Tag Archives: landscapes

Virginia Geological Survey sketches by William Thompson Russell Smith (1812-1896)

Virginia Geological Survey, Records, 1834-1903. Accession 24815, State Government Records Collection
52 sketches. Pencil, ink, watercolor, pastel, and oil on paper and cardboard. Dimensions: Vary from 11 11/16 x 7 11/16 in. to 23 9/16 x 18 1/8 in.

Visual Studies Collection.
1 sketch. Watercolor on paper. Dimensions: 12 5/8 x 8 ½ in.

One hundred and seventy-five years ago this summer, William Barton Rogers and William Thompson Russell Smith boarded a train in Pennsylvania bound for Washington, D.C. Their ultimate destination was the western part of Virginia, where they intended to describe and document geological features. Rogers (1804-1882), a geologist, chemist, physicist, and professor at the University of Virginia, had begun work on a geological survey of Virginia in 1835. Although funding from the General Assembly ceased in 1842, Rogers believed a final report would eventually be authorized. He hired Smith, an artist he had worked with on previous geological publications, to illustrate this final report.

William Thompson Russell Smith (1812–1896), better known as Russell Smith, was born in Glasgow, Scotland. His father brought the family to rural Pennsylvania in 1819 before moving to the growing town of Pittsburgh to be near schools. After studying with the portrait artist James Lambdin, Smith began developing a reputation as a theatrical scene painter and commercial artist. His lifelong affection for landscape painting and his work in scientific illustration both prepared him for his travels with Rogers.… more