Xanthus Russell Smith USA

2-26-1839 Philadelphia, USA - 12-2-1929 Glenside, USA

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Smith, Xanthus Russell

Xanthus Russell Smith was educated at home by his mother, who also gave him drawing lessons. Between 1851 and 1852, he accompanied his parents and sister Mary Russell Smith on the family's tour of Europe. After returning home, he studied chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, before enrolling at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He served in the United States Navy during the American Civil War, helping to maintain the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina.

Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Xanthus Russell Smith, a passionate loyalist, enlisted in the United States Navy. He served as captain’s clerk on the USS Wabash, Rear Admiral Samuel Francis Du Pont’s flagship, from September 1862 until July 1863. Throughout his tour of duty, Smith was continually making small watercolor sketches and drawings he would later use as the foundations for his trademark painstakingly detailed works such as A South Carolina Coast Scene and Hilton Head, Port Royal, S.C. His drawings soon came to the attention of Admiral Du Pont, who commissioned Smith to paint ships of the fleet.

Relieved from duty in October 1864, Xanthus Russell Smith returned to Philadelphia where he began to exhibit his paintings of federal vessels and the South Carolina coast, drawing critical acclaim in the local press. Between 1868 and 1876, Smith executed fifteen large-scale marine paintings depicting the war’s major naval engagements, culminating in the sensational display of his massive Battle of the Kearsarge and Alabama at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition.

Xanthus Russell Smith painted six versions of the famous June 19, 1864 naval battle between the USS Kearsarge and the Confederate ship Alabama, each a unique composition.

Xanthus Russell Smith's paintings and sketches were used to illustrate a large number of Civil War histories, including the 1926 biography he wrote of his former commanding officer, Admiral Samuel Francis du Pont. Examples of his work are at the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Naval Historical Center in Washington, D.C. Others are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Art Movement: Realism Art
Traveled: England, France
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