Although born in Jamestown, New York, Mortimer Smith would become well-known as a Detroit architect and artist by the end of the nineteenth century. Little is known of Smith’s earlier years; however, scholars speculate that he studied in Oberlin and Sandusky, Ohio before moving to Detroit in 1855. There, the artist flourished and became famous for his crisp landscapes of local scenery, including his beloved winter scenes. In addition to his artistic career, Smith founded a successful architectural firm by the name of Smith, Hynchman and Grylls; Smith’s reputation in the visual arts was often overshadowed by his draftsmanship as an architect. Nevertheless, he was a vital force in Detroit’s arts community exhibiting his works in venues including the Detroit Art Loan Exhibition (for which he also designed the exhibition space), Detroit Institute of Arts, and with the Detroit Art Association. His works were also shown at the Cincinnati Industrial Exposition, National Academy of Design, and Michigan State Fair. Today, the artist’s works may be seen at the Detroit Institute of Arts and University of Rochester, Memorial Art Gallery. One of Smith’s works was also included in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s 1987 exhibition Artists of Michigan from the nineteenth century: a sesquicentennial exhibition commemorating Michigan statehood, 1837–1987.
William H. Gerdts, Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710–1920, vol. 3 (New York: Abbeville Press, c. 1990), pp. 239, 246.
Peter Falk, Who was Who in American Art, 1564–1975, vol III (Madison, Conn.: Sound View Press, 1999), p. 3087.