Feb 15, 2010

Robert E Smith, Artist

Self Portrait
Short Bio

Robert E. Smith is a nationally known folk and "outsider" artist. His paintings have been featured at New York City's prestigious Museum of American Folk Art and sold at distinguished galleries coast-to-coast. He has also been featured in The Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art. His unique visions, brimming with color, humor and incident, represent a triumph of the imagination over a strenuous and difficult life. Bibliography and great photos on Detour Art.

Robert Eugene Smith
October 14, 1927- February 13, 2010
Robert Eugene Smith was born in St. Louis, Mo
to Mary Agnes (Walls, Smith,)  Dowler and Clarence Smith
Robert lived a rich life and had many friends in Springfield, MO where he passed.

About the Blog

This page is dedicated to the artist, Robert E Smith.
If you know Robert and would like to add to this site
please e-mail me stories, photos, links to video and
anything else that will help to tell his story. - Grace Matthews

I'm Robert's cousin in San Diego, Ca. (858) 576-0476

Robert E Smith     photo: Grace Matthews

Read About Robert Eugene Smith

Order on Amazon

Paintings, Drawings, Poems, and Stories 

Selected and Edited by Eric Pervukhin and Carla Stine

But Smith’s art reveals more than an imagination unfettered. The work of an inveterate story-teller, his paintings present witty, savvy, complex visual narratives. Cartoon animals mingle with sidewalk preachers, movie stars, and U.S. Presidents; in busy street scenes, bicycles and trolley cars bustle below while blimps and airplanes and UFOs—and an occasional nuclear bomb—fly overhead. Smith’s painting revels in satire, revealing an eye for incongruity and an inherent love of life. Even a cursory view of his work reflects a man who led a rich, wondrous life and whose fanciful yearnings inspired the community that cherished him.

Born in St. Louis, Smith moved to Springfield in 1975. Drawn mainly from local, privately-owned collections, the present anthology features thirty full-color illustrations along with cartoons, poems, and stories by the artist.

Eric Pervukhin is Professor of Art and Design at Missouri State University. His paintings, drawings, and book illustrations have earned international acclaim.

7 x 7, 80 pages, 50 illustrations

(30 in color)

ISBN 978-0-913785-02-7

$32.95 paper

Distributed for Moon City Press.

“Folk art can help you to lead a halfway decent life,” Robert E. Smith (1927-2010) was heard to say; but Springfield, Missouri’s most famous, eccentric, and beloved painter pushed his work into the realm of outsider art. Self-taught, Smith began painting while a young man: forcibly institutionalized following a nervous breakdown, he retreated into his art. Unsurprisingly, his art brut is unbounded by logic, time, and space, brilliantly colored, at once childlike and troubling.

Carla Stine is a designer, collage artist, and illustrator. She is an admirer of Robert’s work and life and honored to have been his friend. June 2011

Video from Robert's memorial

Links to News Articles

Created as a memorial on Feb 12, 2010 in Bob's style, about Bob and for Bob. -Grace

Robert E Smith's Art Work
 This is one of my favorite paintings of his, 
I love the Rabbit, kind of Donny Darko!!! 

Uncle Willard, Arthur Ashley and little boy, 2006

Bill Cosby Dance Studio, 2004

Wedding Painting
                                       Shelly (daughter, ring bearer and minister):  Do you take Grace to be your lawful wedded wife, sir brad?
Sir Brad, I do.  With This ring. I bewed.  
I, Grace Welty accept Brad to be my lawful wedded husband.
Robert E Smith © April 17, 2000

"A Wild Afternoon" 
is a 2006 Robert E. Smith painting 
using watercolor, acrylic and ink. 
There often is a baby among the characters in his paintings.
(News-Leader file photo, 2006)

"It is his magnificent vision of innocence. 
He sees the world in a way most of us have lost a long time ago."
-- William Brandon Bowman, art collector

Mercy Hospital, County Jail

Photos, messages and stories from Friends

Feb 22, 2010

My name is charity blansit, and Robert made a me a birthday present painting (the way he sometimes gave a gift with a price).  I love my painting and paid him the $60.00 I could afford.  I made a collage using the last picture we took together... what it would be like if he visited me in the spain in his painting.  I also have a recording that he gave me along with the painting.  I knew him from when he used to frequent Moon City Cafe; he used to come in to tell me stories or sing a song at least once a week.  Then I moved to Spain ten years ago and lost touch with him and many people in Missouri.  I would have loved to have seen him one more time! He was beautiful so genuine. 

