while afoot in the actual landscape and let them flow out again as the constituents of a symbolic topography, a private realm of phantasmal forms in which inhere connotations and metaphors, often secret and abstruse. He thereby became a perfect alchemist of the visual, an adept who co-ordinates perceptions of the external world with an archetypal imagery generated from within by what Gaston Bachelard termed ‘’the material imagination.’

Late 1930s to late 1940s

Figure in the Hills   Place of Departure   Free is the Prospect Here
8. “Figure in the Hills”. 1938. Oil on paper. 5 x 4.75 inches. K.464.00. RMS Trust Collection


  9. “Place of Departure”. 1946. Pastel & charcoal. 8.625.00 x 12.25 inches. Collection National Galleries of Wales,  Cardiff   10. “Free Is the Prospect Here”. 1946. Watercolour & pastel. 8.75 x 12.375 inches. Collection National Galleries of Wales, Cardiff
Interior with Bat


Better Be Yourself Better be Yourself
11. "Interior with Bat". 1947. Watercolour with charcoal. 14 x 21.25 inches. K933.00. RMS Trust Collection   12. "Better Be Yourself, Better Make Your Own Music". 1948. Watercolour with charcoal. 14.5 x 21.75 inches. K1010.00. Collection British Museum.

Transitions leading to “Free Is the Prospect Here”

MAYNARD SMITH’S explorations in Mull and Iona led to a rhythmic style of composition, influenced by Van Gogh but echoing also something of Cezanne’s robust forms. He would have been aware of the Scottish Colourists too, as his fiancée Gerry had studied at the Glasgow School of Art when Peploe and his associates were in the ascendant. As the 1930s progressed towards World War 2, a darker mood began to appear, accompanied by the occasional experimental painting, probing a new, more surreal world. But in whatever vein he worked, he continued throughout his life to record impressions direct from nature, giving his work substance and richness of form

DURING the early and middle period of the war, Maynard Smith produced a series of lyrical English landscapes, more consistently ‘pastoral’ in character than any group of subjects he had worked on before. He seems to have been motivated by the desire to evoke an idyll of the land to be protected against a violent enemy. Throughout his work as a whole there are very few attempts at direct representation of the War, and the few sketches that there are seem hesitant. The sometimes violent ‘war of the elements’ he increasingly recorded with expressive gestural techniques, signified rather the internal struggle of men within themselves. And after 1945, when it was over, he was not optimistic that it had been the war to end wars .

THE 1946 painting “Free Is the Prospect Here” is significant, not only in itself, but because it heralded the mature phase of his work. In 1949 he used the title again, for a large manuscript book containing 65 drawings and watercolours, in which, with numerous twists and turns, he explored all the pictorial avenues made possible by the breakthrough that that painting represented.


FRANCES CAREY, writing in her Introduction to Maynard Smith’s 2002 London Exhibition, in referring to his journals leads on to more generalised observations:

“Blake features in one of the opening comments in ‘The Ravine’: ‘To Blake there was no real world but that apprehended by vision’, followed by Maynard Smith’s own observation: ‘The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life.’ The implicit notion of pilgrimage should be understood too in relation to Ruskin’s characterisation of ‘imagination penetrative’ in Volume II of ‘Modern Painters’: … many painters of powerful mind have been lost to the world by suffering the restless writhing of their imagination in its cage to take place of its healthy and exulting activity in the fields of nature … Fancy plays like a squirrel in its circular prison, and is happy; but imagination is a pilgrim on the earth — and her home is in heaven.’ Another recurrent theme is Maynard Smith’s musical interpretation of nature attested to by many of his titles; these serve to define the mood of particular compositions and to help structure his work as a whole, in which each part plays its role as an orchestral movement.”


13.  “Eclipse of the Winged Embryo”. 1949. Oil on ply panel. 13 x 20.5 inches. Collection: University of Hertfordshire
14. “Vertical Surfaces on a Beach”. 1951. Watercolour. 15 x 22 inches. K.1296.00. Private Collection.
Wordless_Urges Wordless Urges
15.  “Wordless Urges”. 1952. Oil on ply panel. 16.75 x 26 inches. RMS Trust Collection
From the 1950s on — “Districts of My Kingdom”

THE DRAWINGS in Maynard Smith’s manuscript book “Free Is the Prospect Here” provide the key to his middle period and later work. Some of his paintings from the late 1940s and early 1950s, such as “Eclipse of the Winged Embryo”, “Vertical Surfaces on a Beach” and “Circles and Moon” convey a sense of calm contemplation. It was as if he was aware that he had reached the territory for which he had been searching. Those paintings group together to form a new idyll, of images both lyric and surreal at the same time. Following these, a small number of watercolours and drawings were titled “Districts of My Kingdom”. These draw our attention to his imaginary world and its topography, which he had culled from natural topography. Walking through this land of the imagination, he was like some early cartographer, sketchbook in hand, recording its salient features for the first time.

