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Lucie-Smith, Edward

    Full Name: Lucie-Smith, Edward

    Other Names:

    • Edward Lucie-Smith

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1933

    Place Born: Kingston, Surrey, Jamaica

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Career(s): art critics, art historians, authors, and poets


    Poet, art critic and prolific art-book writer. Lucie-Smith was the son of a British civil servant assigned to Jamaica, John Dudley Lucie-Smith (d. 1941) and Mary Frances Lushington (Lucie-Smith). His forbears had been some of the first white settlers in colonizing the island in 1627. Raised in the privileged environment of the white colonial class, his father died when he was eight years old. He and his mother moved to England in 1946. In 1949 Lucie-Smith received a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford University, still only seventeen. However, the college was full of older returning servicemen and he felt much out of place. Lucie-Smith wrote art criticism for Isis, Oxford’s student magazine, and earned a B.A. in 1954. His art criticism broadened into articles for the Listener, the New Statesman and the BBC program “Critics” as well. Lucie-Smith was much impressed with the criticism of John Berger. He fulfilled a military obligation as an Education Officer in the Royal Air Force for two years. Failing the foreign-office exam, Lucie-Smith entered Notley’s Advertising agency in London as a copywriter in 1956, working as a journalist and in broadcasting on the side, and writing poetry. There he met two other writers later to be famous, the poet Peter Redgrove (1932- 2003) and the playwright William Trevor (b. 1928). The critic and poet Philip Hobsbaum (1932-2005) invited Lucie-Smith to join the avant-garde poetry discussion group known simply as “the Group.” With Hobsbaum’s encouragement, Lucie-Smith published a collection of poems, A Tropical Childhood. The book was highly praised and Lucie-Smith became a poet of note overnight. He assumed chairmanship of the Group when Hobsbaum withdrew. In 1961 the publisher Paul Hamlyn (1926-2001) commissioned Lucie-Smith’s first book, a popularized 48-page art history on Peter Paul Rubens for the “Spring Books” series. This started a spate of art book writing. He met Black Mountain and Beat poets on his various trips to New York on art research. Lucie-Smith founded Turret Books in 1965, editing The Penguin Book of Elizabethan Verse for Penguin Press the same year. In 1966 he left Notley’s to become a freelance writer. His most popular art book, Movements in Art since 1945 first appeared in 1969 and has been continually been revised. A second poetry anthology, Penguin Anthology British Poetry Since 1945 appeared in 1970. Lucie-Smith published an influential popular book on photography, The Invented Eye, in 1975 as well as his autobiography, The Burnt Child. In 1977, Art Now, a book of “unconventional judgments” (New York Times) appeared as well as a novel. The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms (1984) In the late 1990’s, he began a collaboration with the artist Judy Chicago, first co-authoring Women and Art: Contested Territory (1999) with her, a book exploring women both as subjects and creators of art, and then a biography of Chicago in 2000. Lucie-Smith’s art books do not incorporate new research, rather, they have been praised for restating the complexities of art history to a larger lay audience. Topics such as erotics in art and his work with Judy Chicago have explored new ground. Lucie-Smith’s unusual viewpoints of modern art, from the poets purview, have made his work on art more than simple survey work.

    Selected Bibliography

    Rubens. London: Spring Books, 1961; The Invented Eye: Masterpieces of Photography, 1839-1914. London: Paddington Press, 1975; Art Now: from Abstract Expressionism to Superrealism. New York : Morrow, 1977; Movements in Art Since 1945. London: Thames & Hudson, 1969; Visual Arts in the Twentieth Century. London: Laurence King, 1996; The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms. London Thames and Hudson, 1984; and Chicago, Judy. Women and Art: Contested Territory. London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1999; Judy Chicago: an American Vision. New York : Watson-Guptill Publications, 2000; Ars Erotica: an Arousing History of Erotic Art. New York: Rizzoli, 1997.


    Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Burnt Child: an Autobiography. London: Gollancz, 1975, pp. 181-189; “Exploring Gay Male Erotic Art: An Interview with Edward Lucie-Smith.” Journal International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 3, no. 2 (April, 1998): 135-155.


    "Lucie-Smith, Edward." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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