Feb 19, 2010

The most indelible memory I have of Robert took place on the day of my wedding.  Robert and I had developed a pretty good musical relationship throughout the  years, as he often would join Big Smith on stage (there is at least one  invaluable recording of this, close to Christmastime when he sang "Silver Bells"  and a couple of other standards. The tape has circulated a bit, and is classic  Robert). He and I had also done a recording session where I accompanied him on  the guitar as he sang. Well, Robert had collected some more sheet music and had  been trying to pin me down for some time to schedule another session. He called  me the night before my wedding to talk about it, and also to ask for a ride to  the ceremony. I was able to recruit Lou Whitney to give him that ride down to  Spokane from Springfield, so I was able to focus on the task at hand, that is,  becoming betrothed. I was very pleased that Robert was at the ceremony, but he  certainly wasn't among  the top things on my mind that day, that is he wasn't until approximately five  seconds after the preacher had announced to the guests that Liz and I were now  man and wife. We were in the moment of celebration, walking back up the aisle  past our family and friends, when Robert caught me at the back of the tent:  "MARK, I"VE GOT SOME SHEET MUSIC HERE I WAS HOPING YOU COULD TAKE A LOOK AT..."  My brand new wife calmly explained to Robert that perhaps this was not the best  time to discuss it, and we continued the business of enjoying that moment. The  Polaroid captures it pretty well, with Robert right behind us, having just been  gently reprimanded. I'm sorry to say that we never got around to doing that  second recording session, which I now regret deeply. It's just another reminder  to make time for friends whenever possible. Robert of course will live in my  memories, and will always be deeply woven into the fabric of that very memorable  day, and many others.
 Mark Bilyeu

Feb 16, 2010
Robert E. stopped by the UDA office on a regular basis and 
loved to sing to us & get his picture taken.  Here is a picture of 
Barb, Robert & Kristin.  Robert was wearing his favorite jacket!!!

Feb 15, 2010
Robert, you will certainly be missed! I am lucky to have known you. I am also lucky to have had you do two original paintings for me which have always added some illuminating color to my life.
RIP, Robert
Your friend,
Drew Pearce

Fri, Feb 12, 2010
Every year we have some sort of crazy Christmas party, and a couple of years ago we had a bad sweater party.  My new friend Robert came in his cute purple sweater that he wore often.   He was endearing and my friends and I just adored him. 

We took all sorts of pictures at that party, and I somehow forgot to get these images to Robert. One year after the party he painted a picture for me and he painted me in my bad sweater from memory!!
I love you Robert!

Sesha; one of your many girlfriends:)

We loved Robert!
Bert, Sara, BJ and Rachel Hollis
We may have the last painting he did, about Busch Stadium? 

    Robert And Stacy in their cardinal caps

Robert Eugene Smith, 
humble man - giant talent
Renaissance artist
-Ken San 2010

Hello, I am a good friend of Robert's and thought that I would email a few pictures of him for the website.  I went to see him last night (2/11/2010) so we had our good-bye then.  Connie, Josette, Dick Schaeffer and I helped Robert celebrate many birthdays.  We often took him bowling on his birthday and sometimes bowling just for kicks.  We also took him to the circus, to Tent Theater, and Connie took him to see Peter Pan one time which he especially loved.  Enjoy the pics.  Pokey

Wed Feb 10, 2010
Not a week went by that Robert wouldn't call me to sing me a song, 
read me a poem or talk about an idea he had about a painting. 
He would get so excited talking about his paintings. My thoughts 
are with him, get better so you can keep doing what you love Robert!

