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M. J. Hamblin Smith [1871-1936]

[From the Community Collection, a public trust in Agincourt, Iowa]

HAMBLIN SMITH, M. J. (1871–1936; British)

“On the Move”

four-color woodcut / 6 inches by 7.5 inches / #6 of 50

ca1920

Hamblin Smith is one of the collection’s mystery artists, attested by the paucity of biographical information available. It is possible he was the son of James Hamblin Smith, a life-long Cambridge tutor and author of texts on mathematics. Among Smith’s four children is a son named Maurice—who is plausibly the “M” in M. J.—though the latter’s career was spent in criminal justice as the superintendent of England’s Dartmoor Prison. It is tempting to imagine the administrator of a notorious detention facility like Dartmoor relaxing with chisels and a piece of soft wood—a hobby that would have been denied his inmates.

The pace of village life such as he might have encountered in Devon a hundred years ago is convincingly portrayed here with muted tones and stark contrast. We hear the whiney of a horse near retirement. We feel the weight of the teamster’s load. All is calm. It simply requires the arrival of Miss Marple.

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