Russell Smith (christened William Thompson Russell) achieved success as a landscape painter, theatrical designer, and illustrator of scientific works. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he emigrated with his family to western Pennsylvania in 1819. In 1827 he took up acting and scenery painting for a local theater group in Pittsburgh. There he secured a post as curator of the Lambdin Museum, and took painting lessons with its founder, the artist James Reid Lambdin. In addition to these commercial activities, Smith, around 1835, turned to landscape. Inspired by the work of Thomas Cole and Thomas Doughty, he became a devoted practitioner of the romantic-realist style of the Hudson River School. In contrast to the large canvases he produced for the theater, most of his landscapes are very small. Smith's journal entries reveal that he was keenly observant of subtle changes in light and atmosphere, and took pains to record the exact weather conditions at particular times of day. His studies of selected segments of nature, painted largely in plein air during the summer months, served as a repository of motifs that he incorporated into finished paintings in his studio.
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