Lil Olive
Good Girl Art Gallery
 This is one of my favorite paintings of his, 
I love the Rabbit, kind of Donny Darko!!! 

Th, Feb 11, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day, Robert. You are in my heart..
In the spirit of LOVE in this Valentine season I will be posting some of the Valentines Robert has sent me over ths years, tho' none are recent  ... An interesting thing about Robert,  love and women:  Truly sentimental and loving, Robert has always had a special way of surrounding himself with pretty and dynamic, and, yes, adoring women. He was very attentive: called us often,  let us (O.K. demanded) chauffer him around  and honored us with his creative gifts in the form of beautiful cards and poems. But, in his special intense way, Robert's affections burned hot and brightly, but then, in a flash, he'd move on ...He seemed to fhave a new round of "lovelies"  every few years.  But, hhonestly,  I had the distinct impression that he had a secret "crush" on my mother!  After meeting her a dozen or so years ago he'd often ask if I thought she'd go out with him if he made it back to New York City!  I feigned jealousy and teasingly accused him of caring more about her than me ...He was seriously flustered and hurt and denied it vehemently! 
              Happy Valentine's Day, Robert. You are in my heart..
Gracie, Robert was such a romantic that I imagine every woman who knows Robert has a stash of  very special personal Valentines. Wouldnt it be cool if we could have a special section of the blog dedicated to these ? 

Christine Schilling

Robert starred as the eccentric grandfather character in our local film, "To and From". On oneof the days after shooting, Robert insisted that we go to Price Cutter for frozen blueberries.He also insisted that he wear the santa outfit (except for the beard that wastoo itchy). People stopped us in the isles to take pictures and make Christmas wishes. And like always, Robert made everyone around him smile. One of my favorite Robert moments.

-Brandon Goodwin

Bob and Grace at the Padres stadium          Jessica, Anna and Bob        Marva at the workshop
Robert's visit to San Diego
During January 2008 Robert E Smith visited San Diego, CA to present a book making workshop.
 At the workshop there Robert gave instruction about making pictures that tell stories and there was singing.
While in San Diego, Robert went to the zoo. At the zoo we took a bus ride around to look at the animals. It was good that we did the bus ride  first because as soon as Robert got a wiff of the flamingo stink we had to go. Shell and I persuaded him to stay long enough to snap a photo next to the brass gorilla.
Robert went to the children's pool at LaJolla cove where he looked at the seals, did some sketching and bonded with a pigeon. He took a harbor cruise, ate lobster, took a look at the new Padres baseball stadium and sang songs to Rudy the pug. Rudy and Bob became best buds.
Bob and Rudy,                      workshop,              Shelly and Bob at the zoo
                    Bob and Dorothy,           Brad and Bob,       Bob drawing at La Jolla Cove

Feb 8, 2010


Written by Jenny Fillmer

Artist, writer, singer and actor Robert Eugene Smith peacefully passed away Feb. 13, 2010, aged 82, surrounded by friends and family.

Robert was born Oct. 14, 1927, in St. Louis, Mo., the only child of Clarence and Mary Agnes (Walls) Smith. He grew up in St. Louis, Union and Garland, Tx. He was forced to drop out of high school to help support his family, and was very proud to have earned his diploma in 1970, at age 42. In 1981, he completed 60 college hours at SMSU and earned a substitute teaching certificate, and later taught occasional art classes.

Robert moved to Springfield in 1975, with hopes of acting at Landers Theater. Although he spent time in Columbia, Jefferson City and St. Joseph, Springfield became his home.

