Papers of Keir Smith

Scope and Content

The Keir Smith Archive is extensive and comprehensive, comprising of sketchbooks, drawings, correspondence, photographs, published works and texts, slides, exhibition publicity materials, financial papers, a selection of Keir Smith's personal books and source materials. The sketchbooks, of which there is a complete set of 121 dating from c. 1965 - 2007, [2012.23/A/1-121], contain a wealth of information including notes, sketches and references. There are also over 350 sketches and paintings by the artist including computer drawings which he made in the late 1980s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Keir Owen Walter Smith was born (1 February 1950) in Gravesend, Kent, son of Walter and Joan Irene Smith. His father was a tally-clerk at Tilbury docks, a member of the Labour Party and a local councillor. Smith was educated at Northfleet Secondary Modern School and Gravesend Grammar School, and also Dartford Technical College. In 1969 he began an undergraduate fine art course at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, under the tutelage of Ian Stephenson. He followed Stephenson to Chelsea School of Art (1973-1975) for postgraduate study where he began to move from painting to work in three dimensions.


His work is recorded in detail in photographs and slides, including many images of works when exhibited. These are complemented by papers and correspondence relating to exhibitions and commissions taken from his filing cabinets. Smith's teaching at Wimbledon College of Art is also documented in the form of teaching notes and correspondence.Other visual materials include a series of 19 presentation folders, several of which are compiled by Keir Smith, which contain photographs and published materials, documenting his work from 1969-2008.Smith's source materials are in the form of slides, photographs and postcards including 100s of images of the art, architecture and sculpture of the Italian Renaissance, which he re-visited in the making of his work. His extensive library is also represented in the Archive by a selection, made by Clare Rowe, of key texts and publications. The Archive also includes written material by Smith, of both published and unpublished texts.The collection arrangement of this archive reflects principally Keir Smith's own system of arrangement, having worked with Clare Rowe to organise the material in the latter months before his death. For example, all sketchbooks were placed together in chronological order; the same applying to drawings, paintings, slides and presentation folders as separate series.Smith's filing system remains largely intact, forming the basis of the series related to correspondence and project files detailed in the plan below.The collection is in the process of being catalogued within the following series order:

  • 2012.27/N Affiliations c1970 - 2007
  • 2012.27/A Sketchbooks 1966 - 2007
  • 2012.27/B Notebooks 1970 - 2006
  • 2012.27/C Drawings and paintings 1969 - 2007
  • 2012.27/D Presentation folders 1969 - 2009
  • 2012.27/E Photographs c1970 - 1980
  • 2012.27/F Slides and transparencies 1969 - 2007
  • 2012.27/G Correspondence regarding projects c1970 - 2007
  • 2012.27/H Correspondence regarding WSA 1991 - 2007
  • 2012.27/I Unpublished writing and poetry 1960s - 2007
  • 2012.27/J Published artists books, articles and poetry 1982 -2007
  • 2012.27/K Exhibition catalogues and publicity materials c1970 - 2007
  • 2012.27/L Press cuttings and reviews c1970 - 2007
  • 2012.27/M Personal source and research materials c1970 - 2007

Access Information

Available to all registered researchers. The Archive is open by appointment only.

Other Finding Aids

At present only Keir Smith's sketchbooks and notebooks are catalogued. The drawings and paintings and presentation folders will be included in the online catalogue in due course. Cataloguing of the rest of the collection is on-going. Please contact the HMI Archivist for further information.

Archivist's Note

Archives Hub description was created by Janette Martin