Lee-Smith, an African-American painter who grew up in Cleveland, lived and worked in Detroit between the years 1945 and 1958. The Piper explores the loneliness of the urban individual and the psychological alienation of the young. Personal symbolism guides the formal construction of this work: the wall, an indicator of the difficulty of escape; the young boy, a metaphor for mankind; and music, a symbol of the longing to break free. The crumbling wall is in the shadow of a modernist building, suggesting the plight of the urban poor left behind by the growing city.
Artist Hughie Lee-Smith, American, 1915-1999
  • The Piper
Date 1953
Medium oil on composition board
Dimensions Unframed: 22 × 35 1/4 inches (55.9 × 89.5 cm)
Framed: 25 5/8 × 39 3/4 × 2 3/4 inches (65.1 × 101 × 7 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley J. Winkelman
Accession Number 66.391
Department African American Art
On View African American N291, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed, lower left: Hughie | Lee-Smith | '53
Inscriptions Signed and dated in white, lower left: Hughie | Lee-Smith | '53
1967-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
44th Annual Exhibition for Michigan Artists. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1953, cat. no. 96, p. 11 (ill.).