IN “Wordless Urges” he encounters a more dangerous place, and as the years progressed the land he was exploring became sometimes more threatening still—mountainous areas where hurricane force winds raged and seas were threatened by great storms. About this time he wrote: “The things which are most real to me are the illusions which I create. Everything else is a quicksand.”.

REFERRING to the work of Nash, Sutherland and Piper, Roger Cardinal remarks:

“Ralph Maynard Smith was sufficiently aware of many of these antecedents to have assimilated [i.e. by the late 1930s. Ed] the basics of the art of symbolic landscape, recognising with Ruskin that the creative imagination needs to be 'dream-gifted' and concurring with André Breton's dictum whereby 'the imaginary is that which tends to become real'. Maynard Smith was no stranger to the idea of the artistic temperament projecting its inventions onto the external world.”
16. “Pebble Hollow”.  1947.  Watercolour and pastel.  8 x 11.5 inches.  K.944.00.  Private Collection
Mem_Fields   Great_storm Storm over Sea
17. ‘Memories Field Blown Bare, Hurricane’. 1953. Pen with blue & brown inks. 5.125 x 8 inches. K.1368.00. RMS Trust Collection.


18. ’Great Storm over the Sea’. 1961. Pen and ink. 7 x 9 inches. K.1656.00. RMS Trust Collection
19. ‘Canal by the Shoreline’. 1956. Pen & ink. 5.375” x 8.875”. K1443.00. Private Collection  This is the 1963- 4. ‘Photomural’ version from the original drawing, as approved by the artist.  21 x 35 inches.  RMS Trust Collection.

Late 1950s to early 1960s — “Memories Fields”

IN EVERY PHASE  of his progress as a painter, RMS would occasionally produce a work, whether sketch or considered drawing, which provided a glimpse of his future development.  The painting “Pebble Hollow” from 1947 was one of these. Both its tonality and its gestural directness of touch prefigure his growing interest in the importance of mark-making: the speed and manner in which the line was drawn, expressing the emotion of the moment. Sometimes the pen digs deep into the paper, sometimes it lingers gently. “Pebble Hollow” stands well with this group of later drawings, in which variations on the theme “Memories Field” keep appearing. ’Spatial abstracts’ numbers 17,18,19: three of more than 100 which stand alone in British Art of the period.

HERE AGAIN John Spurling, who was the first critic to ’discover’ RMS, comments:

“...after the sunlit early landscapes - sturdily constructed from long curves, airy and optimistic - and the gracefully monumental, surrealistic paintings of 1947-50, he eventually entered a more disturbed and disturbing place, more sea and sky than land, more memory than observation, more internal than external.”

EVEN in the 1920s RMS was concerned that each composition should have not only its own tonal mood or ‘key’ but also its own internal momentum or tempo. Some of his titles highlight this, such as “Andante”,  “Hand in Hand with the Musician”, “Prelude to Storm” and “Final Movement”, all of which underline his belief that pictorial composition should share with music the freedom to abandon imitation in favour of creation. It would be difficult to find a painter more aware of the tempo or pace of each composition, as for example how the andante movement of “Vertical Surfaces on a Beach” gives way to the allegro of “Memories Field Blown Bare: Hurricane”.  Maynard Smith’s evident experience of synaesthesia, and the effect of music on his painting generally, seem to echo those same influences affecting the work of Kandinsky and other painters of the 20th century, although RMS’s manner of expressing it was very different.

Storm2 Storm Destroying Memories Field
20. ‘Storm Destroying Memories Field’. 1961. Indian ink brush drawing. 7 x 9 inches. K.1645.00. RMS Trust Collection

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Shepherd Landscape Walls June Greens Eclipse of the Winged Embryo Vertical Surfaces on a Beach Pebble Hollow Memories Field Blown Bare Canal by the Shoreline Edge of Wood, Winter Self-Portrait in the Hills Figure in the Hills Place of Departure Free is the Prospect Here Interior with Bat