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Lawrence Beall-Smith (1909-1989)

Lawrence Beall-Smith was born in Washington, D.C., in 1909. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago, where he earned a Ph.D. in 1931. He spent his summers in Boston and Gloucester, Massachusetts, studying under Hard Zimmerman and Ernest Thurn, to further his art education.

During his long career he established himself as both a painter and an illustrator. In the 1930s he became known for his lithographs, which were distributed by the Associated American Artists. This organization promoted the art of printmaking to the general public. He also began a connection with Abbott Laboratories by producing posters for the war effort, most of which were war bond posters for the Treasury Department.

In 1944 Abbott Laboratories commissioned him as a war corespondent to cover the activities of the Medical Corps in Europe. He also witnessed the D-Day landings in Normandy. Following World War II, he continued to develop as an artist, working as a book illustrator, portrait painter, and printmaker. In the 1940s, he founded the Katonah Gallery (now the Katonah Museum) in Westchester County, New York, where he exhibited his work for many years.

There are fourteen works by Lawrence Beall-Smith in the Navy Art Collection. The captions were written by the artist.


The Smoke Watch
Lawrence Beall-Smith #10
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Aloft on a searchlight platform, the smoke watch stands a chilly vigil. In war, heavy black smudges from the stacks of a warship are dangerous tell-tales to the enemy. On an aircraft carrier, smoke is doubly dangerous as it also interferes with launching and taking aboard planes. To engineering officers below, the most desirable smoke condition is a light haze, so a smoke watch is posted to report to the engine room on smoke conditions above decks. Below may be seen bundled and hooded seamen cleaning the flight deck.


Task Force Hornets
Lawrence Beall-Smith #13
Oil on board, 1943

The operations island is a grim gray redoubt against the sky as this aircraft carrier steams behind her task force screen with a swarm of fighters ready on the flight deck. Planes of a fighter squadron stand at Fly One, the take-off spot. Behind them, in order, will be the dive-bombers and the torpedo bombers. Meanwhile, as signal pennants snap from the truck, handling crews and pilots await the orders which will send these Grumman fighters snarling into the air.


To the Attack!
Lawrence Beall-Smith #4
Oil on Board, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

The glinting flash of the checkered flag, in the hand of the Flight Deck Officer...the thundering roar of smoothly harnessed horsepower...and a Grumman fighter races down the aircraft carrier's flight deck to take off into the wind. Even as it rolls forward, plane directors wave another into the take-off spot to follow in a matter of seconds. The torpedo and dive bombers will swing away in turn as the fighters rendezvous aloft to form a protective air umbrella.


Scuttlebutt Session
Lawrence Beall-Smith #8
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

The Navy has a word for it--"scuttlebutt"--the shipboard grapevine by which even the Skipper's innermost thoughts seemingly can be divined and relayed with constant improvements. A plane handling crew, at ease in the lee of an aircraft carrier's island superstructure, participate in the shipboard pastime of passing along the latest scuttlebutt while awaiting return of the squadrons.


Lawrence Beall-Smith #11
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Moments of relaxation are rare aboard an aircraft carrier on patrol, and they are snatched with casual abandon after the immemorial manner of seafaring men who take their repose where they find it. All hands of this plane handling crew settle themselves comfortably on the flight deck until their squadrons return from missions beyond the horizon. Wheel chocks make handy pillows and benches


The Armorer's Might
Lawrence Beall-Smith #9
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

With an eye aloft for approaching customers, aircraft carrier armorers ready their plump and lethal groceries for delivery. These aerial bombs will be trundled down the flight deck and fitted to the bomb racks of planes when they return to "bomb up" for new missions and targets.


"Too Low"
Lawrence Beall-Smith #7
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories


Like an orchestra conductor, the Landing Signal Officer of an aircraft carrier leads his pilots through safe approaches and landings. Here, braced is a 30-knot wind and intent upon the approach of an incoming plane, a carrier "LSO" signals the pilot to come up a bit to improve his landing position. With his signal "paddles", the LSO warns busy fighting pilots against retracted landing gear, failure to lower landing hook, improper altitude, or any of the multitude of factors involved in landing a heavy combat plane on the rolling deck of a carrier at sea.


"The Cut"
Lawrence Beall-Smith #5
Charcoal, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories


An incoming Douglas Dauntless dive bomber makes a satisfactory approach to the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and the pilot gets the signal to cut his engine from the Landing Signal Officer. The waving "paddles" of the Landing Signal Officer are the guides of incoming pilots, and their semaphored signals are final authority in all landings. If the Landing Signal Officer is dissatisfied with the approach, he signals a "wave-off" and the pilot zooms up to go around again.


Coming Aboard
Lawrence Beall-Smith #12
Oil on Board, 1943
Gift of Abbott Laboratories

Back from patrol, Navy Dauntless scout bombers make their landing circle and come in on the broad flight deck of an aircraft carrier. From the "bird cage" on the island, where the white flying flag is hoisted, the Air Control Officer, and the Group Commander observe operations. On deck, handling crews sprint forward to take charge of each returning plane, spot it forward and start servicing. Off the port beam an escorting destroyer rushes about busily in screening operations.

Online Exhibtis that feature Lawrence Beall-Smith's work

The Battle of Midway

Naval Aviation of WWII From the Abbott Laboratories Collection

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21 April 2006