Hughie Lee-Smith

(1915-1999), the most highly acclaimed African-American artist to have

begun his career in Cleveland, studying print-making at Karamu under Langston Hughes. His work is found in many public art collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and National Museum of American Art (, as well as private collections. The New York Foundation for the Arts has produced The World of Hughie Lee-Smith, a video documentary of his life and work.  As artist-in-residence at Howard University, where he supervised the creation of a series of murals that recognized the scientific and artistic achievements of African Americans. In 1967, Lee-Smith became the first African American to receive full membership in the National Academy of Design since Henry Ossawa Tanner’s induction forty years earlier. Comedian Bill Cosby purchased three artworks for the set of his television series The Cosby Show, thereby exposing Lee-Smith’s paintings to millions of viewers. Grafton Nunes ranks him as “a very important figure. Very major.” Dennis Barrie and others agree. For images see




Rooftop (1957) by Hughie Lee-Smith (The Cleveland Museum of Art 2009.7 © Estate of Hughie Lee-Smith / Licensed by VAGA at ARS, NY)