Edith Smith


Edith Agnes Smith was born in Halifax on October 2, 1867 to a family of painters, illustrators and designers. Her formal studies began under George Harvey at the Victoria School of Art and Design (now NSCAD University), followed by post-graduate work in Boston in 1892. On returning to Halifax, Smith opened a studio with her younger brother Lewis and in 1910 briefly taught classes at the Victoria School of Art and Design. In 1912, after further art studies in London at the Chelsea School of Art, Smith became Art Mistress at the Halifax Ladies College (now Armbrae Academy) where many noted female artists of Nova Scotia received their first lessons. She held this post until 1950.

On her return to Halifax Smith also joined the fledgling Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts (now the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia) and served several terms on the executive committee. In 1936 she began campaigning for a community auditorium, public library and art gallery to be housed in the Post Office Building (the current home of the AGNS). As President of the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts, she declared that this body had been founded "to form a nucleus for a future art gallery, but no gallery has ever been provided." It was typical of Smith’s dedication to the local art community that she persisted despite many frustrations in her attempt to find a physical home for the NSMFA collection. Although she was ultimately unsuccessful in finding permanent gallery space, Smith helped shape the early collection of the future AGNS with works by Frances Jones Bannerman, Lewis Smith, Stanley Royle, Marion Bond, Arthur Lismer and other key artists.

Her early work centered on the depiction of wildflowers, reflecting the local influence of Maria Morris Miller. She was later influenced by neo-Impressionists like Pissarro and associated with Arthur Lismer and J. E. H. MacDonald. Smith began exhibiting her work in the 1890s. In 1922, she joined her brother Lewis and Robert Strath in an exhibition whose success encouraged the founding of the Nova Scotia Society of Artists in 1923. Smith was deeply involved with the NSSA, exhibiting her work every year until 1954. She was twice elected president of the society and before her death was made an honorary president. She was also one of the original members of the Maritime Art Association and a regular contributor to its exhibitions. Smith also exhibited nationally with the Royal Canadian Academy, the Montreal Art Association and the Ontario Society of Artists. Edith Smith died at Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia in 1954.