Russell Smiley, oil on canvas, 36 by 30 inches, signed lower left Russ Smiley.

Artist Russell Smiley was born and raised in Miami. A commercial artist at a time in the 1940’s and 1950’s when commercial art was considered mere illustration by museum art critics, today art critics understand the importance of illustrators the like of Norman Rockwell or N.C. Wyeth to American art. We may someday appreciate the work of Russ Smiley to Florida art in the same way.

After graduating from Miami High School, Smiley spent three years in the Army Air Force designing and painting background and animation for training films. His unit, known as the Celluloid Commandos, was commanded by President Ronald Reagan. The unit occupied the Hal Roach Studios in Los Angeles, and it was here that he had his first one-man exhibition at the Francis Taylor Galleries.

In 1946, after service in the Army, he returned to Miami, working as a free-lance artist painting murals, hunting, and fishing scenes, and covers for Sports Afield, Outdoors, National Geographic, and Yachting magazines. In the 1950’s Smiley produced a series of Florida watercolors titled, Scenic Florida Watercolors by Russ Smiley.” Smiley’s brochure reads, “A series of six watercolor paintings by Russ Smiley…portraying the Florida scene in all its brilliant color, mood and variety of subject. Russ Smiley knows the subjects he paints; whether it’s the changing color of a sunset…the leap of a Sail-fish at dawn…the hot sun on rain filled clouds…or the decorative grace of the white Egret. He has established an outstanding reputation with his murals and paintings, which hang in many collections. You have probably seen his colorful covers on many national magazines.”

An avid hunter, fisherman, and scuba diver, Smile’s painting reflect this love. In 1954 Smiley illustrated a book written by his mother Minerva A. Smiley, Billy’s Search for Florida Undersea Treasure. (Mercury Press, Miami). In addition to his many illustrations for national magazines Smiley illustrated Al Pflueger’s Fisherman’s Handbook; A Guide to Everglades National Park and the Florida Keys for the Golden Guide Series; 101 Fish of the South Atlantic; Islands of the Bahamas and Wild Ducks and Geese of North America. In 1984 the Miami Metropolitan South Florida Fishing Tournament commissioned Smiley for the awards painting, Sailfish Balling.

The Naples Daily News (Naples, Florida, March 9,1972: “Russ Smiley has a great passion for the outdoors and is a recognized authority on birds, animal and marine life of Florida and the Bahamas. He hopes through his paintings he can help perpetuate the vanishing Florida wilderness by revealing the subtle beauty of this area which exits nowhere else in the world. Smiley said, “I paint what I love…Florida, with all its color, mood, and tropical beauty. Undersea gardens with dazzling color, birds, fish, Everglades pine and cabbage palm islands, cypress swamps, wildlife…the real landscape of our state.”

Born: 1923, Miami. Died: December 11, 2003, Miami. Education: Miami High School. Membership: Art Directors Club of Greater Miami. (A group of Miami commercial artists.) Exhibits: Francis Taylor Galleries, Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, California, October 1945, two- man exhibit with Edwin W. Becker. Prints, Blue and Gold Angel Fish, Everglades Seminole Indians, Everglades Cypress Swamp, Florida Hibiscus, Florida Woods Morning, Wood Ducks, On the Way to Key West; Art Directors Club of Greater Miami, 2nd annual exhibit at the Lowe Gallery, University of Miami, Jun-July 1954, award; Gallery 3, 12425 West Dixie Highway, Paintings by Russ Smiley, May 1970, The Fightingest Fish, A Hinter’s Dream, Secret Place, Garden Underseas; Boardwalk Gallery, Vanishing Florida exhibit, 378 Fifth Avenue South, Miami, 20 paintings by Russ Smiley. March 1972; Port of the Islands Resort, Marco Island, 2nd annual Redfish Tournament, October 1982, 50 paintings; A. E. Bean Backus Gallery, Fort Pierce, December 1991; Allied Arts, Gwen Margolis Community Center, North Miami, October 1996. Smiley’s home, gallery, and studio (8501 N. E. 4th Avenue, Road, Miami) was the site of four private exhibits every year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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