Robert held many jobs, among his favorites, selling concessions at Busch Stadium and selling Grit newspapers. But it was Robert’s artwork that brought him fame and national recognition. Though he had drawn since childhood, he didn’t take his art seriously until 1967, when he sold his first collection of drawings to a friend for $25. Robert was self-taught, taking inspiration from coloring books, photos, history, news stories and his own experiences. His “story paintings”— complete with a hand-written description of the painting and a cassette of Robert himself reading the story . The paintings overflow with color, humor and incident, representing a triumph of the imagination over a strenuous and difficult life. They have been shown at New York’s Museum of American Folk Art, Vanderbilt University, the Springfield Art Museum and sold at distinguished galleries across the country. He is featured in The Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Folk Art. His paintings are on display in hundreds of Springfield homes and businesses. A mural of his painting of Springfield’s former Colonial Hotel, complete with Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, remains downtown at Campbell and Walnut.

Robert was also a prolific writer, producing many self-published volumes of poems and semi-autobiographical stories.

Though he didn’t drive, Robert traveled coast to coast by Greyhound Bus and bicycled all around Springfield — once even riding to Branson. He carried a camera everywhere, to record scenes and faces for his paintings.

Robert loved life. He loved to sing, anywhere from recording studios to answering machines. He loved to be on stage and on camera, recently appearing in the film To and From. He loved to dance with pretty girls. He loved wearing bright colors and costumes, often appearing in a sombrero, wig or clown shoes. He loved baseball, holidays, parades, Shirley Temple and telling stories.

Robert had an incredible memory. He recalled the make and model of every car his family owned, St. Louis Cardinals scores, and the names of girls he danced with when Sinatra and Elvis songs first played the radio. Friends’ birthdays were always marked with a phone call, a song and often, a small painting.

Robert is survived by several cousins: Jean Frazier and husband Mike, Rolla; Grace Matthews, San Diego, Ca.; Evert Smith, Rolla; Judy Huber, Jefferson City; Pat Knapp, Baden, Ok.; Sally Smith, Rolla; Eugene Smith, Lamont; Shirley Lange, Belle; and a vast network of supportive friends in Springfield.

A celebration of Robert’s life will be held at a later date at the Springfield Art Museum.
His remains were donated to medical research, as per his request.

Email updates from Cina 
about Robert's last days
Feb 13, 2010

Tonight, at eight o'clock, surrounded by some of his closest friends, Robert slipped on to his next big adventure. It was a quite, peaceful passing. Those of us who have watched him painfully struggle the last few weeks were giving thanks for a gentle release.

Please stay tuned for information about an upcoming memorial sometime in the next month or so. It seems that everyone is in agreement that time is needed to pull off the kind of memorial that would truly honor a Robert E. style send off.  Cina

Friday, Feb 12, 2010 at 8pm
Well folks, it's been an emotional roller coaster today, to say the least. Many of us were here together, gathered around Robert, laughing, crying singing and simply loving him on his way. And wow, did he sure recognize all the faces of his trusty friends! We watched him perk up at familiar voices, squeeze hands and try to give some hugs. Of  anything I am certain, it is that Robert has felt special today and very, very loved.

He was pulled from ventilation at around 11:30am, then shortly after, moved to a private room upstairs. In parade style we followed and gathered a bit more closely in his new place. At first the air was filled with quite anticipation, wondering how long he would be able to sustain breathing on his own. Then, as the hours passed and his breathing actually improved a bit we all began to wonder what was in store. Moods lightened as people came and went. Gosh, who knows with Robert, right? It may not be too crazy a thought that we could be pulling him in the St. Patty's day parade in true Robert form... in a green wagon! However, the hours of watching him move in and out of awareness and not, have more or less kept us all in suspense. 

Now, it's eight o'clock in the evening. The room is quite and Robert is in and out of restless sleep. His breathing is steady, less raspy, but still a bit shallow. He's relaxed more but still struggles to be comfortable. We don't know what he's trying to say when he does try to talk but many of us have wondered if he's talking about whether or not he's ready for what he sees. Sometimes it seems as though he's looking past us.

I believe Robert will let go when he's ready, and I'm certain that part of being ready is knowing his friends and family are with him as he goes. Thank you all, for being an inspiring community. I hope with all of my heart that some day I will have the kind of friends that Robert does, the kind of community that would never let me leave, alone.