Narrative

This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Pearce's monthly newsletter...

"The Ghost Town Trail News"





Pearce's Pioneer Painter:  Mrs. A.Y. Smith


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In the midst of the rough and tumble activities of the mining camp at Pearce lived a young woman who would emerge as Arizona’s internationally known impressionist landscape painter. For over 55 years, Mrs. A. Y. Smith made her home in Cochise County and painted its desert and mountain vistas. The paintings she created of nearby Cochise Stronghold, the Chiricahua Mountains, Cave Creek, and even the Grand Canyon would eventually be seen in art shows from Phoenix to Philadelphia, and were sought after by American politicians and European nobility.  

Known to family and friends as Effie Anderson Smith, she grew up near the city of Hope, Arkansas where her artistic abilities were discovered and encouraged. Effie was creating oil paintings by her 15th birthday in 1884, and she soon pursued formal art training in the East.

At age 22, Effie and her ailing mother made the journey west to New Mexico in an attempt to save Adelia's health, but in vain. After Adelia's passing, Effie stayed on as a teacher, and soon met a young Scottish immigrant, railroad clerk Andrew Young (A.Y.) Smith. In 1895 Effie and A.Y. came to Bisbee to be married, and so began their exciting life together in the rip-roaring mining camps of the Arizona Territory. 

A.Y. Smith soon left his work for the railroad to take on duties as bookkeeper at the Common-Wealth Mine in Pearce. He was promoted to manager, and not long after bought controlling interest in the mine.  

Andrew had many occasions to travel to El Paso and to California on mine business, and Effie went along. During the frequent California visits Effie befriended and was mentored by many of the founding artists of the California plein-air impressionist movement in art. Her studies in Oakland, San Francisco, Laguna Beach and Pasadena had a great influence on her approach to painting as she became a prolific desert painter of scenes around the Sulphur Springs Valley, Tucson, the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert, and beyond.

Living in Pearce from 1896 to 1941, and after that primarily in Douglas until 1951, Effie’s special love for the mountains and desert vistas along today’s Ghost Town Trail was evident in every painting she created, and in her frequent speaking engagements about her art.  

By the late 1940s Effie’s early life as a pioneer and her prolific output of paintings over half a century prompted the
Douglas Daily Dispatch to refer to her as “the Dean of Arizona Women Artists”.  "...It is the desert and the desert hills and mountains that this artist has glorified, not a land of sand and wasteland, but a country where color runs riot from its desert blossoms to its famous sunsets...."

In honor of her 80th birthday in 1949, the businessmen and citizens of Douglas gathered the paintings they had bought from Effie, or had been given by the artist out of her affection for them, and created a retrospective art show of her work at the Chamber of Commerce building. Effie declared she was as busy at age 80 as at any time in her active life, and had begun a series of paintings depicting scenes along the Coronado Trail. Whether that series was completed is not known.

By 1951 her son Lewis, by then a successful mining engineer like his father before him, helped Effie move into the Arizona Pioneers’ Home in Prescott. Separated from her beloved Cochise County for the first time in over 55 years, Effie spent her remaining years among fellow pioneers from Arizona’s Territorial days. No paintings from her sunset years in Prescott have emerged, if she painted there at all. The last works we know of are from the 1940s, when Effie was increasingly enamored of desert flora.

In April 1955, Effie Anderson Smith passed away at the Arizona Pioneers’ Home, and is buried at Yavapai County’s Mountain View Cemetery. While her husband, baby daughter, and mother are buried in Pearce, Effie is not alone at Mountain View, as other Anderson descendants are buried nearby.

In 1929 the poet Grace Dickinson Sperling from Chicago was a winter guest in the home of the Smiths in Pearce. During a conversation, Grace commented to her friend Effie,  "You surely love this country, don't you?" And Mrs. Smith replied, "Yes. So much that I think I will come back here as my paradise when I die."  

Effie’s spirit surely remains in Pearce. The house where the Smiths once lived is one of the few early homes still standing. It now serves as the mining company’s office. 

Mine Manager's House in Pearce AZ circa 1935_Smith home no 3 in Pearce

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For additional biographical details and a timeline, 

please visit the BIO section.


About this website...

Welcome to the E. A. Smith Archive.  This website features memorabilia from a collection of the artists' papers which remain in family hands. Newly digitized images of her paintings, photographs, documents and other emphemera are posted as they become available.


We are gathering details on paintings by Effie Anderson Smith to be included in our forthcoming catalogue raisonné , so we're always interested to hear about any E. A. Smith (Mrs. A. Y.) paintings, photos, letters or other related items you own or have seen. Your comments and questions are invited.

150th birthday exhibits

The TUCSON DESERT ART MUSEUM will present EFFIE! Plein Air Pioneer - a 150th birthday retrospective exhibit. Opening  January 11 to April 28, 2019. Details at  TDAM website.

CALL FOR PAINTINGS !!
  We are seeking E.A. Smith paintings for several exhibits to take place in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Arkansas in 2019 in observance of Effie's 150th birthday anniversary. If you have an E.A. Smith painting you would consider loaning for display in our exhibits, please use the CONTACT link above.

Reviving Effie's legacy

ANN JAPENGA continues her wonderful series CALIFORNIA DESERT ART with a very encouraging article about Effie's art, and our efforts to restore greater understanding and appreciation of Effie's artistic legacy.

Effie's Early Life in Arkansas

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ARKANSAS History and Culture  now includes an updated biographical sketch on Effie, including recently uncovered facts about her youth, in and around the towns of Nashville, Washington and Hope, in Southwest Arkansas.

MEDIUM.com

Could America Have Also Been the Birthplace of Impressionism?  The story of Effie Anderson Smith, forgotten impressionist from the American frontier. - by Kelsey McKinney on MEDIUM.com

Publications...

THE MOST COMPLETE BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE 
with many newly uncovered insights
into the life and art of
Effie Anderson Smith
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Effie's Life, in Brief...

 
 1869: Born near Nashville, Arkansas.

 1884: At 15 Effie is painting landscapes.

 1890: Weds W.M. Spencer in Hope, Ark.

 1891: Effie becomes a widow at age 21.

 1894-95: Teaches school in Deming, NM.

 1895-96: Weds A.Y. Smith, settles in Pearce.

 1904-28: Travels to CA for art studies.

 1907: Art becomes solace after death of baby girl.

 1914-16: Studies in Pasadena & Laguna Beach.

 1927-30: Notoriety of Grand Canyon works.

 1929: Fire at Smith home, some works lost.

 1931: Exhibits in major Eastern Cities.

 1931: Beloved husband A.Y. Smith dies.


 1932-45: Effie's most prolific years as artist. 

 1942: Effie unveils new series on Desert Flora.

 1945: Starts art discussion class in Douglas.

 1948: Effie begins painting Coronado Trail series.

 1949: 80th birthday retrospective in Douglas

 1951: Moves to AZ Pioneers' Home in Prescott.

 1953: Effie ceases painting due to vision issues. 

 1955: Death claims Effie - Age 85.


Exhibition Catalogue

An Exhibition Catalogue is now available from our 2012 Arizona Statehood Centennial exhibit in E-Book (PDF) format. We are happy to provide a copy to interested collectors, art historians, dealers and appraisers.

Direct inquiries to: E.A. Smith Archive

Terms of Use...


The contents of this website are made available for educational and research purposes, and for the private personal non-commercial enjoyment of individuals wishing to learn more about the life and art of Effie Anderson Smith. Please do not copy, distribute, or publish these materials in any manner. Questions or comments?  Please contact us. Copyright 2011-2018. EASmith Archive.